1. If you're doing a celebrity, do it well or be unique. The 2010er who won our contest last year for her Lady Gaga outfit was successful because she put in the effort. But you should be unique too. Celebrities to stay away from this year: Lady Gaga, Jersey Shore castmembers, Sarah Palin.
2. If you're doing a team costume, be prepared to commit. Team efforts always seem like a good idea until people start backing up and someone is left with nothing. Make sure your friends are in it to win it before committing to being, say, the Beatles. And if you need to stay together, like these students did last year for their creative Golden Snitch outfit, make sure it's someone you like.
3. Don't be afraid to keep it simple. If it's a few hours before the big night and you still don't have an idea, don't panic. You can easily throw something together like these two did that can be just as funny as a costume that has been planned out weeks in advance.
4. Everyone likes a Vassar reference. While it might take some explaining - like this student's "stolen kiwi bird" costume did last year - Vassar-inspired costumes are usually crowd-pleasers.
5. Be creative. There are going to be so many Where's Waldos, '80s rockers, and "sexy" variations on just about everything that you're going to want to be creative. Make something yourself, like this student did for her Bud Lightyear costume last year.
Stick to these general guidelines and you should have a unique and impressive costume, even if it's a last-minute idea. Remember, we want to see the results! Email madsvassar [at] gmail.com with a picture of you or your friends in costume by Sunday at midnight for our fourth annual Mads Vassar Halloween Costume Contest.