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Buzzing In

Before contestants can appear on Jeopardy!, they have to play the waiting game.

Applicants first take an online test and await an invitation to an in-person audition. These lucky few are then eligible to appear on the game show for up to 18 months before starting the process anew. Waiting a year and a half can be agonizing, and most eventual contestants aren’t selected the first time around.

“I was starting to lose hope after three auditions,” says Rebecca Rosenthal ’20, a classics and art history double major. “I was like, ‘I’m so awkward and they don’t want me.’”

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

This spring, Rosenthal represented Swarthmore as one of just 15 students in the Jeopardy! College Championship. She reached the second round after a runaway win in her first taping and nearly qualified for the finals with a total of $43,600, but fell a dollar short.

Her poise and command of the game drew praise from host Alex Trebek and a modest online following of middle-aged women, according to Rosenthal.

The Ridgewood, N.J., native is no stranger to Jeopardy! and the world of trivia at large: She helped revive the College’s Quiz Bowl team as a freshman and grew up with America’s favorite quiz show.

“I was trying to remember when we started watching and I honestly can’t. It seems like it was always on in my house,” she says. “My dad has a rule of no TV during dinner, so it’s always like, ‘Are we going to have dinner before or after Jeopardy! tonight?’”

Rosenthal watched recorded episodes with her parents to study and targeted world capitals for further study. Her hard work paid off in the form of a $10,000 prize from the show and a Hobbs coffee gift card from a well-wisher.

“It was so much fun since I’d been sitting at home shouting out the answers and there I was actually doing it in front of people. It goes by so fast,” reflects Rosenthal. “The best preparation you can do for Jeopardy! is to be passionate about it.”