The admissions director at a $56,000-a-year private school in NYC says there’s a key quality they look for in students, and it has nothing to do with intelligence

David Buckwald is the director of admissions at Avenues.

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David Buckwald is the director of admissions at Avenues.
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Avenues

  • Avenues: The World School is a private school in New York City where tuition is $56,400 per year.
  • Students at Avenues range from nursery-level to 12th grade, and they also have a part-time program for 2-year-olds.
  • David Buckwald, the admissions director, says that while the school has a holistic admissions process, there’s one quality that can be a “key differentiator” in their application review: curiosity.
  • Curiosity leads students to “pursue their developing interests and passions … [and] take all that they’ve learned out into the community, city and world, even while still in middle and high school,” Buckwald said.

As admissions director at Avenues, David Buckwald leads the process of deciding which children will be admitted to the highly selective, $56,400-a-year private school in New York City.

When evaluating applicants, Buckwald keeps one key trait in mind – and it’s not intelligence.

Avenues: The World School is a private school with campuses in New York City, Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Shenzhen, China. The New York campus was the first to open in 2012, but in the next decade, Avenues plans to build campuses in at least 20 cities, including Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Miami, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Singapore. Avenues wants to be thought of as “one school with many interconnected and interdependent campuses located in the world’s leading cities,” according to the website.

The school is highly selective, receiving many more applications than it can accept, and it looks at many components of an application to decide who should be admitted.

Avenues is located in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

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Avenues is located in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
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Katie Warren/Business Insider

But there is one personality trait that can be a distinguishing factor.

“Since we look for a variety of qualities in a candidate, it’s hard to isolate one and say it is the most important,” Buckwald told Business Insider. “However, I think a student’s curiosity is the key differentiator in our application review. It is what leads our students to pursue their developing interests and passions in Mastery, make connections across our innovative curriculum and take all that they’ve learned out into the community, city and world, even while still in middle and high school.”

The Mastery program at Avenues for ninth through 12th graders can be compared to an independent study course at a university.

Buckwald also looks for signs of empathy in applicants, a quality that “fosters community and collaboration, which ultimately allow our students to work together to understand and solve global-scale problems,” he said.

The process of evaluating an applicant to Avenues varies by age group.

“What we’re evaluating for a nursery candidate is going to be very different for a candidate for grade nine,” Buckwald said.

For the youngest applicants to Avenues, the admissions process includes a supervised playgroup. In the middle grades, potential applicants are asked to do what Avenues calls a “design challenge,” where the child is paired with another applicant and challenged to build an object their partner will enjoy or find useful. For grades nine through 12, the admissions office conducts a private conversation with the student.