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660 and made it to Fuqua - losing hope? I lost it once

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abdc99 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
22 Jan 2014
1 messages

660 and made it to Fuqua - losing hope? I lost it once

Post Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:38 pm
Note: If you don't want to read my story and you want to jump to my statistics and takeaways, you can find them at the end of this post

Now that I am kind of calm after receiving the call, it’s time to tell the tale (I put the same post on GMAT club to help it reach to as many people as possible). First, my name is Abdul and I am from Saudi Arabia. I have always dreamed high and aimed at what was relatively higher than my capabilities; It hurts sometimes but on others, it brings amazing results. I always wanted to go into a top 10 b-school (though deep inside I used to think I wouldn’t make it) for three main reasons 1. I want to switch industry from project management to management consulting (I once worked with someone from an MBB company and from there I knew all about management consulting. Plus, I had an internship as a trainee consultant in an engineering consulting company which got me to know consulting even better. Though engineering consulting is almost a different industry, but the overall nature of projects/cases/clients between the two were basically the same 2. I want to pump my salary 3. I wanted to move back to the states (lived there almost half of my life) and work for a big company there. With that in mind, I knew that I first need to go for top-notch MBA program and, if only for this reason, I needed a thorough plan on how to make that happen. So to start with, I need to choose the right school.

Confession! I really didn’t know which schools to target or even based on what criteria would I choose them to begin with. The best I did was to watch out for application deadlines each year and decide which year is the time to be part of the herd and start applying. After reading about schools and their websites, I started to have a sense of which made sense for me to eliminate. Since I grew up in Philadelphia, I preferred schools on the east coast and for that reason all west-coast schools were out for me. My search was only that deep and it nearly never went beyond that. And since I did not have any criteria or even a reason to further narrow the list, I started preparing myself for the different parts of the application. I started looking for ways to boost my extracurricular activities (community leadership and professional certifications), hobbies and interests, and of course, the always ugly, GMAT test. I started doing many things that I always wanted to do and that made since to share in the application. I was basically kind of on a mission to find myself. I got enrolled in community service projects, signed up in karate courses, played CrossFit, travelled around 9 countries, and served as guest writers for some well-known technology websites doing technical reviews to smartphones and stuff. Hell! I even signed up for a Guinness record competition (Yup, I was that crazy). To be honest, I didn't do all of that for the school; Part of me wanted to do that for myself as I always hoped to try some of them out. That was essentially a “find-yourself” period that I thought was an important part of my application, at least mine. I needed to know and appreciate having a real diverse background.

I hadn't settled down on a list of schools to apply to until about a year ago when my company sent me to an assembly plant in Raleigh, NC on a project expediting visit. When my boss first told me that I was going to Raleigh, the first thing came to my mind was “huh, I think there’s a big business school there in North Carolina” After researching, it was Fuqua! So I began reading about the school (instead of the plant lol) and planned to give it a visit there, and I did. It was the first impression of a business school life I ever get. Everyone there seemed to keep talking about this “Fuqua team” thing which I totally get. Maybe because it’s just the first school I visit, but I really started falling deep in love with the whole experience, what I was feeling and I might if I make it there. After visiting the school for a second time and interviewing with a second-year, the image was clear that it was the business school I wanted to go to. The only question there was, am I good enough for it? I wanted to measure my candidacy in the school, so the only way according to what I used to thing was the GMAT!


I wouldn't lie to you, I always wished I would write a long GMAT debrief explaining how I got a great score. Sadly, that never happened. I would try my best but I all I could get was one part of the exams. I am always consumed by the time I reach the verbal section and I can’t balance the two parts out. I winded up getting 660 though I had got a few 700s during practice tests. After all, it’s also a test of endurance which I couldn't manage to prove. It’s really not the best feeling to see 660 on the screen when you're aiming for a top school. Anyways, the score was there and it was a fact. It was time to move on with the rest of the application parts.

Getting over the GMAT

Now that I got over the GMAT (and thanks god I did), it was time to bring on the essays, the most rewarding and damaging part for me (screwing that up also meant saying goodbye to my Fuqua dream). With a noticeably young age (25 years) and a relatively low GMAT score, I am already down the list. I was 100% determined to make the best essays among the applicants pool. There was no other option; I had to make it a wow factor. The good thing here is that with the essays, no one has got any advantage over any one else, it’s a new race! It’s only your writing and experience that matter here, and I got them both. After what I thought was a real good set of essays, I hit the damn SUBMIT. And I only get to wait now

The last a few days until the call

After submitting the application, my application on Fuqua’s portal shows “incomplete application” status. One of my recommenders has not sent his letter and even worse has probably not started yet. Now I know for a fact that he’s incredibly busy with his unfinished work schedule. After placing many calls and sending many emails, he sent the recommendation a few hours before the final deadline for recommendations. Of course I politely begged him not to do it again with the next application (It’s for Darden) to which he answered that it wouldn't happen again. Two days before the final decision, and after sending Darden’s letter, I came to know that he hasn't answered to 2 out of 3 questions Darden has asked him to. Now regardless of what that would do to my Darden’s application, I started to think that he might've even done the same with Fuqua, one thing that almost drove me crazy. Not only this but, he also had to disappear for more than a week (by which time the decisions would be already out) for a business trip with no possible way of reaching him to know whether he did the same mistake. My adrenaline was pumping, and I only had to wait for the sad notification from Durham. Honestly, I convinced myself that he did the same mistake (of not answering what he was specifically asked) and that the application with Fuqua was gone since we were already 2 days before the decisions are out and that the best case scenario was to call Darden and beg them to receive additional material from my recommender to provide the missing answers.

