'Child's Play': Privilege, Power and Preschool

The most sought after spots in Manhattan or San Francisco aren't the multimillion-dollar Upper East Side apartments or houses by the Bay.

They are seats in some of the most elite and expensive private preschools in America.

These are elective schools for 2- and 3-year-old children that charge up to $30,000 per year. The competition for a spot at these schools is ferocious and unrelenting.

Watch "Nightline's" series, "Child's Play," beginning on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET.

Indeed, some say that it's now easier to get accepted to Harvard than it is to get your 2-year-old into one of Manhattan's private preschools. That's principally because there has been something of a baby boom in New York City.

The Census Bureau estimates that the number of children in Manhattan under the age of 5 has risen almost 30 percent since 2000. Preschools simply haven't kept up with demand. One preschool advisory service estimates that there are now 15 applicants for every single private preschool spot in the city.

"Nightline" has spent the last eight months following three families that have been dominated by the process. It's a process that involves endless phone calls just to secure an application form; weeks spent writing essays about a child's strengths; attendance at interviews where both children and parents are questioned and scrutinized; and then, judgment day, as the families wait for letters of either acceptance or rejection.

It is an emotional journey that takes some parents to the edge of insanity. The effort expended to secure a place is nothing short of breathtaking. The commitment of these parents is total; the results can be heartbreaking.

If you have a child or are contemplating the process of applying to schools, then you don't want to miss this special "Nightline" series, "Child's Play," which begins on Wednesday.