In the increasingly troubled world, solace can be found in certain truisms: bagels taste better smothered in cream cheese, Macs are better than PCs, the Yankees are bad for baseball, and University of Chicago students have a certain affinity for crunching raw knowledge.
It is along this vein that second-year in the College Amanda Johnson joined 15 other contestants from prestigious schools across the country to compete in Jeopardy!'s annual College Championship.
The popular trivia show, celebrating its 20th anniversary, taped the special at Yale University last month. Students from schools such as Purdue, Wake Forest, Harvard, Rice, and Yale competed with Johnson for a guaranteed grand prize minimum of $50,000 in cash; a $50,000 scholarship to the winner's school; a trophy; and a brand new Volvo S60R, valued at $40,000.
The second-place winner is guaranteed a cash prize of at least $25,000, the third-place contestant receives a minimum of $15, 000, and semi-finalists will receive $5,000. Those students who are eliminated in the first week will still snag $2,500.
The University of Chicago has a rich tradition in Jeopardy!'s College Championship. As recently as 1999, coordinators for the show have auditioned students in the Reynolds Club.
"It's been phenomenal, nothing less than that," coordinator Gleen Kragan told the Chicago Tribune at the time, in response to the student body's enthusiasm for knowledge.
A surprising number of students passed the initial tests, causing Kragan to admit, "This is the largest percentage that we've kept so far in the two days that we've done this week."
The same year, Carolyn Cracraft, then a third year in the College, took home first prize at Jeopardy!'s 11th College Championship.
Both Cracraft and Johnson had to prove more than their wits in order to secure a seat in the championship. Said Susanne Thurber in the Chicago Sun-Times, "You can have a mind packed with knowledge, but if you come off as a dud, who wants to watch you?"
The show will air nationally from November 10-21, 2003. Johnson's first appearance will be this Friday, November 14 at 3:30 p.m.