Untraditional

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I'm a medical student-to-be who just completed this application cycle. Out of 14 applications I was offered 6 interviews, earned 3 acceptances, rejected pre-secondary by 1 school, post-secondary by 5 schools and withdrew from 1 school pre-secondary.

I started my SDN career reading a thread like this. I had an awful undergraduate experience and my graduate performance was marginal, at least on paper. My GPA doesn't demonstrate my notable contributions to science or my clinical skills but it does reflect a tremendous amount of personal immaturity and even greater personal burdens that distracted me from putting together the awesome "stats" so many of the posters here cite.

If you look at my actual CV, I've got a ton of great experiences that would make me an attractive candidate for any school. I have practical success, a deep knowledge base and worldy experience. In spite of this I almost didn't apply at all because I had on my shelf a copy of the MSAR and all I could do was look at the mean and median MCAT and GPAs. "I'll never compete with these 4.0 kids!"

I also had no idea how to start looking for schools. Turning again to the MSAR for inspiration I used the school statistics as a factor in my search. I was aiming for MCATs and GPAs like mine. I believe now that using the GPA and MCAT on their own is a horrible idea. Places that have lower average scores are typically your "backup" schools (very good schools but pre-meds seem to think of them this way). Schools like GW, NYMC, Tulane, Temple, BU fit this category. These schools get applications numbering in the ten-thousands and for someone like me, with marginal stats but an outstanding resume, places like these turned out to be the worst ones to apply to. I needed to make my case beyond my GPA which meant that I needed someone to thoughtfully consider my application.

The secondary for GW this year was 10 lines long. At BU I think it was a paragraph. NYMC didn't even have essays. I did not apply to Tulane, but it was recommended by my pre-health advisor as somewhere I'd have a shot. According to SDN, the Tulane secondary gives you 600 words for 5 questions. Anyway, I didn't expect that places like these would see the real me and I turned out to be right. How could I effectively distinguish myself in a pool of 11K applicants? It's a tall order when all you're armed with is your primary, a personal statement about why you want to do this, and a few school-specific sentences. I got crushed at a lot of those schools. By comparison, at smaller schools, with applicant pools in the 2K-3K range, I did extremely well. I think a lot of it has to do with my essays and how much time reviewers had to actually read them. Larger applicant pools means shorter essays and the possibility of hard cut-offs for grades in the pre-screening process. The worst schools will screen you but send you a secondary anyway to collect your fee.

As a nontraditional student you have a huge amount of life experience you'll bring to this profession. When you construct your list of schools consider the secondary system each school uses and the number of applicants that school chooses from each year. You need to demonstrate that you're more than your grades. This means a winning set of essays and a small enough pool that the Adcom can read and remember it.

Summarizing:

The MSAR is a great tool but if you get yourself discouraged and aim only for MCAT and GPAs, you'll lose out at a lot of places. Factor the size of the applicant pool into your math and do your research on the review process before you build your list. Nontrads with a story to tell need to stand out and have a better chance of doing so in a smaller pool.

Good luck!
 
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drizzt3117

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I think non-trads tend to either underestimate or overestimate their competitiveness. I generally recommend applying to a big variety of schools that are a standard deviation above and below your stats and see what happens.
 

flip26

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I think non-trads tend to either underestimate or overestimate their competitiveness. I generally recommend applying to a big variety of schools that are a standard deviation above and below your stats and see what happens.
And a ton of non-trads seem to think being non-trad goes hand in hand with having a poor UG GPA - I was a non trad applicant with a 3.9+ GPA.

The OP's experience is actually kind of bizarre - it appears that he got accepted at 2 OOS publics that would not necessarily be thought of as good places to apply for any OOS applicant.

Also the OP, a PA resident, did not even apply to all of the med schools in his home state, and he turned down an interview at one of them, too. This is kind of crazy...
 

Untraditional

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And a ton of non-trads seem to think being non-trad goes hand in hand with having a poor UG GPA - I was a non trad applicant with a 3.9+ GPA.

The OP's experience is actually kind of bizarre - it appears that he got accepted at 2 OOS publics that would not necessarily be thought of as good places to apply for any OOS applicant.

Also the OP, a PA resident, did not even apply to all of the med schools in his home state, and he turned down an interview at one of them, too. This is kind of crazy...

Already having acceptances in hand at my favored schools I cancelled interviews. Snowmageddon also crushed my schedule and pushed some interviews way back.

