Northeastern student competes on “Jeopardy! National College Championship”


Northeastern student Liz Feltner will be appearing regularly on “Jeopardy! National College Championship” beginning Feb. 11. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Jessica Xing, news correspondent

Northeastern student Liz Feltner will fulfill her lifelong dream of competing in the “Jeopardy! National College Championship” starting Feb. 11.

Feltner, a fifth-year political science and business administration combined major, will be one of 36 undergraduate students from across the United States competing for the grand prize in this year’s championship. Feltner’s journey included a three-part audition process, many weeks spent preparing for the competition and the challenge of having to wait to tell most of her friends about the show.

While Feltner has auditioned for both the regular “Jeopardy!” game and the “Jeopardy! National College Championship” multiple times in the past, she never got past the initial online quiz until her most recent attempt. However, Feltner has been a huge fan of the show and trivia for years.

“I used to watch it at home with my family every single night while we ate dinner,” she said.  “I love trivia, I’ve always been kind of a trivia hound … So I was like, ‘I have to. I have to be on it.’”

Feltner’s audition process started November 2020, when she took the online test for the “Jeopardy! National College Championship.” After passing internal criteria, Feltner was invited to join a Zoom call in December 2020. During this second phase, she and nine others in the Zoom took another online test, with the producers instructing them to keep their microphones and cameras on in order to prevent cheating.

In January 2021, Feltner was invited to a Zoom audition where she was joined by eight other students. There, she and the other students were split into three groups of three, with each group competing in a practice test. Participants were given clues and had to click pens in their hands to mimic pressing a buzzer in order to answer. 

“It was very, very fun,” Feltner said. “And they asked us what we would do with the money and to introduce ourselves, our name, our major, where our hometown was or university… I guess it was to see our personalities and to see how we were on camera.”

Following her audition, Feltner received an email informing her that she was in the contestant pool for the college tournament for the next 12 months. If she did not hear from them within the next year, then she would be able to take the test again.

After having not heard from “Jeopardy!” for nine full months, Feltner received a surprise text message on her birthday, Sep. 16, 2021, from a producer asking if she had time to hop on a call the next day. 

On the phone the following day, Feltner verified some information about herself and confirmed that she was still eligible to be on the show. Afterwards, she was shocked to hear that the pool was only about 40 people, expecting it to be much bigger.

“Typically, the college tournament only has 15 competitors, but this one had 36. I did not know that at the time,” Feltner said. “So I think at that point, they had already chosen us because it was 36 and then three alternates, and at the time they told us it was roughly 40 people.”

Two weeks later, the casting director of “Jeopardy!” called Feltner to explain that they would like to book her for the show. Feltner agreed to travel to the studio to film the show during Thanksgiving weekend.

In order to prepare for the show, Feltner spent hours each week studying and memorizing trivia. Some of her techniques included using flash cards, quizzing herself on past “Jeopardy!” questions with an emphasis on categories she knew she had trouble with and watching Crash Course videos on YouTube. In addition, Feltner made sure to watch “Jeopardy!” every night, clicking her pen and answering questions as if she were a contestant.

Along with preparing for the trivia show, Feltner had to balance her co-op work and extracurriculars during the Fall 2021 semester. This included being on four different club executive boards and participating in other clubs as well.

“It was easily the most stressful semester I’ve had at Northeastern and by nobody’s fault but my own because I just put so much stuff on my plate,” said Feltner. “I was very stressed out, but it was all worth it in the end.”

Feltner flew out to Culver City, California on Nov. 19, 2021, in order to film the game in the “Jeopardy!” studio. The promotional videos were shot Nov. 20, 2021, and six games were shot on each of the following three days.

Unlike the regular “Jeopardy!” show, contestants in the “Jeopardy! College National Championship” have their flights and hotels booked for them, and are even given a certain amount of funds for food each day, along with lunch and snacks while on set. This also gave Feltner the opportunity to meet and bond with the other contestants.

With her Northeastern sweatshirt on and her hair and makeup done, Feltner remembers feeling disbelief the first time she walked into the studio for filming.

“I was so nervous. And I don’t get stage fright. Like, at all,” she said.

Despite how nervous Feltner was about being on the show, she described it as “a dream come true.” While she can’t share any specific information about the gameplay or results, she definitely had a fun time being on a game that she has watched and loved since she was a child.

In comparison to the regular “Jeopardy!” tournament, Feltner said that the questions were probably slightly easier. She also said that the prize money for the college tournament was higher than for the regular tournament.

“If they ask pop culture questions, for the most part, it’s in the last couple of years, like Gen Z kind of pop culture,” she said.

In terms of COVID-19, contestants had to be tested the Friday they flew in, and were not allowed into the studio the next day unless they received a negative PCR test result. They also were not allowed to have anyone in the audience, and were required to have N95 masks on at all times unless instructed otherwise, such as while filming or eating.

When Feltner found out that she was going to be on the show, she was only able to share the news with her family and roommate, since Feltner would be traveling alone. 

However, knowing Feltner and her love of trivia, many of her friends already suspected that she was going to be on the show before she was able to officially announce it, especially since they knew she was in California. Caitlyn McCollom, Feltner’s roommate and a fourth-year nursing major, thinks that Feltner was well-prepared for the show and for TV, and is hoping she won it all.

“I would like to think that she would, you know, win the whole thing, but you know, I guess we’ll just have to see,” she said.

Feltner’s close friends agree that she has the potential to get far in the tournament.

“I know she’s good at trivia so I can see her doing well, but I could also see her having really good interactions with the other contestants and with the host,” said Olga Prifti, a fourth-year bioengineering major. “She’s a really bubbly and charismatic individual.”

It wasn’t until Jan. 7 that Feltner publicly announced that she was going to be on the show after retweeting a promotional video posted by the show’s host, Mayim Bialik. After receiving her press packet from the studio Feb. 2, Feltner posted photos on Instagram letting her followers know about the show.

“Everyone was excited. It’s been amazing,” Feltner said. “I was not expecting people to be as supportive as they have been, which might be a little silly of me because I have lots and lots of wonderful friends.”

This year’s college tournament began airing Feb. 8, with Feltner making her first appearance on the show Feb. 11. The show will be broadcast on ABC from 8 to 9 p.m. ET every day for two weeks Tuesdays through Fridays, with the final episode airing Feb. 22. Each episode will also be streamed on Hulu the day after it is aired.