1. why nursery school, anyway?

because if you don't get into a good nursery school it's quite likely that your child will never get into harvard. ok, here's really why: because the majority of nursery school directors create comforting, fun worlds where little people learn to socialize while following their creative and intellectual urges. it's also a chance for parents to get some informed feedback about their child while joining a community of families in which both children and parents will have a stable circle of friends.

2. suddenly this summer

alas, applying is not as easy as walking into a local school and asking for an application. anything but. you need to do your research to both understand the system and to figure out what schools you want to apply to, and that needs to be done over the summer because-now get out your calendar-the tuesday after labor day is the day when most of the nursery schools accept requests for applications. some schools only accept application requests on that day; some by phone, others by internet. when the day comes, it is wise to have some kind of command post-and a plan of priorities for the day. some schools run out of applications as early as noon! over the summer, join the parents league (parentsleague.org), read its literature (they also offer consulting sessions for no additional cost), read school websites, buy victoria goldman's the manhattan directory of private nursery schools and, of course, ask around among friends and acquaintances, while keeping in mind that no one has the last word.

3. create a safety net

in the fall, you'll start taking group tours of the schools to decide where to apply. here are two important guidelines to follow: