If you had been eves-dropping on the conversations in our house a couple of years ago, every third word would have been “college” or “application.” For about six months, Valerie’s college application process was the all-consuming topic. We got sucked into the angst of it to such an extent that once Valerie was tucked into her dorm room at Chapman University in Orange County, our younger daughter Jennifer Lynn, who was just starting high school at the time, forbade us from even mentioning the “C word” to her – she was that sick of us talking only about colleges.

For two years, Jennifer Lynn wanted nothing to do with thinking about college. But recently, that has all changed and she dreams about where she wants to go to college. I think part of it has to do with our move last year – she sees college as her ticket out of a 1600 square foot condo in Cotati that she has to share with her “Can I get the senior discount on that?” parents.

Also, once she took the PSAT and marketing materials with photos of ethnically diverse 19-year-olds with perfect teeth lounging and laughing on manicured lawns with ivy-covered buildings in the background started filling our mailbox, her heart leaped at the thought.

So when Steve spotted an ad in the newspaper for a College Fair with representatives from 150 colleges, it sounded like an all-you-can-eat buffet of college opportunities for Jennifer.

When we arrived at the Dominican campus for the College Fair, there was already a line of over-achieving students and competitive parents – like us – waiting to get in. Once we were let inside the gym, there were rows upon rows of rectangular tables covered with a tablecloth bearing the school’s name and if they were smart, the city and state that the school is located in.

We stayed together as a family for the first few tables but it was obvious that Jennifer wanted to ditch us and do the college version of speed dating on her own. That was fine with Steve and me. We were very happy leaning against a door playing a game of “match the student with their parent.”

Jennifer is interested in studying art and quickly picked up that when a school said that their art department was “very small but the students get a lot of individual attention” it was code for “our art department is in the sub-basement under the parking garage and we’re really interested in engineering students.”

She spent several minutes talking to the cute guy at the Cornish College of the Arts table, skipped over the not-hot guys at several public universities and then landed at the table for the Savannah College of Art and Design. One look at their cool brochure and she was smitten. Georgia sounds so exotic to her. “The only thing I know about Georgia are peaches which I really like.” Reason enough to go 3,000 miles away to college.