Feiner ‘18 Represents Princeton on “Jeopardy National College Championship”


Sophie Rukin and Audrey O’Mary

Ella Feiner ‘18 appeared on “Jeopardy National College Championship” on Tuesday, representing Princeton University, where she is currently a senior. Feiner competed against two other college students for a chance at a prize of $250,000. After three rounds of competition, Feiner finished the show in last place, taking home $10,000 for participating.

“Jeopardy National College Championship” is a special two-week spinoff of the popular quiz game show “Jeopardy!”. This year’s host is “The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik. Episodes air in rounds, with a total of 36 college students attempting to advance to the finals.

In late November, Feiner flew to LA to begin filming the show. It was her first time in LA and she was excited to see what the process of filming a show was like, she said. “I thought the experience would be once in a lifetime for me, since I’m definitely not going to end up with a career in acting or media,” she said.

Over the course of the 30-minute competition, the three contestants vied for the first place spot, answering questions on topics such as DJs, Shakespeare, movie casts, and American history. It was exciting to film the show, Feiner said. “I remember just thinking that the lights were really bright, and that it was really hard to buzz in quickly enough to the little light on the board.” It was so exciting that she barely remembers any of the questions, she said.

“Jeopardy!” consists of three rounds: “Jeopardy!”, “Double Jeopardy!”, and “Final Jeopardy!”. While Feiner entered the “Double Jeopardy!” round in last place, she briefly pulled into the lead after a string of correct answers. By the end of the round Feiner was in last place with a total of $5,600.

After the first two rounds came “Final Jeopardy!”. In this closing segment of the competition, contestants were required to answer a single question, staking any amount of the money they earned in previous rounds. The question asked the contestants the name of a plant of the genus Dionaea. Feiner answered incorrectly, “What is rose?” As she had wagered the entirety of her earnings, she ended the game with $0, putting her in last place.

All in all, Feiner was appreciative of the opportunity to be on the show, she said. “I went into it with the mindset of ‘I’m just here to have fun and this is a really cool experience to be selected [for]’, so I don’t think I could’ve been unhappy with [any outcome].”

Outside of the actual filming, Feiner loved exploring LA and making friends with the other 35 college students participating in the show, she said.

One of the biggest differences between the “Jeopardy! National College Championship” and original “Jeopardy!” is that participants cannot continue to win indefinitely, Feiner said. “[The show] was a structure with set prize payouts, where if you win you progress to the semi-finals, and if you win that you go to the finals,” she said.

She first learned that she had been selected for the show in May of 2021. “My first thought was ‘oh my gosh, my friends are going to be so excited,’” she said. “It didn’t feel real that after so many years of watching the episodes together that I would be on [the show].”

Feiner first became interested in “Jeopardy!” during her freshman year of college, she said. She and her friends loved to watch the show together and started to play their own “Jeopardy!” style games. In February of 2019, she founded a club called the “Princeton Jeopardy Circuit.”

In 2020, Feiner’s friends encouraged her to try out for the show by taking the online “Jeopardy!” application test. Within a few weeks, she received an email that she had been chosen for a callback. Five months later, Feiner received a call from an unknown number in LA. “Usually I don’t pick up calls from numbers I don’t have in my contacts, but this time I saw the LA number, and I decided ‘maybe I’ll pick up the call,’” she said. It was a “Jeopardy!” producer telling Feiner she was going to be on the show, she said.

In preparation for the show, Feiner watched a lot of “Jeopardy!” episodes. She specifically watched the episodes featuring Yale University student Matt Amodio, who ended his “Jeopardy!” streak with 38 wins. 

Feiner loved representing Princeton on the show, especially before she graduates at the end of the year. “It’s been fun over the last few days to see Princeton putting out advertisements all over social media about me,” she said. She also enjoyed watching all of her friends and family come together to support her on the show, she said.