Meet the Wilmette Woman Who Won Almost $430,000 on Jeopardy!

Julia Collins recently won 20 episodes of Jeopardy! Here are eight questions for her—including what she plans to do with her pile of prize money.

Photo: Dave Rentauskas; Hair and Makeup: Nora Hess; Photo Assistant: Breanna Steinfeldt

So, Julia, after your string of victories in May, you are now the winningest woman to ever appear on the show.

I’m also in second place overall, after Ken Jennings [who won 74 games in 2004]. That’s the important one for me.

Is it true you predicted that you were going to be a Jeopardy! winner in one of your yearbooks?

Yeah, it was in my eighth-grade yearbook at Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, which is where I grew up.

When did you decide to try out for the show?

A couple years ago, I found out that they give an online test as the first round of the tryouts. I thought, That’s pretty easy to get myself to do. They offer it on three consecutive nights every January. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes.

Did your local knowledge help?

One of the writers must have some sort of a Chicago connection, because there were a disproportionately high number of questions about Chicago. One was about the Trump Tower: “Tower named for eccentric millionaire.” One was about a train, the 20th Century Limited, that went from L.A. to Chicago. And one question was, “This team’s magazine is called Vine Line.” I thought, Vines, ivy—it must be the Cubs. I was the only person who got that.

Is there a category you wish you could have played?

I was hoping for musicals. The day after I lost, there was a Rodgers and Hammerstein category, and I was really jealous.

Who’s the most interesting person to contact you after your streak?

[Novelist] John Irving, who was the subject of the Final Jeopardy that I missed, sent me a nice note and a signed copy of his latest book. He wrote: “I wanted to let you know how very sorry I was that you lost your final game on Jeopardy due to me, indirectly, of course. You’ll find the time for a first-edition copy of my most recent novel, which I am hoping you will enjoy half as much as I enjoyed watching you on Jeopardy.

When do you get your money, and what will you do with it?

They tell you it’s 120 days after your air date, so late August. I’m going to invest it, but I spent some of it already. I’m not working right now [she had worked in supply chain management], so I went to France for a month. That was my splurge.

How will you prep for the Tournament of Champions, the annual Jeopardy! all-stars special that will air next year?

My family has a place in Lake Geneva, so I’ll probably spend a bunch of time there. The lake’s a good place to study because we really get bad TV reception. I need to brush up on things that happened in the Old Testament. There’s a whole wide world of biblical knowledge I’m not super up on.

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