My daughter sat on her bed, awash in a sea of glossy college brochures filled with photos of smiling sorority girls, strapping football players and freshmen chemistry students who, judging by their joyful expressions, had just cured the Ebola virus.
"Made a decision yet?" I asked.
"This is so hard," she said.
"Choosing a college typically is," I said. "What are the finalists?"
"Well this one," she said, holding up a green and white brochure, "says it's advancing knowledge and transforming lives."
"So go there, "I said. "A little knowledge advancement and life transformation never hurt anybody."
Discarding that and picking up a two-tone blue leaflet, she said, "But this one says 'Start Here, Go Anywhere.'"
"So if I'm transforming lives at this school, will I be able to go anywhere? Or will I be stuck in the same place?"
"Maybe I should consider this one," she said, picking up another brochure. "It says, 'Your Revolution Starts Here.'"
"Take that off your list," I said. "No daughter of mine is going to join a revolution. And tattoos are off limits as well."
"How about, 'Your College, Your Future?'" she said, picking up an armload of pamphlets, reciting the bold-faced taglines and dropping them on the floor one by one. "Open Minds Creating Futures? Reach Within, Shape the Future? Dad, do you think I'd be better at creating the future or shaping it?"
"Why not just join the Army?" I said. "They promise you can 'Be All You Can Be.' That ought to get you a job somewhere."
"Dad, the Army stopped using that slogan in 2001. Now it's, 'Army Strong.'"
"Okay, the Army's out," I said. "Let's get back to that 'shaping the future,' thing."
"See how hard this is?" she said.
"Honey, you're not supposed to pick a college because of a slogan or an ad tagline," I said. "Wherever you choose, you're going to get a good education."
"Unless I go here" she said, scooping up another brochure. This one says, 'A Foundation for Life.' Nothing about education. I could come out of there stupid after four years."
"At least you'll have a foundation," I said.
"Dad, this isn't funny. It's stressful. Plus, I don't even know if these places are going to accept me."
"Then you need to come up with your own campaign," I said. "The only purpose of college marketing slogans is to get your attention and make you wonder what you'll be missing if you go somewhere else. So, when you apply, include a slogan that makes the college want you. Make sense?"
"I can't think of any slogans."
"There are plenty of websites that will create one for you," I said. "Go to slogangenerator.org."
She pulled it up on her Mac. "Now what?"
"Imagine yourself as a product. Describe yourself."
"I'm an undecided high school senior."
I typed those words into the box and clicked "Generate slogan."
"No, you're not," I said. "You're a devoted undecided high school senior maven!"
"It doesn't say that," she said, looking at the screen. "Oh wait, yes it does. I'm trying something else."
I looked over her shoulder as she typed, "Smart volleyball player."
"What's it say?" I asked.
"That I'm a Delighting Smart Volleyball Player Enthusiast."
"What university wouldn't want that?" I said. "I'll bet Harvard and Stanford would roll out the red carpet for you!"
"I'm smart, Dad. I'm not Harvard smart. I didn't get a perfect score on my ACTs."
"Too bad," I said, taking the laptop and typing 'perfect ACT score" into the generator box. "Then you'd be a 'Savvy Perfect ACT Score Purveyor!'"
"Maybe I'll just take a year off and work at Starbucks," she sighed, pushing the brochures away and picking up her iPhone.
"You're going to college, young lady," I said.
"Are you sure?" she said, returning to the slogan generator website. " 'Wicked Starbucks Barista, Bar None' has a nice ring to it."
I sighed heavily, the sound of a "Frustrated Dad."
Or an "Experienced Frustrated Dad Artisan."
(c) 2014 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC