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University of Texas McCombs Finance Major Advances to ‘Jeopardy!’ Semifinals


AUSTIN, Texas — The Twitter feed of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin exploded last week with love for senior finance and economics major Jaskaran Singh, before the airing of his quarterfinal win in the “Jeopardy! National College Championship” on ABC.

Recorded in November, the quarterfinals air through today and semifinals start Thursday, with Singh’s next matchup Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. CT. The 21-year-old from Plano, Texas, says he’s overwhelmed by the support of his Longhorn family as he vies for the $250,000 grand prize. No spoilers, but we caught up with Singh to talk betting strategy, instant fame, and his remarkably nerdy YouTube feed.

What did it take to get to “Jeopardy!”?

Shout-out to my mom. I watched “Jeopardy!” when I was a little kid, and my mom had me apply when I was 13, but I didn’t make it past the audition stage. She encouraged me to try again last year, saying, “What’s the worst that could happen?” So much of this stuff is up to chance, but obviously it worked out.

Even though I haven’t watched the show in a long time, I’ve been tangentially involved with trivia since high school. I was on the Quiz Bowl team, and we won the national championship. I’m also on UT’s Quiz Bowl team, and we’re competing in nationals in April, in person for the first time in years, which should be a lot of fun.

I’m a normal guy, but I like to read the news to keep up with what’s going on, and I especially like learning about history. The videos YouTube recommends for me are pretty nerdy based on my preferences. Just now, I was watching this video on Luigi Cadorna, an Italian World War I general. So there you go.

You seem so composed on screen during quarterfinals, but there must have been some tense moments. What was going through your mind?

There was one category with a series of clues for phrases that have three words that rhyme. My brain was not working in that moment. Just the experience of being in a TV studio and having lights bearing down on you, and makeup put on you. That sort of gets to you.

Then in Final Jeopardy, I had around $19,000 and the second-place contestant, Sarah, had about $9,000. So I knew even if she bet everything and got it right and I got it wrong, I’d be fine. But frankly, I don’t think it hit me in the moment that, “Oh, you’re going to be competing in the next round.” I know I was nervous, because when I came backstage, I was sweating. There was some kind of delayed emotional response.

You’ve also got a life outside “Jeopardy!” What’s happening with you now?

 I did an internship with Boston Consulting Group in Dallas, and they’ve brought me back full time, so I’ll start with them after graduation. Now I’m taking just one computer science class to finish out my minor, Russian as an adjunct to my economics double major, and a bunch of history classes I’ve wanted to take.

I had 250 requests on LinkedIn last week, and I have to find time to go through those. I’d prefer to keep everything low key, but my parents are urging me to post and get people watching.