On September 9, 1999, a nine-year-old Anjali Tripathi ’09 appeared on the children’s edition of Jeopardy! She had been featured in a promotion for the show saying, “I studied all my life for this.”
Then, in second place at the end of the second round of this famous quiz show, she lost the show after incorrectly answering the final Jeopardy! question. Tripathi won a consolation prize of a computer and a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Flash forward nine years to September 17, 2008: Tripathi appeared on the show again in a reunion episode and stood, once again, in second place heading into the final round. She faced the prompt, “It’s 277 miles long, it’s up to 18 miles wide, it’s 6 million years old & at a given time temps. within it can vary by 25 degrees.” Her answer, “What is the Grand Canyon,” won her both first place and $25,000.
Tripathi had to prepare for the show almost completely in secret because of a standard non-disclosure agreement she entered into with the show’s producers.
She said this secrecy made it difficult to study for the show throughout the summer without attracting questions from her friends. She told only a few friends: one who had a television so she could prepare by watching the show, and another who advised her on a wagering strategy based on possible positions in the show going into the final Jeopardy! round.
Even after the show was filmed on August 12, she could not tell her friends about the outcome of the show.
She said that she felt a lot more nervous this time than she did in 1999 because this time she felt she was representing both herself and MIT.
She struggled with the first-round category “The Real MTV.” During the commercial break, she said show host Alex Trebek asked her if she had watched any of the MTV shows. She hadn’t, but that didn’t keep her from ending up on top.
Tripathi said she didn’t have a watching party on the night of her television appearance, but people gathered in her dorm’s TV lounge while it was on. A friend called her parents and told them, “My friend is on TV, my J[unior] lab partner is on TV!”