As the city has grown wealthier in the last decade, well-heeled Manhattanites with young children have found that competition for admittance into the 'elite' preschools has grown spectacularly fierce. This approached the absurd when, during the height of the internet boom, Citigroup tech analyst Jack Grubman traded (or thought he traded) positive research on an important client for chairman Sandy Weill's help in getting his child into the 92nd Street Y Pre-School program.
From personal experience I have friends who have enlisted the help of friends to carefully coordinate making many calls at a specific time on a specific date - the exact time that APPLICATIONS were first available for the following nursery school year. The number of applications was limited and a number of schools coordinated to make them all available at the same time.
The NYTimes reports today that due to demographic changes the competition is worse than ever:
His assignment? To profile his two toddlers. Of his 18-month-old son Humza he eventually wrote, "He knows that birds like to sit on rooftops when they are not on the ground, that cats and dogs like to be petted, and that the blue racquetballs in the can belong in the racquetball court upstairs."
About Humza's twin, Raza, he wrote, "He is happy to point out all his body parts when asked."
The preschool essays are just part of the problem... Time-consuming interviews, observed play sessions, rising tuition costs and application fees, preferences shown to siblings and families who have connections to the school, and the increasing difficulty of gaining admission for twins and triplets, parents say, are making the process more stressful for the entire family.
Apparently there are consultants for this:
Consultants are reaping benefit from the competition. Victoria Goldman, a consultant and an author of guides to Manhattan private schools, said, "This year, I've gotten more calls for nursery school than kindergarten."
In writing the essay, parents can turn to the seminars that focus on "idea starters for application essays." Some good words to use in describing your child? Enthusiastic, creative, inquisitive, sensitive, consultants say.
Ms. Uhry, the consultant, said it was almost impossible to overstate the importance of the essay.
The truly absurd:
Humza and Raza got into their parents' first choice of preschool two weeks ago. They were notified before most other parents because they applied through an early decision program.