Kristen Jolley spent the weekend traveling to California for her chance to be on Jeopardy. It's time once again for two weeks of collegiate competition on the quiz show hosted by Alex Trebek, and the North Fulton resident will be part of the taping of episodes today and Tuesday. But while she will know how she does, the rest of us have to wait until those episodes start airing on May 6.
Jolley, a senior biology major at Georgia Tech, said she's always wanted to be on Jeopardy.
"I started watching with my grandfather when I was like 6 or so," she said. "I really liked it and though it was fun."
She's been preparing since middle school for her shot at the big time, having been on academic teams at both her middle school and at Chattahoochee High School.
"I've known other people who have got onto that show. I figured I would try out as well," Jolley said.
But she almost didn't make it out to Los Angeles for her audition. She's paying her own way through college, and it didn't fit into her budget. Her friends at Georgia Tech, however, weren't going to let her miss her chance. They started an online fundraising campaign at the school and quickly raised $350 for her plane tickets.
Those friends from Georgia Tech's orientation program – in whose office she still works part-time – posted it on Facebook and in less than six hours the money was raised.
The two-week event, which will air starting May 6, showcases 15 of America’s sharpest college students as they battle for $100,000 and an automatic berth in the JEOPARDY! Tournament of Champions.
JEOPARDY! airs locally in Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. EDT on WXIA-TV (NBC).
She's got family in San Diego, so she didn't have to worry about hotel bills.
"It's because of my friends at all that I'm on the show," Jolley said.
Before she got contacted for her audition, she had to taken an online test. There's 50 questions and you fill in the blanks.
"It's just Jeopardy questions and you answer them. If you get enough right, they will contact you and ask you out for an audition," Jolley said.
Once in LA, potential contestants have to take another test, which helps weed out anyone who might have cheated by using their computer to find answers when taking the online test. Then there's a short interview process, during which she was asked to give some interesting facts about herself that host Alex Trebek might ask her about on the show.
A few weeks later she was just about to watch a fund-raising event with her sorority when she got a call. As a native of California, she recognized the area code. Jeopardy was calling, and they wanted her to be a contestant. It took her an hour or two before the shock wore off, "and then it sort of actually hit me."
Jolley said her friends seemed almost more excited than she was about getting invited on the show.
"I think they think it means I'm a lot more famous than I really know. I don't know if they know how many people have been on Jeopardy," she said.
What makes Jolley an ideal Jeopardy contestant? She says it's because she knows a lot of things.
"I'm kind of an information sponge, it just sticks with me. And I think my story of how I got to my audition didn't hurt, with my friends helping me," she said.
She likes to think that she's personable and would be a well-rounded contestant who can be a interesting interview.
Any winning she might collect will go to pay off student loan debt.
After her time on Jeopardy – and college graduation – she plans to go to graduate school. Her future is to work in marine biology, studying coral reef ecology.
Originally she's from California, though she's lived in Georgia most of her life. Between elementary and middle school, however, her grandmother took her to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
"That kind of sealed the deal, getting to snorkel with the sea lions and all the sea life. That was very, very cool," Jolley said.
Her parents live in Johns Creek, with one brother still at home who attends Taylor Road Middle School. She's got a brother living in South Fulton, and her sisters are in New York and Colorado.