Sirad Hassan ’20 recently represented the University in the Jeopardy! College Championship, which is set to air on April 6 on ABC.
Hassan’s appearance on Jeopardy! has been a long time in the making. While attending high school in Frederick, Md., she belonged to her school’s academic trivia team and participated in county competitions.
“I used to watch [Jeopardy!] a lot with my family when it would come on … I’d try to answer all of these really difficult questions,” Hassan said. “When I was in high school, as I learned more and took more classes and read more, I realized trivia is something I really enjoy.”
While in high school, Hassan was called to audition for the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament after taking an online qualifier test, but she did not make it to the final group. During her first year at the University, she took the test again.
Three years later, Hassan finally got the chance to stand on the Jeopardy! stage.
“It was really surreal, standing at the podium and being able to look at the audience and see that not only is the studio real, but that my dad and younger brother were sitting there and cheering me on,” Hassan said about the filming experience.
Hassan auditioned for the show in late November after taking the online test. According to Hassan, the audition process allowed her to meet “really cool people.”
“When you get there, you greet the other people in the audition space, you get to meet the facilitators and the contestant coordinators,” Hassan said. “They explain everything that’s going to happen, and then you take the in-person test, which is essentially very similar to the format on the online test.”
Hassan was also interviewed about her interests and played a mock version of the game.
After the audition, Hassan said she felt “hopeful” about the possibility of competing on the show.
“I felt pretty excited about it,” she said. “I was hopeful that it would work out, but I was also skeptical because I didn’t want to assume.”
After that, Hassan waited for the call from show producers, but she began to doubt whether she would appear on the show.
“I had been following advice that I’d heard from mentors [who] had been on the show before, including Gilbert Collins GS ‘99, the University administrator for the Global Health department,” she explained. “He’d said that they give you a month’s advance notice if you’re going to be on the show … I was kind of skeptical, and it was a little less than a month’s notice, so I was thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get the call.’” Collins most recently participated in the Tournament of Champions last November.
Hassan’s fateful call came on a day when every Princetonian longs for good news: Dean’s Date.
“I had stayed up working on my assignments, pretty tired and in Firestone,” she said. “I randomly flip over my phone and see that there was a 301 area code that left a voicemail … It was Jeopardy! I got really excited, and I called them back, and they told me I was going to be on the show.”
Hassan traveled to Los Angeles during the first week of the spring semester for filming. She said that she is looking forward to seeing herself on the show.
The show will air on another notable day in Hassan’s academic calendar.
“Ironically, it airs the same day my thesis is due,” she said.
Hassan also gave advice for fellow trivia enthusiasts.
“Pay attention to the world around you,” Hassan shared. “If going on Jeopardy! is something you’re interested in, pay attention to the conversations you’re having with people, if you’re friends with people in completely different majors … If they bring up something really cool they’ve learned, listen in to that.”
“Try to be as cultured as possible, listen to a lot of music, pay attention to the shows that are up and coming, be an avid reader,” she added.
On campus, Hassan is a Wilson School concentrator, Peer Academic Adviser at Whitman College, and a SHARE peer. She was also heavily involved with the Breakout Princeton program during her first two years and was on the Muslim Student Association Board for three years, serving as its president for one year.
As a first-year, Hassan briefly wrote for The Daily Princetonian news section.
According to a press release from Jeopardy! producers, Hassan will be one of two students from the Ivy League participating in this year’s Tournament, with the other being Yale University sophomore Nathaniel Miller. Should Hassan advance to the semifinals, she will be the first Princeton student since Terry O’Shea ’16, who appeared on the show in 2014, to advance past the first round.