I think the onslaught of communications from college admission departments to our daughter – who is a junior in high school – can be traced back to a year ago when Jennifer, Steve and I attended a college fair.

If students pre-registered for the fair online, an ID tag with a bar code was waiting for them at the door of the auditorium which was filled with row after row of rectangular tables each draped with the college’s name and logo. The way the bar code worked was that as the students circulated among the tables, if they were interested in a particular college, the representatives from the college would scan their bar code. And faster than you can say “$50,000 a year in tuition and living expenses” the high school student would be added to their mailing list.

Ever since then, you would think that it’s still election season because our mailbox is so stuffed. Except now, instead of campaign photos of middle-aged white guys on the mailers, the photos on the mail that Jennifer gets from colleges has pictures of ethnically diverse 19-year-olds with perfect teeth and hair lounging and laughing on manicured lawns with ivy-covered buildings in the background.

One day, Jennifer received 14 pieces of direct mail from colleges throughout the country – that was a record amount. Each one was addressed to “Jenniferl.” Her middle name is Lynn and she must have left out a space when she filled out the online registration.

One of the tables Jennifer stopped at during that first college fair was SCAD – the Savannah School of Art and Design in Georgia. For a few months, it was her fantasy school, mostly because of their beautifully designed marketing materials (one can only hope that it was designed by some SCAD alumnae) and the fact that the college as far away from Cotati as she could get and still be on the same continent.  Jennifer had a major crush on SCAD…sneaking visits to the website during class the same way that some girls stalk boys on Facebook.

I wonder if SCAD has a sophisticated tracking program that makes it possible for them to cross-reference the kids who have their bar code scanned with website visits because it wasn’t long before Jennifer received an overnight envelope from FedEx. Inside was an inch-thick brochure about SCAD. She wouldn’t have been as happy if she had received a dozen roses from a secret admirer.

If we had the money to send her to SCAD (we don’t) and SCAD was a good fit for her (it isn’t) don’t you think that a 16 year-old who has a college wooing her with overnight FedEx packages would be begging for her parents to pony up the hundreds of thousands of dollars to send her there?

Those college admissions people are evil geniuses.

Now, in addition to getting a ton a mail from colleges, Jennifer is starting to get phone calls which we always ignore. The caller ID says “College Admissions” or “University” or my particular favorite, “Higher Ed.” Maybe if “Lower Tony” calls I’ll answer it.