Lee University senior Courtney Breaden will compete in the “Wheel of Fortune” game show’s annual “College Week” Thursday at 7 p.m.
Locally, the show will be aired on WTVC-TV Channel 9.
“I always say the No. 1 thing on my bucket list was to be on the ‘Wheel of Fortune,’” Breaden said.
Breaden said she grew up watching the show and had dreamed of being a participant.
“Ever since I was young, my mom and I always watched it together,” the Marietta, Ga., resident said. “Also, I’m an English major so I like word puzzles.”
While her mother was not able to travel to Los Angeles with her to experience taping the show, her fiancé, Jordan Ramos, and brother went with her.
In preparation for participating in the show, Breaden said she read blogs from past participants and practiced, using the “Wheel of Fortune Game” app.
Breaden had initially filled out the online application while watching the show. She didn’t really think anything would come of it.
“I just did it for fun,” Breaden said. “I totally forgot about it.”
However, she got a call from the show inviting her to an audition in Atlanta.
The audition consisted of three phases.
“I was overwhelmed,” Breaden said.
The first focused more on enthusiasm and personality than word puzzles.
“I tried to be really energetic and I naturally smile a lot, so they probably liked that,” Breaden said.
The second round was more intimidating. It was a written test in which potential contestants had to guess words with only a few of the letters provided.
“I didn’t think I would make it to the final round,” Breaden said.
The final round was a simulation of the actual game, complete with practice spinning the wheel.
More than a year later Breaden received an email notifying her she had been selected to participate in “College Week.”
Breaden said she filmed the show on Feb. 14.
“It was kind of surreal,” Breaden said. “You always watch it on TV and you think it’s this huge room … it was a lot smaller [than I expected].”
Breaden said she was surprised the host interacted with the crowd on the “commercial breaks.”
She said solving the puzzles “is a lot easier on your living room couch.”
“There’s a lot more pressure on you. The camera’s in your face and famous people [Pat Sajak and Vanna White] are right next to you,” Breaden said
Breaden said there were 20 contestants. She said she was the only one from a smaller, private school.
“I was a little intimidated when I arrived because all of the other contestants were from Ivy Leagues and big state schools,” said Breaden said in a press release. “I was proud to represent Lee among them all.”
Vanna White came and said hello to all the contestants while they were waiting to be called out to compete.
“She was super sweet,” Breaden said.
While in California, Breaden allowed time for sightseeing at Hollywood Boulevard and the beach.
According to a Lee University press release, “Breaden asked Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn to pay for her plane ticket to California during a Lee “Ask the President” chapel, where students are encouraged to ask the president anything they want. Conn agreed to fund her ticket if she had the opportunity to go.”
Breaden can’t discuss how she did on the show until after it airs.
She said several of her friends are excited to watch the show with her. The university is hosting a viewing party Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Paul Conn Student Union on Lee’s campus.
Breaden will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in English and a teaching license. She plans to teach high school English.