It’s by far the worst two days in the year. Just basically waiting for Fuqua admission officer to send an email with “we regret to inform you bla bla” statement in the beginning. Surprisingly, I (who foolishly never lose hope) started to completely give up. On October 29, it’s 5:30 pm local time (10:30 am ET) and I am leaving work and about to hit the gym. My phone rang and I didn't notice that. When I checked the missed calls log, the screen shows no number, just “Unknown” as the caller. I started having goosebumps. “I remember I chose email as a preferred way of communication. I don’t think they would call to give me bad news. I don't think that…” an endless number of questions, statements, and assumptions. You name it! 3 minutes later, the phone is ringing again. It’s the same “unknown” thing again! I answered “Congratulations! you have been chosen for next year’s…” I’m no longer able to hear anything. It’s just gibberish to me after that. “Thank you… absolutely… thank you” I kept saying. It’s true, it’s no longer a dream. I am, or at least soon to be, a Fuquan!

Strengths and weaknesses

I think every applicant is different and for that, every application must be different in terms of strengths and weaknesses. I heavily depended on what applicants usually don't think of as crucial (which is okay as long as you're strong on the other factors). I have put together below a few points that I think were my strengths and those that were my weaknesses


- GMAT: 660 (Q49-V31)
- Age (and experience in terms of # of years): 25 years-old at the moment
- Education (Somehow): Engineering degree from number 1 Saudi university (Ranked 250 worldwide) GPA 3.45
- One of the recommendation: only if he also did Darden’s mistake with Fuqua


- Experience (in terms of quality): Though it’s short but it involved a decent amount of leadership and management
- Background: My background kind of played a good role both in where I am from and the life experience in general.
- Community service: I have always been highly involved in many ways in that area
- Professional certifications: Six sigma and some good engineering stuff
- Hobbies and extracurriculars: One of the essay helped me show that big part of me


1. Research, research, research! When you research through about schools and their culture, things start coming as to what you want from them and what is it that they want to hear from you. Sometimes it’s that single sentence you write about the school’s deep culture that makes one officer stand all the way by your side. I am sure as hell that they have not all unanimously agreed on letting me in and that it’s that one officer that specifically liked something I said. Never estimate the power of what you know about their real culture. Search and you'll find it.

2. If you have chosen your school and you can afford to visit them, please do yourself a favor and go there. It makes a big difference for them to apply and also show up and tell them that you're dying to come. In addition, when you go there, be active and leave something memorable. When you are all together with the admission folks and prospective students, stand up and say something nice. The closer your speech to what you truly believe, the better and more memorable it will definitely be. Trust me, they will remember you when they start reading applications.

3. When writing the essays, show don't tell. I know that’s been said a lot and everywhere but it’s true. Pouring in facts are really boring specially when you are reading thousands of applications. You quickly lose interest. Also, if essays allow and you are capable of, try to use the narrative style when you start writing. For me, I chose to start the “Why Duke” with my expediting visit trip to Raleigh as a story and end it with the feeling I was having as I am on the plane flying back. I chose to unfold the more important information as they read instead of placing it as boring facts upright in the beginning. This is just one way of many and you can choose what you think is good and appropriate based on the essay type and on your story. But remember, the more interesting/vivid your story = the less boring = the better.

4. For all its importance, GMAT is a single factor out of many. It’s really important to work hard and give it all that you can to the best score possible, no word about that. But, If you happen to screw up there, don’t worry the race isn't over yet. I am not an expert in boxing, but I’ve never seen a fighter get knocked down from a single hit. However, you got to also remember that you may not tolerate having another hit. I have seen people with 750+ GMAT get knocked out from Fuqua which kind of freaked me out but also calmed me as I know they have an average GMAT of what’s much lower than that. If you have a bad score, you have not lost the game yet, but remember, you are not in the best position. For that reason, work your 100% on all of the other parts

5. Be positive and don't lose hope. Never lose hope. If there was one thing that kept me going, it was definitely hope. It’s what made me write good essays and kept me passionate with everything going wrong in my application and outside of it. Always aim high and fool yourself that the best is yet to come. Sometimes you need that foolishness. You can never imagine what hope and positivity can do to you.

All the best of luck to all.

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