Kriti Gandhi is $10,000 richer, thanks to intense preparation, a little luck, and a nudge of encouragement by her family.
Gandhi, an 18-year-old graduate of Centennial High School, competed in the Jeopardy! Summer Games Teen Tournament, which has been airing on national television the past two weeks.
On Wednesday night, Gandhi's winning ways ended with a loss in the semifinal round.
For making it to the semifinals, she earned a $10,000 payoff. (She amassed $17,700 in winnings her first round, but contestants don't get to keep the opening round money unless they advance to the final round.)
The road to the competition began last fall when Gandhi's father signed her up for a tryout for the show.
A series of tests, and additional tryouts, followed, and within several months she was one of 15 teens picked for the show, which was taped in March in California.
"I was actually surprised I got it," Gandhi said about a callback to New York in November, part of the selection process.
Sure, Gandhi had game show experience from the multiple rounds of tryouts and as an alternate on Centennial High School's It's Academic team, but it couldn't compare to the lights and cameras of Los Angeles.
"Nothing can prepare you for just the experience of being on national TV," Gandhi of Ellicott City said. "It felt really, really good."
Gandhi got ready for the show by reading an almanac and using online Web sites such as Wikipedia - anything that would give her "as much knowledge about as many topics in a short amount of time," she said.
Gandhi said it has been difficult to abide by the contract she signed with Jeopardy that prohibited her from revealing the outcome of the tournament before the shows aired.
"I feel really bad not being able to tell people who I know and who have been so supportive of me throughout this entire experience," she said. "But, they are pretty strict about that one."
A lifelong fan of Jeopardy!, Gandhi said she was surprised that show host Alex Trebek was so friendly in person.
"He appears acerbic on the show, but he is really fun," she said with a laugh. "During the break, he was talking about fixing up his house. He was really fun and friendly."
Gandhi, who plans to attend McGill University in Montreal in the fall, admitted that some of her new classmates might recognize her when the semester begins. "It's possible some people might recognize me," she said sheepishly.
But she thinks that the benefits associated with the show - the competitiveness and the lightning-quick responses - will help her too.
"The skills I've been able to gain on the show will come in handy in college as well," she said.