Charter School of Wilmington graduate Mohan Malhotra is thrilled with his victory last week in the quarterfinal round of the College Championships on Jeopardy! And he is humbled knowing that so many friends and family – not to mention academically-minded teens – will be turning on their TV sets again tonight at 7 pm to watch him face off against a Junior from Stanford University and a Senior at Northeastern.
While the results are a secret until the shows air, the fate of the New York University freshman has already been determined; taping of the popular and long-running game show took place a few months ago. But Malhotra says he asserted the same strategy in every round – only buzz when fully confident and bet small dollars.
Eighteen-year-old Malhotra is the second bright teen from Wilmington to appear this year on Jeopardy! Sanford High School freshman Lily Allingham participated in the high school competition – advancing to the quarters – last fall. Malhotra’s favorite subject is “definitely history,” but his path to graduation will include coursework in Finance and Computing & Data Sciences.
TSD tracked down Malhotra at school to ask about the experience of a lifetime, nerves, and advice for would-be contestants!
Town Square Delaware: Your parents must have bene thrilled that you landed a spot on Jeopardy!
Mohan Malhotra: The first people I called after I got the Jeopardy! call were my parents. I remember I was really excited and I was pretty much shouting on the phone in excitement. My parents were also super excited since they knew I had really wanted to get on the show.
TSD: Managing nerves has got to be tough.
Malhotra: I was really excited early on, but as the tape date approached I got more and more nervous. Eventually I started tricking myself into thinking the nervousness was excitement, and at some point they blended together so well, I’m not really sure which state I was in. Regardless, once I picked up that buzzer and the round began all emotions faded away quickly and the adrenaline rush took hold.
TSD: How did you win in the early rounds? Did you ace any particular categories?
Malhotra: There was a literature category that I really liked a lot – I picked up a few questions there. I think middle and high school coursework really prepared me well for that one. I also really enjoyed the athletes in the news category, mostly because my roommate is a big sports junkie and I learned a lot about sports in the past semester living with him.
I think the biggest thing that helped me win my game was playing with a conservative mindset. Through many practice matches I realized that the only way I could win was by playing with a smart strategy. So, I decided to only buzz (at least on my first episode) when I was fully confident and to wager small amounts of money.
TSD: Did you feel prepared for the rigor of the questions? And were there any classes at Charter School that helped?
Malhotra: I felt pretty prepared going into the show. I had played a lot of academic quiz bowl in high school that really helped a lot in terms of learning a broad range of trivia. I think my classes at Charter definitely aided me in getting questions, but I can’t really point to one that helped more than the others since Jeopardy is a game with such a wide range of questions.
TSD: Can you describe the ideal Jeopardy! contestant?
Malhotra: The ideal Jeopardy! contestant is probably my friend and high school quiz bowl teammate Rohan. I played a lot of practice matches against him before I went on the show and only won once. The ideal contestant has a good balance of pop culture and academic knowledge and fast on the buzzer but conservative in game play style. I definitely learned a lot of those aspects from him while preparing for the show, which helped me through the first episode.
TSD: We know you have potential for some major prize winnings. How much did you win last week? And what will you do with your prize money?
Malhotra: All contestants who at least make it to the semifinals win at least $10,000, so for now I’ve definitely won at least that much. I think I’ll use this money to fund a study abroad experience next semester, hopefully in Prague.
Good luck to Mohan Malhotra! We’ll be watching tonight!