News

Jessica Johnston is Two-Day Winner on Jeopardy! Quiz Show

CLAREMONT, California - March 21, 2017

Jessica Johnston, two-day Jeopardy! winner with host Alex Trebek – photo courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.

Scripps College admission counselor Jessica Johnston was busy recruiting students when she got the first call from Jeopardy! producers last fall to appear as a contestant on the popular trivia quiz show. Her love of history and trivia is second only to her love of traveling, which is why the international student recruiter at the California-based women’s college said “yes” to Jeopardy! as soon as she could, and was booked to appear on America’s Favorite Quiz Show last November.

 
Johnston’s segment as a contestant was aired on March 10, 13, and 14, 2017, and Scripps community members, family, and fans far and wide lauded her respectable showing as a two-day champion, winning a total of $42,300.
 
Johnston said she signed up and took the online test to qualify as a Jeopardy! contestant last spring at the suggestion of her boss, Vice President for Enrollment Victoria Romero. Romero had encouraged Johnston to try out for the show when she learned Johnston was adept at “bar trivia,” a social activity where aficionados compete at local establishments over their knowledge of film, music, geography, science, and more.
 
Johnston said she needed to answer 35 or more out of 50 Jeopardy! test questions correctly to be eligible to audition for the show. She recounted that the random trivia question prompts in 8-second intervals posed an intense challenge. 
 
“More than 70,000 apply online, 3,000 are asked to audition, and about 400 are actually chosen to go on the show. You sign up and take the online test during a three-day period, and then, you don’t know anything for awhile,” Johnston said.
 
“I really didn’t think I would get the audition, but after I did , I calculated the odds, and it’s less than a half of a percent who get chosen to go on the show. I figured I might as well play the lottery or apply to Harvard or something,” she laughed.
 
So when she got the call—and she couldn’t appear right away—she thought, “That’s it, I won’t get on the show.”
 
“Who tells Jeopardy! they’re too busy to appear on the show?!”
 
When she finally did go to the show’s Los Angeles-based studio to tape the episodes in November, she was contractually obliged to keep her winning a secret until the show aired in March. With her traveling done, Johnston was able to watch the show with supporters, while she and her admission colleagues were “all hands on deck” preparing acceptance packets to mail to the College‘s newly admitted students.
 
Johnston is a 2009 graduate of Wellesley College, where she majored in political science. The history and politics buff also earned her MS degree in higher education at Drexel University.
 
For about six weeks a year, Johnston travels as associate director of Admission, international recruitment, mostly to New York and D.C.. This year, she adds South America to her destinations.
 
The one moment on the TV show that “stuck in her craw?” Johnston says she was not given credit for the question about the 2011 pop song by Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” when the judges indicated to show host Alex Trebek that she had failed to include the word “that” in her answer.
 
One question she thought she didn’t know, but got right? In the final clue of a category where she had answered all the other prompts about various country’s political parties, she correctly guessed “Democratic Republic of the Congo.
 
“That one surprised me. Really, I wasn’t sure.” 
When asked how Johnston plans to spend her Jeopardy! winnings, she answered with her own clue: “What is, ‘planning a fabulous vacation to a new continent!'”