Carrie J. Tian '15, Harvard's very own, competed in Jeopardy!'s College Championship on Jan. 5. The annual tournament will air its first episode Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS.
Tian, a freshman from South Carolina and a Crimson Magazine writer, is the first contestant to represent Harvard at this tournament since 2009. Her journey to the show began last March when she took a 50-item online test along with 12,000 other Jeopardy!-hopefuls. Of these students, only 300 were called back for a "screen test."
Tian never thought she would make it. "They had 12,000 applicants and could only pick 15 kids, so the odds weren't very good," Tian said.
But months later, Tian received a call from an unknown number.
"I don't get calls from Culver City, California," she said. "Next thing I know, a lady was asking me whether I had any relatives at Sony or if I had ever committed a felony."
It was only after the contest coordinator from Jeopardy! said, "Congratulations and we'll see you at your college tournament!" that Tian realized she had been chosen.
At 17 years old, Tian was the youngest contestant in the tournament this year. Some of her competitors included students from Columbia University, Duke University, and Indiana University.
"We were all wearing our hoodies and everyone was sizing each other up," she said.
Tian, who refers to show host Alex Trebek simply as "Alex," said that she "freaked out" whenever she caught a glimpse of white hair around the studio. Minutes before the show, she finally spotted Trebek and waved to him. To her delight, he waved back.
"Walking onto the set of Jeopardy! was like walking through Harvard for the first time," Tian said. "You've seen it so many times in pictures and in videos, but those don't do it justice."
Although Tian is not allowed to reveal anything that occurred during the filming of the show, she said that it felt good to show the world that Harvard students know their stuff. The episode featuring her intellectual battle with two other contestants will be viewed by nine to ten million people.
Tian gave no hints as to how far she got in the tournament. In the promo advertisement of the show, however, she is shown saying the words "100,000 dollars!"—the grand prize for winning the tournament.
When asked if this was a clue, Tian smiled but gave nothing away.
"Watch the show to find out," she said.