[interview edited and condensed for clarity]

Esther Ben Ami : What are some things that make a student stand out on their application?

Susan Avery: Everybody stands out in it of themselves, so you don’t have to look from something that you think will make you sound more interesting. Everybody is unique. What is it you’re interested in, what is it that you’re doing…That’s really what it comes down too. It’s not about thinking how I’m going to get over on them, it’s really about thinking about you — from there you’ll figure out what makes you stand out. One thing I do with my students is something called a “brain dump”. I ask students to spend an hour, without social media open, and just think about everything that you do outside of the classroom.What clubs are you in? What are your family responsibilities? What are your religious responsibilities? What awards have you won? What type of work and community service have you done? What activities do you do, by yourself or in a group, outside of school? Once you start to write that stuff down, you’ll see how truly unique you are.

EBA: So you really think that, among all the applicants that apply to college, that everyone is unique in their own way?

SA: Correct. I was talking with the admissions officer from Boston University this weekend, and they get 61,000 applications, 61,000 applications… Everybody is unique. That’s just a fact of the world. We are all interested in different things in different ways. For example, you might pursue vocal music, and somebody else might be just as interested in music, but they might want to play an instrument, or they’re interested in sound design. And then maybe they have an interest in computer science whereas you have an interest in psychology. Everybody is different, everybody is coming from a different point of view. In those 61,000 applications, everyone is different.