Housewife Feng Ziyan, 32, didn't want to settle for the primary school in her neighbourhood when the time came for her to decide where to enrol her daughter.
She had her sights set on another school with higher standards, at least 20 minutes' drive away.
She tapped on her connections to get in touch with leaders of the desired school to find out their needs and helped them by getting university lecturers to give talks there.
It worked: Her daughter got in.
"Parents are in two minds. Of course, we want our kids to go to a nearby school but education quality differs so much," she told The Straits Times.
Her experience is shared by many parents in China's big cities, who would rather bypass schools in their backyards to try for those with a better record of academic success.
This has created growing competition and much stress when Primary 1 registration comes around each May.
Under China's nine-year compulsory education system, each child is guaranteed a place in the primary school in his or her precinct.
But many parents hope to give their children a leg up by getting them into more reputable schools, often outside their neighbourhood.
"The crux of the problem is the huge disparity in the quality of schools in China," said education scholar Xiong Bingqi.