NIU graduate student wins big on ‘Wheel of Fortune’


Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune

A photograph of Alyssa Tillmon, Wheel of Fortune®: © 2021 Califon Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief

NIU graduate student Alyssa Tillmon appeared on the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune” on Dec. 23, 2021, where she won $18,800 in cash and prizes.

Tillmon studies public administration and currently works for the city of Evanston as an intern in the city manager’s office.

“When I found out I was going to be on the show I was super excited,” Tillmon said. “I just couldn’t wait to go to California because I have never been to California ever, so literally that was my very first time ever going to Los Angeles.”

“Wheel of Fortune,” first aired in 1975, is a game show in which contestants try to solve a puzzle by guessing letters that make up the words for a chosen category. 

“I grew up watching the show with my grandmother and she loves the show,” Tillmon said. “She’s my inspiration behind me applying and wanting to be on the show.”

Tillmon said that she filled out the show’s online application and uploaded both a video and picture of herself in order to increase her chances of being selected.

“I think five months later I received an email from them in July saying they want to do an audition with me over Zoom,” Tillmon said. “The next day after the audition they told me I was chosen as a contestant for their show and then later in October they emailed me again saying that they wanted me to come down to California for the taping.”

The show’s hosts Vanna White and Pat Sajak are both incredibly lovely people, Tillmon said. “Just to talk to them upfront and in person and very close since I was a big winner was very awesome.”

Contestants Jordan Page (left), Luke Martin and Alyssa Tillmon (right). Wheel of Fortune®: © 2021 Califon Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. (Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune)

“When I actually went to be on the show, being in the studio and on the set was very nerve wracking,” Tillmon said. “As I continued to focus on those puzzles that nervousness went away.”

How to apply

For those who are fans of the show and are interested in applying to be a contestant, there are two things one can do to increase their chances of being selected. 

Making a video and including a photo are the best things an individual can include with their application, because it gives those in charge of selecting contestants the chance to see you in action as well as being able to see how one would be as a contestant. The video for the application is the main ticket to increasing the chances of getting picked, Tillmon said.

“Getting used to solving puzzles and getting used to how the game goes would definitely help contestants when they are picked to be on the show,” Tillmon said. “It’s not something that you study for, really, it’s just having your mind being trained on how to solve words and make out words depending on what letters are used in the puzzle.”

Tillmon won $11,300 in cash as well as an all inclusive trip to Mexico worth $7,500 making her total $18,800 in cash and prizes.