1. Too many toddlers
2. Not enough preschools
3. Parents who will do anything for their children
4. Parents whose top priority is their children’s education
5. Parents who recognize the substantial social and educational advantages of the few very top Manhattan preschools
6. New York City and its tendency to increase overall stress (meaning both emphasis and pressure)
Result: a sort of combustible insanity as on the day after Labor Day every year some of the most ambitious, aggressive, status-oriented, and very highly motivated people in the world rev up for one of the most cut-throat competitions in America, admission to preschool in Manhattan. You think I’m exaggerating? Then remember that just a few years ago a scandal that brought down some of the biggest names in Wall Street had a top securities analyst changing his recommendation on a company in exchange for a contribution that eased his twins’ entry into a posh preschool. As he noted in his email on the subject, admission was statistically harder than getting into to Harvard. And yes, we are talking about 2 and 3-year olds. As the film-makers put it, “Cue the tears, hysterics and breakdowns–and that’s just the parents.”
“Nursery University” is a frank but not-unsympathetic look at what pretty much everyone agrees is the insanity of the process of applying to preschool in Manhattan, from the pricey consultants to the interviews of both parents and toddlers. The intricacies of pushing without being pushy, of conveying a family’s ability to provide support without sounding like you are name-dropping or trying to buy your way in, the challenges for families who are not wealthy are all here. The focus is on five applicants and their parents, from the speed-dial madness that begins today just to get the privilege of being permitted to apply to those are-they-thick-or-thin envelopes that arrive in the spring.
Bonus features on the DVD include deleted scenes and interviews with the parents and admission experts and even some advice for parents who may be entering this process themselves.