Regarding the AWA score – your overall GMAT is excellent, so to avoid redoing it, I suggest a few other steps to mitigate the low AWA. First, in your essays (a) make sure they’re very well written, expressing ideas/insights and describing experiences and plans substantively; (b) select examples and anecdotes that reflect strong communication skills. Second, if you are able to influence your recommenders, ask them to stress your strong verbal skills and to provide examples of same.
As far as the ding from Duke, I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s more likely that the presentation overall wasn’t optimized; wasn’t fully effective. Applicants can be dinged due to (a) lack of qualifications, (b) less than stellar presentation, or (c) both. For competitive programs, which reject a good number of well qualified applicants, the most common reason is (b). Qualifications are just a starting point for competitive programs; to be admitted you must give them a compelling reason why they should select you out of other equally qualified and accomplished applicants from your same demographic and/or industry group. Of course I haven’t seen your app, so this is a bit speculative. But the AWA doesn’t hold huge sway with adcoms unless there is other evidence of poor verbal ability, and I doubt it would be the deciding factor in the ding.
I do think your list of schools is strong and offers a good range of competitiveness for your profile. Please contact us if you’re interested in assistance to ensure your next round of apps do the job --
Senior Advisor, Accepted
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