Student spins the big wheel tonight

Drew Magathan, a junior psychology major, is appearing on the game show ‘Wheel of Fortune’ tonight.

Temple junior Drew Magathan with 'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak (Courtesy 'Wheel of Fortune').

Most college students have debt that needs to be paid off after graduation, but Drew Magathan has a unique plan for taking care of his.

Magathan, a junior psychology major, is appearing on the game show Wheel of Fortune tonight.

His journey to spin the wheel began last summer when Magathan received an e-mail from a Wheel of Fortune lottery, inviting him to audition for the show in New York City.

“I thought it was a scam. I didn’t think it was true,” he said. “But then, my mom told me it was real.”

The lifelong fan of the show took a day trip to New York in July and auditioned with more than 50 Wheel of Fortune fans.

Magathan said most of the people auditioning were older than he but wasn’t intimidated by the age advantage some other contestants had.

“I’m always optimistic about everything,” he said. “I was just happy to get the chance.”

The audition consisted of filling 15 partially completed puzzles, and Magathan said he was able to fill in 13 of them. The wheel hopefuls were also able to spin an imaginary wheel and solve a puzzle.

After advancing to the next round of auditions, Magathan was told if he was picked, he would receive a letter within the next two weeks.

“It was the slowest two weeks of my life,” he said. “When I got the letter, the door person of my building was the first to know.”

While the letter informed Magathan he would be getting a chance to be on Wheel of Fortune, he might have had to wait up to 18 months for his show appearance.

After waiting and telling everyone he knew that spinning the wheel was in his future, Magathan received a call in February while in class from a phone number he didn’t recognize.

“I got a call from an area code I didn’t know, and I knew,” he said. “It was a premonition, and I knew this was it.”

His chance to spin the wheel came during the show’s College Week, and producers told Magathan to get a Temple sweatshirt and come to Los Angeles the day before filming.

For moral support, Magathan’s dad and sister, Larry and Sam, joined him in L.A. The family footed the cost of the trip. The show does not pay for contestants’ flights to L.A., but participants are given $1,000 no matter the outcome of their stints on the show.

“I bought some crossword puzzles and word finds to get ready for the show,” he said.

Magathan said once he got to L.A., he was more anxious than nervous, but the set producers and crew put him at ease.

“Everyone was so nice,” he said. “I got to meet students from all over the country.”

Magathan said one of the nicest people at the show was “professional letter-turner” Vanna White.

“It was so weird to see her in regular clothes,” he said. “She was so nice, and you can tell that she is a total Southern belle.”

If being on the show wasn’t enough of a dream come true, Magathan got to play on the red square, a lifelong dream of his.

“When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be on red when I played the game on my PlayStation,” he said.

The half-hour show was taped in real time and went quickly for Magathan, who also taped a promo to be shown before the show.

While Magathan can’t reveal the results of the show until it airs tonight, he said he would like to put whatever he wins toward graduate school, a spring break trip next year and a MacBook.

“It’s so close, and I haven’t told anybody,” he said. “But it’s excellent. It’s really excellent.”

Magathan will watch the show with friends here in Philadelphia.

“I feel like it’s gonna be as new to me as it is to everybody else,” Magathan said. “I’m gonna eat this up.”

LeAnne Matlach can be reached at


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