I have been getting a lot of emails and two questions have come up continually.
1. I put my zoned school first on my application and my friend who is also zoned put it third. We are in an overcapacity school and she got the placement and I didn't. Why did that happen?
This is a great example of how the algorithm works and more generally, why you should list schools in the order that you like them. Putting a school first doesn't give you special priority to that program. Your priority comes from being zoned, not how you ranked the schools. In this scenario: The school was over capacity. All zoned families are equal. There are more families than seats at the zoned school, so the computer randomly ranks families within the zoned priority (essentially a lottery among them that has nothing to do with their application's ranking). The family that ranked the school first was unlucky in the computer's ranking and didn't get a placement. The family that put the school third, didn't get a place at the two schools that they put first and second, but when the computer went to place them at their third choice (their zoned school) they were high in the lottery and got a seat. This is how the algorithm is meant to run.
RANK SCHOOLS IN THE ORDER THAT YOU LIKE THEM. This will be on my grave.
2. I put 7 other schools on my list besides my zoned school. Why wasn't I placed at any of them?
It is good to put a solid number of choices as an alternative, but if those schools are super popular zoned programs that never take anyone from out of zone, they will be very, very unlikely to be able to offer you a seat from out side of zone/within district priority at least in the initial offer (and probably never). if you just listed 4 super popular zoned schools and three super popular un-zoned schools, you just applied to Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Brown and bought 3 Powerball tickets. Miracles can happen and no one expects to be turned away from their zoned school (which is awful!) but having a minor safety in there somewhere (a school that might take you from out of zone sometimes) is never a bad idea.
These families will still be on the wait lists for any school that they ranked higher than the school that they were placed in. If they were placed in a school that they didn't list- they will be wait listed for ALL the schools. Miracles happen and as the lists move, they may get an offer from one of these, or even better, an offer back at their zoned school. Best of luck to everyone.