Jeopardy! National College Championship Winner on the Road to Victory and Settling Back Into Life at UT
The $250,000 winner talks strategy and what's next
By Sheryl Lawrence,
2:50PM, Wed. Mar. 2, 2022
When Jaskaran Singh sat down for dinner as a child, he sat on the edge of the table to guarantee he had a view of the TV when Jeopardy! came on. In late 2020, when the show announced the online test for its National College Championship, Singh’s mom told him, “What's the worst that can happen? It takes like 15 minutes, you should just do it.”
In late 2020, Singh took the online Jeopardy! test. In January 2021, Jeopardy! contacted him to conduct a Zoom audition, and in June of that year they called to ask him to be on the show. Five months later, Singh flew to Los Angeles to record the tournament, which aired in February and can now be watched on Hulu. On Feb. 22, his family and the rest of the world finally found out that he won and would receive the grand prize of $250,000 and would go on to compete in the Tournament of Champions.
The first day contestants were on set, they recorded promotional content and got to know one another. Over the next week, they recorded multiple episodes each day. They recorded the quarterfinals over two days, then recorded the semifinals and finals a few days later. Singh says his semifinal match was the last to be recorded and they shot the two final games soon after.
While on set, Singh said the production team required everyone to wear masks and practice social distancing at all times. Contestants are also not allowed to have any electronic devices on set. Singh says if a contestant was scheduled to tape an episode that day, they sat where the audience would normally be, but if they were not scheduled that day, they had to watch from the Wheel of Fortune studio next door.
Singh said he did not study particularly for the games, but practiced buzzing in. Contestants have to wait until the question is read to buzz in, and if they buzz too early, they are not allowed to buzz in again for a quarter of a second. “Most questions were bound to have at least two, probably three people, trying to buzz, so I think a lot of that stuff did probably help,” Singh says. “Watching it back, I can see myself pressing the buzzer and not getting it and being disappointed. Obviously, every time you buzz, you're not going to get the prompt to answer, it's all reaction time [and] a little bit of luck.”
According to the box scores on the Jeopardy! website, out of the questions he buzzed in for, Singh answered 90% correctly in the quarterfinal game, 86% in the semifinal game, 77% in the first final game and 83% in the second final game.
Singh plans to buy a car and donate to charities, but he doesn't know what he’ll do with the rest of the money. After graduating in May, he is going to work for Boston Consulting Group in its Dallas office and will tape the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions soon after he starts.
On the day the finals aired, Singh’s family had a watch party. Soon after UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell lit the UT Tower orange in honor of his win and Singh was recognized at the UT-Austin basketball game. “I went to my favorite restaurant here on campus called China Family,” Singh says of his post-victory fame. “The lady at the front recognized me, started clapping and cheering when I came in, and that was definitely the coolest thing.”
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Jeopardy, Jaskaran Singh, National College Championship