March 7, 2007

Preschool Application Media Kits, Or What NOT To Do With iMovie And All Those Videos You Shot Of The Kid

New York Magazine isn't too worried about the Wall Street Journal's recent attempt to muscle in on their "Kids Cost The Darndest Things" franchise, but they had definitely better keep their eye on the NY Sun. Not only is the paper still publishing, it actually broke major news in NYM's second most important beat [after botox doctor reviews]: hyper-competitive NYC preschool admissions. So what's the scoop? Two words: résumés and DVD's. For toddlers.

To get an edge, pre-school admissions directors revealed, some parents created résumés ["I don't want to see a 14-month-old with a résumé of 30 activities, from language classes to cooking classes to science classes."] and "bespoke DVD's" showing the child playing, speaking Mandarin, and shaking Henry Kissinger's hand [I may be guessing on the last one, but it IS the NY Sun.]

Not news, of course, but other parents allegedly had their application essays written for them by their pre-school admissions consultants. The impact will be known soon enough--decision letters went out this week across the city--but reactions ranged from "that's a huge black mark on a parent!" on the earnest Upper West Side to "NOKD" on the Upper East.

The scary thing is, I can totally see how nervous parents, worrying that a 30-minute playdate audition will determine their perfect child's entire Ivy League future, could decide that putting just a little structure on his list of advanced-for-his-age accomplishments, or maybe just burning a quick DVD with some of his most precocious moments, it's really easy, see? could seem like a good idea.

So what does work? Reading between the lines of this quote from Cynthia Bing, of The Parents League of New York, I see at least three surefire strategies:

"Savvy, knowledgeable nursery school directors do have a sense that what they're seeing stiff and programmed. Their noses can be fairly good."
1. Save the media kits for the slow-witted nursery school directors.
2. Work with your consultants to master your "relaxed and off-the-cuff."
3. a gentle spritz of Joi de Patou on your engraved thank-you note.

Preschool Directors Balk at Toddler Résumés [nysun via gawker]


Seriously, though, if anyone's run this gauntlet and just finding out about your pre-school admissions, definitely share your experience, what you felt worked, what was lame, unnecessary, vital, etc. Either below in the comments, or via email. Anonymity is entirely up to you.

5 Comments

I've actually dedicated my site to this topic this month. All March MommyPoppins.com is reviewing under-the-radar preschools (ongoings to follow)—great schools that take students first-come-first-served or are just not known well enough to get mobs of applications. Right now, everyone is trying to send their kid to the same ten schools, and the fact is, there are many more terrific schools that are just not being written up in NYMag enough to be on good enough for some.

Mommy Poppins, how are Chelsea Day, Merricats and Washington Market "under-the-radar"? I understand you're trying to let your readers determine your content, but c'mon. And the Educational Alliance preschools certainly aren't under the radar; they're schools the elites actively dismiss. A quick search on Urban Baby will tell you that. So why not put readers' preschool reviews in a different section of the site, and actually turn up some TRULY unknown and unheralded schools? (Of course, the UrbanBaby crowd would never consider schools that don't have upper-middle-class, almost-entirely-white student populations anyway. But I'd love to learn about schools most of us really DON'T know about.)

Marjorie,
Thank you for your comment. My site is a blog so there's only one section. The under-the-radar schools are titled as such. Obviously the schools you mentioned are not under the radar and they are not meant to be. Perhaps you are right that I should take them down. On the other hand those posts may be useful to somebody. There are lots of people either new to the city or a neighborhood who know nothing about schools at all.

My plan was to make this month about education in general. The under the radar thing is taking on a life of it's own. I haven't decided how much I want to run just with that--or keep it more general. I'm happy to hear opinions on that.

As for your comment about Ed Alliance, I disagree. You say, "they're schools the elites actively dismiss." I think what you mean to say is "elitists." Just because a small group of snobs wouldn't send their kids there doesn't disqualify it as a great under-the-radar school. The point of the admissions anecdote in that post is to prove that these preschools do the job as well or better than any of the "elite" schools. There are many people who will be happy and grateful to find out about this relatively unknown school.

Lastly, it's very hard to judge what people know about or don't. You would be surprised. I'm sure most people have never heard of Ed Alliance. But, we're going to be doing this for the whole month of March, so we still have a lot of schools to post about. I hope there will be at least one that you haven't heard of.

If you have a school you think fits the bill, I hope you'll submit it too.

MP

Thanks for your response, MP. Sorry if I sounded intemperate! (Note: I was not consciously attempting a Mary-Poppins-related umbrella reference.) Good luck with the site.

It's good to get feedback. I thought you had some good points. Thanks

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