I didn't target all my state schools because I am married and certain locations were unacceptable for my wife.
 

IDoIt4Love

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I'm happy to hear that things worked out very well for you! As for the MSAR, I completely agree with you. I applied to places like GW, Tulane, Howard and NYMC, thinking I'd have a solid chance with my stats. But the reality is, they get so inundated with applications, that you've gotta have more than a good GPA and MCAT to stand out to them. I didn't get interviews at any of them.

Where I did get interviewed were my state schools, and one school from a bordering state. Most state schools really give their residents a far better chance than they'd have at almost any other school--even when their average scores seem higher than certain private schools with no state preference and 10k+ applications. I applied to all 4 of my (VA) state allo schools, and received interviews at all but UVA, and my stats are very average. I don't think I would have gotten interviews from any of them, had I not been in-state.

I am not necessarily non-traditional, but I've had some very unique experiences with medicine and took a year off after graduation to get some more work experience. I think what my made me stand out was my survival and triumph over a pretty dismal medical condition and 3 extensive operations. It gave me some real perspective about life as a patient and drove me into medicine--if only to see patients like my former self and give them hope. I think it's important to be unique amongst a sea of very similar, highly competitive applications so that you are not overlooked and are instead remembered and given serious consideration. I ultimately got accepted to a school from a bordering state that only takes 20 out-of-staters. I was shocked, and ultimately realized that it really is true what they say: APPLY BROADLY! YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE YOU'LL BE INTERVIEWED!:thumbup:
 

hobbes23

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I totally agree with the OP. But, I would argue that the advice applies to anyone with numbers on the lower side. I was rejected by most of my bottom or safety schools outright, but interviewed at the two best schools I applied two. I now have two acceptances to these schools.

Is your advice to apply to small(er) schools? Or apply to places where you can write good essays?
 

Untraditional

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I totally agree with the OP. But, I would argue that the advice applies to anyone with numbers on the lower side. I was rejected by most of my bottom or safety schools outright, but interviewed at the two best schools I applied two. I now have two acceptances to these schools.

Is your advice to apply to small(er) schools? Or apply to places where you can write good essays?
Not even smaller schools, but schools with fewer applicants for their med school. Favor schools where you have a shot at really telling your story through essays.

You're right, this is intended mainly for people with lower stats who have an interesting experience to play as a trump card. I think the advice applied to all nontrads, however. Those smaller schools are always trying to diversify their class so I would expect nontrads of all walks and statlines to have a better chance of earning some Adcom love.

I'm glad my top-two / rejected at most "backups" experience isn't that bizzare :laugh:
 

flip26

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Not even smaller schools, but schools with fewer applicants for their med school. Favor schools where you have a shot at really telling your story through essays.

You're right, this is intended mainly for people with lower stats who have an interesting experience to play as a trump card. I think the advice applied to all nontrads, however. Those smaller schools are always trying to diversify their class so I would expect nontrads of all walks and statlines to have a better chance of earning some Adcom love.

I'm glad my top-two / rejected at most "backups" experience isn't that bizzare :laugh:
You already get this chance with the PS which is the single best place for you to convey your uniqueness. And most applicants have zero idea about the kinds of essays they will see at different schools - I applied to a bunch of schools and was frankly surprised how few essays one has to write for most of them.

The only thing I agree with in your post is to avoid thinking that schools with lower avg matriculant stats in highly desirable locations are somehow safeties for anybody, much less for someone with low stats, too. The schools I commonly list are GWU, BU, Georgetown - all located in the high demand northeast corridor between DC and Boston...

Apply to schools outside the major metro areas - some of those in flyover country - and you may get your foot in the door. And it appears that you, the OP, did exactly this...but you also took some crazy risks by not applying to all of your instate schools.
 

Untraditional

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You already get this chance with the PS which is the single best place for you to convey your uniqueness.
The PS is a great place to let a prospective school know about you but I think the format actually favors someone with fewer bullets on their resume. If you are a more complex applicant you can't get everything you need into that PS. Why? The PS is a venue for you to discuss your motivation to enter the medical profession. It is not intended for you to describe your research history, cover all the unique clinical experiences you may have had or how you, as a person, can add to their diversity. At best you might be able to hit one of those. Having more essays gives you more ammo to spark interest.

The only thing I agree with in your post is to avoid thinking that schools with lower avg matriculant stats in highly desirable locations are somehow safeties for anybody, much less for someone with low stats, too. The schools I commonly list are GWU, BU, Georgetown - all located in the high demand northeast corridor between DC and Boston...
So many people fall into this trap, pre-meds and advisors alike!

