Remember back in the good old days when all it took to get your twins into the 92nd St Y's preschool was $1 million and a letter of recommendation from Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, your boss's boss's boss's boss? Well, thank disgraced telecom analyst Jack Grubman for ruining it for the rest of us. Now, according to this NY Times article, parents actually have to actually pay attention to the preschool application essay.
It does seem like this angst-inducing story could have been written at any time in the last ten years--and it probably has been--but of course, I didn't have a horse in the race until now. [Actually, since the kid will only be 2.5 in the fall, which is below most schools' 3yo minimum, we only found one preschool we liked enough to apply to.]
The Times' quotes from consultants who give stymied parents "idea starters" for essays and who suggest using words like "enthusiastic, creative, inquisitive [and] sensitive." Unbelievably, the guy who describes his kids like stock characters from a reality TV show--one's "a soft-hearted jock," the other's "a thinker and a mischievous lover."--got into their first choice of preschools. [They did go the early decision route, too, fwiw.]
For our part, all we decided we could do was to demonstrate that we knew our child well enough to describe her accurately. And we watched out for things that sounded too much to us like our own parental projections and competitiveness [anything associated with the phrase "she's very advanced," for example]. You just have to figure that schools are going to be taking notes and triangulating the insights they glean about you and your parenting and your kid based on every source they have: your tour, any interviews, the playdate, and the application. So you'd better make sure your buzzwords match up with the reality.
[NOTE: I'm seriously conflicted about this whole topic. While I don't think I want my kid to attend one, I don't ultimately have a problem with schools which look at a family's wealth, social status, or high-powered references in their admissions process. In a way, it's no less self-selecting than a nudist finger-painting commune in the mountains of Appalachia. But I know that Manhattan parents in particular have a reputation for freaking out over this kind of thing. What's it like in The Slope, I wonder? Let me say, too, that any of you people contemplating "you're all crazy! Move to the suburbs and just send'em to Gymboree!" comments can save your typing. We're long past that.]
In Baby Boomlet, Preschool Derby Is the Fiercest Yet [nyt]
Previous debunking of the demographics-driven problem here: NYC overrun by immigrants..tiny little immigrants from heaven