If you are one of the many MBA hopefuls who are biting their nails, waiting anxiously for the application process to be open, here’s something you should know.

Just because you have nothing to fill out, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin applying…applying yourself, that is. You will be competing against thousands of qualified applicants and the more prepared you are, the better your chances of standing out.

Here are a few ways you can “unofficially” begin the application process before applications are released:

1. Choose and reach out to your recommenders

One of the strongest influences on your admission prospects are the voices that speak out on your behalf. It’s time to start thinking about whom you’d like to advocate for you. This may not be an easy decision, as you’ll want to select someone who is enthusiastic about your potential, whose credentials will impress the admissions committees and with whom you’ve shared a significant and valuable relationship.  If you find yourself lacking in acquaintances of this nature, well, you’re lucky you’re starting early. You now have time to develop closer connections with influential individuals in your workplace or university.

2. Take a critical look at your portfolio

Since you’ve got the time, play the part of an admissions officer and try taking an objective look at your credentials. If you need some help, the Internet is chock-full of valuable insight into what schools are looking for in candidates.  Attempt to be as honest with yourself as possible as you search for holes in your resume. Do you have enough leadership experience? Do you work well in teams? Have you efficiently showcased your intellectual capabilities? What about your extra-curricular experiences?

If you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, now is the time to fill those gaps. Sign up for an extra course, take on a new hobby, lead an initiative. In short, do anything you can to show those admissions officers that you possess exactly what they’re looking for.

3. Prioritize

Though most schools’ MBA applications are relatively similar to one another, each will ask distinct questions and each admissions committee will be looking for different answers. Schools place value and emphasis on specific traits and achievements so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the prized characteristics of your target schools. And, as each application demands a lot of time and energy, you may want to take this time to prioritize some schools over others, so that you can invest most of your focus on the programs that really interest you. While you can definitely apply to a larger pool of schools, it is best to select a smaller number of programs to which you can sincerely dedicate yourself when applying.

4. Prepare for the GMAT

This one’s a no brainer. You have the time, so study, study, study. Take practice tests, identify your weaker areas and improve! This will be a lot harder to do when you’re drowning in application essays.

5. Reflect and introspect

You may not know the precise topics of the application essays or the exact questions you’ll be asked during interviews, but a quick peek at sample essay and interview questions online will confirm that they’re going to get personal. Even if you’ve had your mind set on an MBA and a business career since the second grade, the “how” and the “why” of it all may not easily jump off your tongue. It’s time to introspect, ask yourself why you’re pursuing these goals and what made you the person you are today. Most importantly, make sure your answers are genuine because admissions committees have a knack for identifying sincerity.

6. Look into admissions consulting firms

The admissions process is long and draining, especially when you’ve never done it before. If you’ve been dreaming of studying in a top MBA program, you may want to consider getting some help from people who have been through the ins and outs of applications time and time again. While you’re honing your skills and waiting for those applications to be published, do some research into consulting firms, take a look at their success rates and try to decide if it’s the right move for you. Aringo Consulting is passionate about helping promising candidates earn places at their target schools and is therefore happy to arrange an introductory phone call, absolutely free of charge, during which they can answer any questions you may have and offer you deeper insight into the admissions process and how their consultants can guide you through it.

Yes, applications have not yet been released, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. The early bird gets the worm, so spread those wings and start hunting!