Apply to schools outside the major metro areas - some of those in flyover country - and you may get your foot in the door. And it appears that you, the OP, did exactly this...
Flyover country is where I wanted to be, thank you. ;)

but you also took some crazy risks by not applying to all of your instate schools.
Why was this a crazy risk? What guarantee was there at all that an in-state application would get me in? This line of thinking is so deceptive. People throw around "apply to all your instate schools" all the time but I think its only helpful advice for an applicant who is applying to publicly funded institutions. If you go back to the MSAR, private schools rarely show significant in-state favoritism. If I had to do it over again I probably wouldn't have fallen for the trap and would have sent applications to more out of state schools over my private state schools. The advice on backups is awful. The GW-GTown-BU axis is a money sink for a lot of people.
 

flip26

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Why was this a crazy risk? What guarantee was there at all that an in-state application would get me in? This line of thinking is so deceptive. People throw around "apply to all your instate schools" all the time but I think its only helpful advice for an applicant who is applying to publicly funded institutions. If you go back to the MSAR, private schools rarely show significant in-state favoritism. If I had to do it over again I probably wouldn't have fallen for the trap and would have sent applications to more out of state schools over my private state schools. The advice on backups is awful. The GW-GTown-BU axis is a money sink for a lot of people.
First, unless I overlooked it, did you apply to Penn State med? MSAR says it is a public institution...did I miss it on your MDApps? Is the MSAR incorrect?

Beyond that, even for private med schools there can be instate bias. Sometimes that bias for instaters is due to the fact that some of the private med schools funding comes from the state. And sometimes it is simply part of the mission of instate private med schools to produce future MDs who are more likely to stay instate for residency and as attendings.
 

Untraditional

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First, unless I overlooked it, did you apply to Penn State med? MSAR says it is a public institution...did I miss it on your MDApps? Is the MSAR incorrect?
MSAR's fine. You missed when I explained that I did not apply to certain schools because location was a factor for my family.

Beyond that, even for private med schools there can be instate bias.
I'm not convinced that the limited in-state bias increases chances of acceptance enough to make someone favor sending an app to an instate private school they're not crazy about over applying to a comparable oos school they might like. If you have unlimited money for apps or truly just want to get in anywhere I think it becomes more valid.
 
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flip26

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MSAR's fine. You missed when I explained that I did not apply to certain schools because location was a factor for my family.
No, I didn't miss it.

And I think it is crazy for someone with a subpar stats app to not apply to every instate school, particularly an instate public school.

Glad it turned out well for you.
 

drizzt3117

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MSAR's fine. You missed when I explained that I did not apply to certain schools because location was a factor for my family.



I'm not convinced that the in-state bias increases chances of acceptance enough to make someone favor sending an app to an instate private school they're not crazy about to a comparable oos school they might like. If you have unlimited money for apps or truly just want to get in anywhere I think it becomes more valid.
I guess I wonder how Hershey is unacceptable while Iowa City is? Anyways, congrats on your acceptances, OP.
 

flip26

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I'm not convinced that the in-state bias increases chances of acceptance enough to make someone favor sending an app to an instate private school they're not crazy about over applying to a comparable oos school they might like. If you have unlimited money for apps or truly just want to get in anywhere I think it becomes more valid.
Unless you have unlimited money for flying cross country to attend interviews, I don't see how the cost of sending an app to all your instate schools is prohibitive - not only that, it makes good sense to cover all your bases.

And for most people, the cost of the tuition at OOS schools is a factor favoring instate schools, particularly public schools.
 

Untraditional

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Unless you have unlimited money for flying cross country to attend interviews, I don't see how the cost of sending an app to all your instate schools is prohibitive - not only that, it makes good sense to cover all your bases.
You don't spend all that money at once, though. Some people simply don't have the budget to apply to 30 schools. Perhaps I'm unique but my application process happened across paychecks. I got paid, I fired some primaries or secondaries. Cost was a factor in deciding to withdraw from some interviews.

And for most people, the cost of the tuition at OOS schools is a factor favoring instate schools, particularly public schools.
That's why public schools are awesome. If you like privates, like most of us do, you've already resigned yourself to the possibility of a $300K debt load. I think the real decision making about COA happens after you have acceptances in hand.
 
