April 2, 2010 -- Across the nation anxious high school seniors are finding out whether they've been accepted to their college of choice.
While waiting is often the hardest part, sometimes figuring out what to do after you've gotten the word -- accepted, rejected or wait-listed -- can seem just as tough.
Luckily, college consulting expert Michele Hernandez dropped by "Good Morning America" to share some tips on what to do, no matter the scenario.
According to Hernandez, it's harder than ever for students to get into some of the nation's best universities.
"It's been getting harder every year for the past 10 years, but it's really gotten bad over the past two years because of a decision by three top schools -- Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia -- to get rid of their early decision admission programs so all the kids who would normally get into those schools early are flooding the applicant pool," Hernandez said. "[And] because of the recession, more students are applying to top-tier schools because bigger, better schools give more financial aid."
You Didn't Get In ... Should You Transfer?
Many students who were denied their dream school choose another school with hopes of transferring eventually. But according to Hernandez, this could be a losing game.
"Transferring is not the best thing to do because, honestly, the odds of getting into a school as a transfer student are actually worse," she said. "If they've got their heart set on a particular school, they might want to consider taking a gap year and then reapplying."
You Got In ... but May Need Financial Aid
According to Hernandez, the first step in getting financial aid is taking action.
"If you got a financial aid package and it's not enough, you can appeal the package," she said. "Once you've been admitted, they want to keep you. If you got better financial aid offers from other schools, let them know. Often they will match them."
If you have to take out loans, Hernandez said to consider if you want to make that investment.
"If you're going to get a great education, you have to look at it as a good investment," she said.
You've Been Wait-Listed ... Now What?
"First, don't forget the obvious. Fill out the wait-list card and make it clear that yes, you do want to be on that wait list," Hernandez said. "Be an active candidate, send them a brief one-page update on anything you've done, any awards you've received since your application."
Hernandez said it's also good to follow up with your admissions officer.
"The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the kids on the wait list who let it be known they want in are the ones who get in."
Tips for Juniors Before They Apply Next Year
Hernandez provided the following tips for students looking forward to applying next year.
Apply Early Applying early decision increases your odds for acceptance dramatically. So, get going.
Use the Summer Before Senior Year to Prepare Apps Take the time in the spring of your junior year to discern your clear first choice college. Set aside at least a week in August before you begin senior year preparing your applications so you can take early action, by applying for early decision and rolling admissions, and focus on those all-important senior grades.
Keep It to Yourself Don't enter into the frenzy of talk about colleges. This is your personal journey to finding the right college and getting crazy about everyone else's opinions will only bring you down. Don't take in others' stress, or get caught up in all the myths surrounding admissions.
Keep in Mind That There Is a College for Everyone Sure, the Ivy Leagues are extremely tough to get into, but the truth is, once you get past the top 20 most competitive colleges, most schools admit the majority of applicants.
Identify the Teacher Who Is Your Strongest Supporter Then do everything you can to stand out in his or her class. This is who you'll go to fist for that all-important recommendation.
Learn the Fine Art of Saying 'No' to Activities That Take You Off Course Focus on a few things that you love and become really good at them rather than frantically trying to do everything. Stay true to you. Don't believe that focusing on Egyptology is the only way to get into the Ivies. Focus on what you love, and get really good at it. That's what colleges want to see.
Set Up Study Times Set up a specific schedule during the year to study for any upcoming standardized test: For instance, Wednesday evenings from 9 to 10.
Make Time to Relax High school shouldn't be all SAT prep, hours of community service, and three different tutors in the name of "getting in." Get a life and you'll be much happier.
Let Your Academic Passions Guide Your Class Choices No college likes a "cookie cutter" applicant who follows the prescribed path and nothing else. The most interesting candidates follow their own interests and it shows.
Don't Believe All You Read The best way to find out about a particular school is to visit in person, speak to students, observe a class and meet professors. Otherwise, you're just responding to slick marketing rather than actual traits of a college.