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I think the only thing that could hurt in relations to the AWA these days is if you get a 4-4.5 and have absolutely amazing essays. I know that application essays are drastically different than GMAT essays. However, with so many people using consultants to "help" with their applications there is a chance that it could look like you recieved outside help from someone on your applications essay, which is a no no at every school that I know of.
That said I would take the 720 in a heart beat. A lot of people don't put much prep into the AWA at all.
A 4.5 or up is fine. I got a 6 on my AWA on my first GMAT but didn't do as well on the rest (I was sick and really petered out after the essays, which were easy for me because I have a lot of writing experience)...that 6 didn't do squat to help me get into school, but the low verbal + quant certainly got me waitlisted!
Be familiar enough with the AWA that you can write something good enough for at least a 4.0, more familiar if you personally like to write or want it to be a strong point, but overall they don't pay much attention to it.
A question on the AWA test taking. In the real GMAT test, is it possible to quickly answer this section and go on to other sections? Or there is no way you can save time here to use it in, say, the quantitative or verbal. Thanks for any feeback.
Final decisions are in: Berkeley: Denied with interview Tepper: Waitlisted with interview Rotman: Admitted with scholarship (withdrawn) Random French School: Admitted to MSc in Management with scholarship (...