yes Virginia, there is a method to this ranking madness

I keep having to answer this question over and over, infinitely, every year. Please parents and principals, can you read this?

Q: I've been on tours at 2 popular schools and both warned, if you want to get into this school, you better rank it #1! So, which do i put first?

A: I am asked about this, prek through hs - the schools have NO idea how this matching process works. They are trying to be helpful and when they are very popular, they assume that you need to put their school first to be considered. They never see your application, they don't know how you have ranked them, and they have absolutely NO say in this blind process. They assume, like most people that there is some priority given to first choice over second choice. There isn't.

You should rank the schools in the order that you like them. Period. Whether you get in or not will be determined by when your application is randomly picked in the lottery (and your priority to the school). If you are lucky (and you will never know because it is all done in the computer in an instant), and your app is plucked early on and your first choice school has seats available (and there is no one with a higher "priority", sibs, inzone, etc.that wants that seat - this is not altogether a simple linear process) then that is where you will be placed. If your first choice school is full then the computer will go to your second choice school (the first choice becomes a neutral choice with NO impact on your second choice).

All I can tell you is that there is profound misunderstanding on the street both among parents and at the schools (and among the occasional foot soldier at the DoE) about how this process works. I have made a study of this for 7 YEARS. I have read the abstracts, talked to "the guy" at Harvard and every year interrogate the tech geeks at the DoE to make sure (over and over) that I have it right. I am convinced that I do.

If you put "popular school A" as your second choice and ALL your friends put "popular school A" first, you both still have the same chance of getting in - what really matters is the luck of the draw (literally) and your possibly different "priorities" (sibs, inzone, etc.).

I say this with the greatest affection and respect:

RANK THE SCHOOLS IN THE ORDER THAT YOU LIKE THEM!! Please, please don't make me explain this again...