Lauren Rodriguez '22 is making the Pomona College community proud by competing in the Jeopardy! National College Championship. The Bay Area native is among 36 of America’s sharpest undergrads competing in the collegiate competition for the $250,000 grand prize and the title of Jeopardy! National College Champion.
The battle of wits goes from Tuesday, Feb. 8 to Tuesday, Feb. 22. The show airs on ABC and is available to stream on Hulu. Rodriguez reaches to the semifinals of the competition.
Why did you decide to try to become a Jeopardy! contestant?
I decided to try out for Jeopardy! over quarantine in fall of 2020. I found myself feeling wanting to try something new, so I used the extra time on my hands to study for the test. I've always really enjoyed crossword puzzles and trivia games, so this felt like a natural challenge to try my hand at, and I felt like I could make it on the show if I worked hard.
I started by taking the "Anytime" test on the website, then was contacted to take another test, this one administered over Zoom. Luckily, I passed the Zoom test as well, and was on to the final round of auditions! The final round (also on Zoom) was a mock game, complete with contestant interviews. It was fun to play Jeopardy! over Zoom — we had to use pens as buzzers! I did this process between October 2020 and January 2021 and was super excited and surprised to finally hear back in September 2021 that I'd be on the show.
What was it like competing on the show?
I had such a blast competing on the show. Being part of the College Championship as opposed to regular Jeopardy! made it so rewarding, because I was able to meet 35 other college kids from all across the country and form friendships with them. We all embraced our inner nerd together and had a lot of fun. When we weren't playing, we sat in the audience to watch everyone else's quarterfinal games, and there was such a sense of camaraderie and support among us that I feel so lucky to have found that community of students.
More than anything, my experience on Jeopardy! has helped push me out of my comfort zone. It was so nerve-wracking to be up on stage, but I'm really proud that I pushed through the nerves to compete and have so much more confidence in myself going forward. I also really hope that I can represent Pomona well — most contestants attend large universities, so I want to show that Pomona can compete with the big dogs!
What has your experience been like at Pomona?
I have had a wonderful time at Pomona and am sad to be graduating soon! I don't think I would have ever applied to be on Jeopardy! if I hadn't gone to Pomona. It has been an experience where I've learned so much about myself and the world. Being able to take such a wide breadth of classes in sociology, politics, media studies, chemistry, religious studies, etc. was absolutely crucial for building my base of knowledge for the show.
And being at a place where my fellow students challenged me and pushed me to be better just by being their own incredible selves has been so instrumental to my own growth. I admire all of my close friends and their accomplishments so much, and it inspires me to try new things — like Jeopardy! I'm incredibly grateful for the time I've had and the connections I've formed at Pomona.
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I really love to work with kids and spend my Fridays volunteer teaching at local elementary schools. Of course, I am a word game buff. I do the NY Times Crossword and Spelling Bee regularly and have recently gotten into Wordle! And when I have a day off, I love to spend it writing in my journal on Marston Quad, exploring the LA area with my friends and watching movies.
I chose Pomona because it was an environment I was certain I would thrive in. I knew I wanted the perks of a small college — seminar-style classes, a tight-knit community — without it feeling too insular. The 5C consortium offered me a perfect balance between the two. Similarly, it was just the right amount of distance from home. I've loved growing up in California and was excited to stay in the state, but in an area that was less familiar to me. It just seemed like the perfect fit, and I never looked back after choosing Pomona.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduating, I will be moving to San Francisco and starting a job in the management consulting industry. Beyond that, we'll have to see where the future takes me!