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1. Where you apply means more than it ever has. Parents and applicants put a lot of time and effort into their school list. Too often I hear, “Stanford is my dream school!” Dreams are good. But a dream that has little chance of becoming a reality is not. I encourage applying to reach schools. But if an applicant is betting everything on a reach school in ED/REA, I will let them know in no uncertain terms what a mistake I think it is.

2. When you apply means more than it ever has. ED/REA acceptance rates are higher for a reason. It’s a commitment. Use it wisely. More times last year than in any other, I tried to sway (cajole? coax? wheedle?) applicants into swapping that dream ED school for a #2 or #3 on their list. In the 10 years I’ve been at this, no applicant who got accepted ED to their #2 or #3 choice school regretted NOT swinging for the fences with Yale.

3. The activities list compilation should not be rushed. How you list your activities, how you describe them, even the order you put the entries in is vital to the application. Underestimate the activities list at your peril.

4. Test Optional (seemingly ubiquitous this year) is NOT a boulevard of green lights to an Ivy League school – especially if you go to a competitive high school or a boarding/private school.

5. Keep taking the SAT/ACT until it starts to impede upon your academic life or the ability to work on admissions essays. But here’s something admissions officers tell me which few people are aware of: DO NOT take the test more than three times.

…more to come.