Part 1 of 2: Immediate “Must Do’s” for Serious MBA Applicants

If you’re planning to apply to a top business school in 2012 for enrollment in 2013, it’s very tempting to procrastinate. After all, the deadlines are more than six months away. The new applications won’t be available until summer, right? And there’s so much on your plate already with work, family, friends, vacations, etc.

Well, if you’re determined to be among the select few who gain admission to their dream schools, then the worst thing you can do is delay the start of your campaign.

There are 12 immediate (yes, immediate!) steps that you can and should initiate. Here are the first 6.

1. Begin GMAT or GRE prep

If you haven’t taken the test, or if you’re unhappy with your current score, now’s the time to act. It can take months to achieve your highest potential. And don’t take the test unless and until you feel ready to succeed. Why? Because the b-schools will see your prior scores, so even if you improve later — and even though they “officially” consider only your highest score — a low score now can only hurt your chances. Use diagnostics and practice tests to make sure before you take an actual test. If you need a professional test tutor, make sure that you’re choosing the right one for your distinctive needs and preferences. We can help by introducing the best options for you. Or if you find that test anxiety is holding you back, an expert counselor could make a major difference in your performance on test day. If you find that your quantitative skills, verbal acumen or work experience is constraining your test score, then there are a variety of online courses that can easily and affordably help. But they take time to complete.

2. Research your potential target schools online

There’s an overwhelming amount of information available on the Web regarding each of the top b-schools. An easy place to get started is the individual school profiles that we feature on our website. You should also visit leading independent websites like Poets and Quants. And, of course, the schools’ official blogs feature valuable insights from the respective admissions offices.

3. Visit the campus while school is in session

The best time to visit a business school campus is in the Spring, before classes end for the year. Students, faculty and administrators are far more relaxed, available and approachable now than in the Fall. You can observe classes, make contacts, and get a feel for the culture that will add authenticity to your future essays and interviews. We help our client make the most of their visits by providing them with a “punch list” of key tactics.

4. Get a “ding analysis”

If you are going to be a reapplicant to the same b-schools, or if you are targeting new schools but want to learn from past rejections, it can be valuable to get critical, actionable feedback from an expert. Admissions committees don’t provide such insights, so if you want to avoid repeating past mistakes then now is the time to examine the evidence. We can help with a ding analysis.

5. Push for promotions and/or better work assignments

Do you have any concerns about your current professional resume? Titles like “analyst” or “associate” aren’t going to differentiate your candidacy. If there’s a shot at earning a loftier title before you apply to b-school, now is the time to pursue it. Even if you can’t get a formal promotion, at least you can seek assignments that will let you produce tangible, ideally quantified, results that you can feature in application essays.

6. Get a free expert evaluation of your candidacy

The best way to learn what you need to optimize your candidacy is to get expert, objective feedback on your professional, academic and personal profiles. We’ve helped thousands of MBA applicants to discover aspects of their candidacy — both strengths and weaknesses — that they never realized could matter. All it takes is 5 minutes to complete our confidential, online input form. You have the option of uploading your resume if there are additional details you’d like to share with us.

Time is your greatest ally and asset if you make it work for you. Waiting to launch your MBA admissions campaign means that your competitors — even those with lesser candidacies — gain an immediate advantage. If you’re playing to win, then start today.

In our next installment, we’ll share 6 more action items, so be sure to subscribe to our blog!