Back in February, Samantha Morgan (now 12) took the Jeopardy Kid's online test. In April, we were contacted by Jeopardy saying she'd passed that round of qualifying and was scheduled to meet with the contestant search crew in Philadelphia on June 19th.
Just after the New Year, during Jeopardy, they were encouraging people to take the Jeopardy online test, as they were looking for contestants for the upcoming season. Samantha decided she wanted to try taking the kids test for children 10-12 years old, so we got online and got her signed up.
Her online test date was set for February 23 at 8 p.m EST. She needed to be logged onto the website by 7:30. When the test began, she did an amazing job. I sat behind her, watching the questions and her answers. There were no more than 3 questions that she missed.
On April 12th, I received an email from Jeopardy telling me that Samantha had qualified for an in-person interview and audition in Philadelphia on June 19th. I had to respond at the phone number that was listed in the email within 48 hours to reserve her spot at the audition. I immediately placed that call. I was told that within 10 business days, I would get another email giving us the exact location in Philadelphia of the interview and audition. Two days later the email arrived and we learned that she would have her interview/audition at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in the historic district of Philadelphia. We immediately called the Sheraton Society Hill to make reservations for 2 nights.
There's always a small part of you that wonders if something like this is really happening or if someone is playing a joke on you. When we placed the call to the Sheraton Society Hill, to make our reservations, all our worries about a joke were wiped away. During that phone call, we learned that, in fact, Jeopardy's Contestant Search department had reserved rooms there. The reservation clerk was excited to hear that our reason for staying at their hotel was for this interview, and as we ended our conversation the clerk said, "Let me be the first person from the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel to wish your daughter the best of luck." I thought that was very sweet.
It seemed like an eternity from mid-April to June 17th (when we planned to leave for Philadelphia). We made a nice vacation out of the experience. Since Philadelphia is only 6 hours by car, we decided to make it a road trip. The drive was absolutely breath-taking, and we made some side trips along the way. We hadn't planned on taking a vacation this year but thanks to the second round qualifying for Kids Jeopardy, we had an amazing vacation!
Of course, this round of qualifying meant that we were responsible for all travel expenses. Should Samantha make it through this round to the TV show, then all expenses are paid by Jeopardy.
Saturday, June 19th, arrived and Samantha had a real case of nerves. She'd been perfectly calm up to this point. Given what she was about to take part in, it was completely understandable. Her audition/interview time was 11:30 a.m. We arrived in the conference room by 11 a.m. There were a few papers that needed to be filled out, so we set to work on those. Once our papers were filled out, Samantha and I took a seat in the conference room. She grabbed my hand and she was just trembling. I told her I thought we needed to pray...she agreed. So we joined hands in prayer, asking the Lord to be with her, to flood her with peace and calm, to keep her mind sharp and focused and to give her good recall of all her knowledge. We gave God all the glory and praise for what we'd experienced so far and knew that whatever was to come was in His hands. We just asked Him to bless the whole event. As we prayed, I could feel Samantha begin to calm down and stop trembling. God is so good.
When the contestant search crew came into the conference room, they began photographing the children for the files. Each child marveled at watching the Polaroid photo develop before their eyes. Once every child had been photographed for their file, the children were taken into another conference room for testing. While the children were testing, there was an informational meeting for the parents, given by the senior producer of Jeopardy. We were told about the behind-the-scenes workings of the show, told what to expect should our child pass this stage of qualifying and he answered many questions.
Meanwhile in another conference room, the children were playing a warm up game of Jeopardy, needing only to raise their hands to answer the questions. If they answered correctly, they were allowed to choose the next category and money amount. Once they'd played a round and got warmed up, they were given a written 30 question test. When everyone had finished the test, the 10 and 11 year old children were taken back to the parents' conference room and the 12 year olds were held, so that they could also take the teen test (for 13-18 year olds). This was because the 12 year olds would turn 13 during the next year - they hold the children's records for a year, if they aren't chosen to be on the show. So the 12 year olds are now also qualified to take part as a teen. The teen test was a 50 question test.
Samantha said that the kids test was super easy and she felt like she only missed two questions. She said the teen test was much harder and she only answered about 12 questions. The teen test is for 13 - 18 year olds...quite a lot of learning still to be done!
Once the 12 year olds finished the teen test, the senior producer took the 10 and 11 year olds back into the other conference room, where all the children played another 'mock' game of Jeopardy, using the actual buzzers from the Jeopardy set. During this mock game, the children were instructed how to properly ring in without locking themselves out by ringing in too soon, how to properly call out a category and money amount - they were told to just pick out a key word in the category, they were also reminded to answer in the form of a question. Each round was played with 3 children just like the game plays on TV. Part way through the game, the producer, acting like game show host Alex Trebek, had interview time with each child. The children were asked what their favorite school subjects were, their least favorite school subjects, what they enjoy doing on the weekends, and what they'd do if they won money on Jeopardy. Samantha said most of the kids said they'd use the money to buy computers or video game systems. She told them that if she won, she'd take her mom and grandma to the Georgia Aquarium. They asked her why, to which she replied that it was the world's largest aquarium and they have whale sharks...and she's very interested in them.
Samantha said that she ran the Harry Potter category and knew almost all the answers in the round she played. She said that there were times in other rounds, with other children, where the time limit ran out and no one answered the question. When that happened, the producer then asked the rest of the children the question and allowed them to answer. Samantha knew most of those answers as well. There was one question that stumped all the children - it was in a category called: Gum and Candy Advertisements. The clue was: 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend this gum. The kids thought it was Stride or Orbit...mainly because this advertisement was before their time!!! The answer, of course, was Trident.
When the children finished for the day, they were given a Jeopardy pen and Jeopardy water bottle. They were escorted back into the parents' conference room and all the parents applauded the children.
The producer told the parents that if our child made it to the show, we'd be notified sometime this summer. We were told that if our child made the show, we'd be flown out to Los Angeles (all expenses paid) 2 days before the week of taping, be picked up at the airport, set up in a nice hotel, given spending money to sight-see, shuttled to and from the studio, the children would get an individual professional photo of them with Alex Trebek, as well as a group photo of the 15 kid contestants with Alex. The children would only need to be at the studio the day they were scheduled to compete and to help do a promotional skit, encouraging other children to take the Jeopardy test. The rest of the time would be 'free' time to use as we pleased. It was also explained to us that in the kids week of shows, each child would appear only once. This gives all 15 children a chance to appear on the show. The winner doesn't move on to the next day, as it is with the adults. The day's winner receives the cash they earn, 2nd and 3rd place get nice parting gifts. We were told that past parting gifts included complete computer systems and family vacations (not just a trip to Disney World either, past trips included trips to Europe and Alaskan cruises).
So now we wait....is that the "Final Jeopardy theme" song we hear???
- I've found out that the average number of children who take the online test each year, is in the neighborhood of 8,000 - 10,000. Jeopardy's contestant search crew goes to no more than 5 cities per year searching for contestants. For instance, in Philly, they saw about 30 children who qualified. So that means that Samantha would have scored in the top 150 children interviewed in the country out of the up to 10,000 who took the test online. Of the 150 children that would be interviewed in the second round of qualifying, only 15 are picked to go to Los Angeles for the show.