"I turned 17 about a month after I started at Scripps so I was worried that my friends would want to go to an R-rated movie," the Oklahoma native said. "That would just be embarrassing to explain, but luckily it didn't come up before my birthday. "
Today Shoenhard will once again set out to prove that, despite her relative youth, she is among the nation's top students when she competes in a quarterfinal match in the 25th "Jeopardy!" College Championship.
"Similar to March Madness and NCAA football bowl games, the College Championship provides a special blend of intense competition and school pride," said "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek in a statement. "It's the only 'Jeopardy!' tournament where the contestants play for more than personal glory and prize money; they play as representatives of their college and its alumni. "
In order to qualify for the tournament, Shoenhard took the 50-question online "Jeopardy!" test and was picked to audition in the second round, completing a second 50-question test, mock game play and interview. Of those 250 students, the top 15 were chosen as quarterfinalists. This is the first time Scripps has been represented in the tournament.
"My family, we're a nerdy family," the neuroscience and philosophy double major said. "We watch 'Jeopardy!' together, and I've always been fairly good at trivia. "
Though she was on the academic bowl team in middle school in Tulsa, Okla., Shoenhard hadn't been part of any trivia competitions before going on "Jeopardy!" and, with a full courseload, had little free time to prepare for the tournament.
"I'm fairly busy already but I didn't want to psych myself out about it, I figured, if they picked me then I knew enough to be on the show," Shoenhard said. "I wanted it to be a fun experience and a positive thing. "
Her classes range from biochemistry to piano lessons and she is making plans to conduct research this summer on the Zebra Finch with one of her professors.
"Hannah is an outstanding student and person, and an ideal student to have in the classroom," said Melissa Coleman, associate professor of biology in the Claremont Colleges. "She has gained quite a bit of research experience for someone at her level of education and will share that information in class so that it enriches the classroom discussion. "
The 15 contestants will compete in five quarterfinal matches, with five winners and the top four earners moving on to the semifinal round. The winners of the three semifinal games will then be eligible to compete in the finals, where they are guaranteed to earn at least $100,000, $50,000 or $25,000. Each quarterfinalist is guaranteed $5,000, while semifinalists earn $10,000.
The pre-filmed episode is scheduled to air locally at 7 p.m. tonight on KABC-TV (Channel 7), and Shoenhard plans to watch the show with friends at one of their dorm rooms.
"(For the quarterfinal match) I was wearing a hoodie I had actually first bought for my sister," she said. "I was concerned that there would be a rivalry (among the contestants) but people were really cool and really friendly, so even though we were competing we were all going through this incredible experience together. "