February 1st was a day of celebration in our house because when Jennifer clicked “Submit” at 8:30pm on Saturday night, it marked the completion of the college application process for her. Now, she just has to wait to see if the mailman brings fat 9×12” envelopes containing acceptance letters or skinny business-size envelopes with rejection letters.

Even though Jennifer is done with her selection of schools, apparently, there are a lot of schools that aren’t done with her. Whereas in the fall, literally pounds of brochures from colleges arrived in our mailbox every day, showing off their picturesque campuses and attractive and diverse student body; now that we’re moving into spring and closer to May 1st – the date that students have to commit to the college they will attend – it is Jennifer’s gmail Inbox that is overflowing.

She told me that on one day last week, she got emails from 15 different colleges; each one practically begging her to apply. There were some quite creative subject lines in those emails; here are a few:

“Jennifer, did time get away from you?”

“Because of your outstanding character, we’re extending our admission deadline.”

“Apply for free!”

And my favorite, “Don’t despair! There’s still time to apply!”

It isn’t the application process that is causing Jennifer despair; it’s the thought of the tens of thousands of dollars of student loans that she might end up owing that is causing her despair.

The desperate sound of the emails that Jennifer has gotten reflects what I’ve been reading in the news. The boom times for colleges are over; college enrollment is expected to decline in the coming years. And as an article in the New York Times said, “Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival. The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.”

I’m just sure Stanford isn’t sending out emails telling high school seniors “don’t despair.”

The article went on to say that to keep up their enrollment numbers, even administrators and professors got on the phone to call students who had been accepted but not committed, to ask them to take a second look at their school.

Jennifer: you had better check your voice mail. There could be a message from a college president or two.