BY ROSS ALLEN
ILL USRATIONS BY JOSH WILKES, MURRAY STATE U., KY.
ANE STUDENT, COME ON
D O W N ! ! ! ! "
Jane - wearing a sweatshirt
emblazoned with a college
crest or Greek letters -
jumps up and runs down to the stage,
her heart pumping with excitement.
Cash and fabulous prizes await. The
only question is whether she'll win the
car she can't park on campus, the
money to pay last semester's tuition or
the bedroom set that won't fit in her
Lots of students fantasize about striking it rich on
a TV game show. And why not? Going to college
might not get you a job, but it can at least give you a
chance to make megabucks from one roll o' the dice.
After all, if Jane can have access to those fabu-
lous prizes, why can't you?
Jen Tipka, a senior at West Chester U. in Penn-
sylvania, tried her luck two summers ago as an
aspiring game show contestant. Donning a big smile
and a "pick me, pick me!" look, she joined the Price
is Right studio audience in Los Angeles. Simply
showing up for the taping - with no guarantee of a
spot on the show - catapulted her into the afore-
mentioned fabulous... (you know the rest).
"It was very exciting," Tipka says. "I was shaking
when I went up there."
Although she didn't make it past contestants'
row, she did win a bread maker, the game Scatter-
gories and a $25 gift certificate for Lifesavers can-
dies as parting gifts.
The only bad part about her appearance on the
show was that she was called late in the game, Tipka
says. As a late-comer in the bidding war, she compet-
ed for only two items. But hey, thanks for playing.
Game show contestant Veronica Grey, a junior
at UCLA, went to the bank with more than a bread
maker and candy. She won
$23,000 on Wheel of Fortune's x
spring '94 college tournament. _
But getting there wasn't easy. At
UCLA, more than 150 word-wield-
ing hopefuls tried out to share the
stage with Pat and Vanna.
Those who passed the pre-
liminary exam - 15 puzzles
in five minutes - went on to
the next level, a written EDWAR
exam consisting of five U. OF PI
more minutes of white-
knuckle, beat-the-clock Wheel of For-
tune-style puzzles. Grey says most stu-
dents can't handle the pressure and are
eliminated during this round.
'ttk Before the final cut, contestants not
only take a variety of written tests but
also are judged on speech and voice quali-
ty, enthusiasm and presentation. Being
bashful won't get you a spin of the Wheel.
After hours of dodging vowels and
slaying consonants, four students from
four different schools were crowned as
finalists. Their royal mission: a trip to
Orlando, Fla., for a week of sun and fun -
and oh yeah, competition. For last year's
college week," the 16 college contestants
were put up in a posh hotel at Disney World
and ate at local restaurants - total tab for one
night's dinner: $2,000. Let's hope Pat didn't stiff
on the tip.
"Those people on television have gone through
a lot to get there," Grey says. "It's harder than it
looks on TV."
But students say getting on Wheel of Fortune is a
cakewalk compared with making it to the stage on
Jeopardy! Wheel college tourney alum and two-time
Jeopardy! hopeful Edward Stash says the tests for
Wheeldon't hold a candle to the Jeopardy!exam.
"The written [test] for Jeopardy!was so hard," says
Stash, who competed on Wheel of Fortune during his
senior year at the U. of Pittsburgh. "Only four people
out of 250 passed. The questions were that tough."
The Wheel experience earned Stash $2,150 cash,
with a mail delivery time of four months. He also
brought home some wonderful parting gifts, includ-
ing Centrum Silver vitamins - for the "mature"
consumer - and cases of that ubiquitous game
show treat, Rice-a-Roni.
"I'm full of vim and vigor," Stash says. "But I'm
sick of Rice-a-Roni."
The vitamins aren't the oddest parting gift con-
testants received, Stash says. "Other people got
'Hooked on Phonics.' You'd think that someone in
college who's playing Wheel of Fortune would know
how to read."
Jeopardy! has a slightly different search method
for its college tournament, says Jeopardy!'s contes-
tant coordinator Suzanne Thurber.
By promoting the college tourney in September,
Jeopardy! joins the back-to-school hype. So when
you buy your new jeans, back-
pack and spiral notebooks, join
the 10,000 to 20,000 students
who send in postcards in hopes of
getting on the show. But don't
hold your breath, because Alex
only draws about 1,200 names
for the first cut.
Patrick Toft, a junior at the
U. of Minnesota, got his chance
W STASH, after Jeopardy!drew one of the 11
TTSBURGH postcards his mother sent in for
him. Eleven wasn't necessarily his
lucky number - his mom just got tired of sending
them, Toft says.
After his name was drawn, Toft faced a grueling
battery of tests, including a killer 50-question video
exam. About 90 percent of applicants fail to make it
to the next level: a mock game. But Jeopardy! is
looking for something different from Wheel of For-
tune in its oral auditions.
"If they're enthusiastic, that's great," Thurber
says, "but we're mainly looking to see if they under-
stand the structure of the game."
Toft got it - he won $5,000.
"It was nerve-racking but a lot of fun," Toft says.
The only drawback, Toft says, is that it takes
120 days after the air date to get your money.
Because of the lag time between taping and airing
the show, Toft is actually waiting about five months
for his prize. Talk about nerve-racking....
Taking a trip to California for the modern gold
rush - only to walk away with empty pockets -
could turn someone off to correct spelling and remem-
bering to phrase responses in the form of a question.
But it could prod a starving student to ask: What's one
way to earn a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni?
Ross Allen is a '95graduate of West Virginia U.
August/September 1995 0 U. Magazine 23