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Untraditional

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Overlooking instate schools is nutty.
This is where we disagree. I think its ok to overlook your instate school if its private and gets a ton of applications, especially if you have a school of comparable standing youd rather apply to. The instate advantage is quite small at private schools.

I never disagreed that applying to your instate public is a no-brainer unless you have mitigating circumstances.
 

flip26

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That's why public schools are awesome. If you like privates, like most of us do, you've already resigned yourself to the possibility of a $300K debt load. I think the real decision making about COA happens after you have acceptances in hand.
I agree with the underlined, but you don't have a lower cost instate school to contrast and compare to your 2 acceptances at OOS publics.

And while you believe that along with yourself that "most" of us prefer private med schools (???), you don't have your coveted private med school acceptance, yet you still face upwards of $300k in debt. You have been accepted at 2 OOS public schools - a nice achievement - yet you tell us you prefer privates as if their innate qualities justify the higher debt - yet either way you choose it is going to cost you every bit as much as a private med school.

And still you make the argument against an average cost of $100 or so per additional app as being "too much" but you don't extend the same economical thinking to COA that will be tens of thousands of dollars higher at an OOS school...

Perplexing logic...I find this all quite amusing.
 

Untraditional

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I agree with the underlined, but you don't have a lower cost instate school to contrast and compare to your 2 acceptances at OOS publics.
Many others do. Its not a huge stretch to infer someone would favor a lower priced school?

And while you believe that along with yourself that "most" of us prefer private med schools (???),
Who said "prefer"? I said like, implying that people like private schools just as well as public ones.

you don't have your coveted private med school acceptance, yet you still face upwards of $300k in debt. You have been accepted at 2 OOS public schools - a nice achievement - yet you tell us you prefer privates as if their innate qualities justify the higher debt - yet either way you choose it is going to cost you every bit as much as a private med school.
I never said I prefer private schools. I believe I said that I got my top two choices. Besides, you're confused. We were talking about applying to instate private schools vs out of state private schools for a generalized applicant.

And still you make the argument against an average cost of $100 or so per additional app as being "too much" but you don't extend the same economical thinking to COA that will be tens of thousands of dollars higher at an OOS school...
Because the cost here becomes relevant at different times for some people.

Perplexing logic...I find this all quite amusing.
I think you're just trying to be obstinate and pretentious.
 

alibai3ah

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It's not just about picking a school with your MCAT and GPA range. It's about choosing a school that fits with your goals. People seem to not understand this on SDN, but schools genuinely pick students based on what the school's mission is.

For example, let's use Tulane. I interviewed there and was accepted. But Tulane only interviews 500 of its 6000 applicants. Lots of people use it as the safety, but what people don't understand is that Tulane looks for a certain "it" factor. That it factor is heavily depended on its mission which is community service and volunteerism.

I swear to god at my interview half the people did peace corp or teach for america. I'm sure the stats varied greatly, but what all of us had in common was extensive community service experience.

So the point of my post is that don't just select schools based on numbers, but instead to pick schools you think you fit in well. If you have a great deal of research and no community service, don't apply to a school like Tulane. The opposite is true as well, if you have ridiculous amount of community service but you haven't done a single day worth of research, don't apply to Harvard.

It's as simple as that.
 

hobbes23

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So the point of my post is that don't just select schools based on numbers, but instead to pick schools you think you fit in well.
So, people should read MSAR for things besides numbers?
 

flip26

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Besides, you're confused.
Umm, no. You are confused, and your advice is sketchy.

You started a thread with supposed insight into apps for non trads with bad grades but an interesting background. But your own example of applying belongs in the "how not to do it" column, not as a shining example. In general, applying to the majority of OOS public schools is a huge waste of effort - there are a few exceptions - but not many - and neither of the schools you got accepted at are thought of as the "good" ones for OOS applicants.

Whatever advantages, however small they may be, for applying to all instate schools (public and private), the common sense advice is to just do it, and if all goes well and you don't need the interviews, then punt. Instate preference is just about the only thing that most people have going for them, yet you chose to throw that advantage out the window - nothing wrong with that - but you then proceed to argue that there is no real advantage, and that simply isn't true.

There is a reason that applying to all instate schools is the most often cited advice - and that is because for many applicants it is the both the best chance at med school and the most likely lowest cost option they will get.

Despite what you think, many private med schools do have an instate interview and admissions bias, and the cherry on top is that often the scholarships that are available to matriculants are biased towards instate residents.
 

hobbes23

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The OP's point is that average numbers don't accurately reflect the probabilities of getting interviews or acceptances. Flip's point is that one should apply IS because you have a higher chance of getting accepted, due to the fact that your instate and they have an instate preference (thus increasing the probability of good things). The effect size of this aspect is large.

These are not mutually exclusive facts. Should you apply to OOS schools where you fit in? yes. Should you apply to IS schools? yes. Should you apply to both? yes.

Stop fighting.
 

alibai3ah

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So, people should read MSAR for things besides numbers?
Well the MSAR includes another page of what each school looks for in applicants and their mission statement. I'm just saying don't just blindly apply places without looking at how you fit in them.
 

hobbes23

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Well the MSAR includes another page of what each school looks for in applicants and their mission statement. I'm just saying don't just blindly apply places without looking at how you fit in them.
My point was to have a concrete step that others can do to asses a school's mission. How do you suggest assessing the mission? Reading the mission statement on the website? Asking professors?
 

Untraditional

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My point was to have a concrete step that others can do to asses a school's mission. How do you suggest assessing the mission? Reading the mission statement on the website? Asking professors?
Call the school. Send an email. Ask them up front: "What are you looking for in your students?" Make friends early and it can only help your cause.
 

Morsetlis

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I think that a lot of pre-med tend to forget the safety schools have 10k+ applicants. IN THIS REGARD, the MSAR is actually handy: You can see how many people apply for the OOS spots.
 

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Also, lets not forget that the "safety" schools which have 10k+ applications, still screen so its not like all 10k are competitive.

You can count on at least 1k being hail-mary applications - probably more.
 

flip26

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My point was to have a concrete step that others can do to asses a school's mission. How do you suggest assessing the mission? Reading the mission statement on the website? Asking professors?
Yes. Read everything on their website.

The main reason to know the mission is so you can tailor your answers on secondary essays to line up with their mission.

But make sure that your PS and your secondary essays are not giving mixed signals...
 

hobbes23

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Way to go guys. Some great advice! (after a little infighting)

Now that I have an acceptance (after 2 years on SDN), I feel that I should try to shape the community a bit, and help to create helpful threads which have real knowledge in them. I hope others feel the same.

Reading the mission statements is a helpful step that too few applicants do.
 

alibai3ah

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Call the school. Send an email. Ask them up front: "What are you looking for in your students?" Make friends early and it can only help your cause.
+1, Exactly just do your research.

In my opinion, I'm glad schools reject students that aren't a good fit. Why go to a school that doesn't cater to what you want to do.

Also regarding the statement above, I wouldn't exactly tailor your secondary answers. Just be yourself and speak from the heart, I swear they will be able to tell you are being genuine.
 

Untraditional

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+1, Exactly just do your research.

In my opinion, I'm glad schools reject students that aren't a good fit. Why go to a school that doesn't cater to what you want to do.

Also regarding the statement above, I wouldn't exactly tailor your secondary answers. Just be yourself and speak from the heart, I swear they will be able to tell you are being genuine.

Another good way to do you research ahead of time is to scan the recent news for articles coming out of your target school. Maybe a dean or someone has a quote that can give you insight to that school's culture. Don't try to fake it at places that don't reflect your values. Genuinely want to go there.
 

drizzt3117

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I think mission statements and the like for research is a pretty low yield way to research schools. I would try to talk to as many current/former med students as you can.
 

alibai3ah

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I think mission statements and the like for research is a pretty low yield way to research schools. I would try to talk to as many current/former med students as you can.
You can do that, but most of us who have been admitted don't necessarily know what they liked about us....we can make fair assumptions but that won't be a guarantee.

I have heard mission statements as being very important from members of adcomms. And they know what they are talking about.
 

Morsetlis

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You can do that, but most of us who have been admitted don't necessarily know what they liked about us....we can make fair assumptions but that won't be a guarantee.
I have to second this. Most people are terrible at self-assessment, pre-meds included. What you should trust in is a comprehensive aggregate of adcoms' statements. What you should trust only very slightly is how pre-meds rate themselves, either before or after admission.
 

drizzt3117

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You can do that, but most of us who have been admitted don't necessarily know what they liked about us....we can make fair assumptions but that won't be a guarantee.

I have heard mission statements as being very important from members of adcomms. And they know what they are talking about.
I don't think you properly understood my point. I think current students at a school are going to give you more information about what the school is all about and what their core values are than any mission statement will. I interview applicants for my school's adcom and I have no idea what our mission statement is, but I certainly know what our school's core values are and what we're looking for.