College Podcast, High School Counselor, High School Students, College Counseling, College Admissions, College Application, Extracurricular, Applying to US Colleges, Atalanta International School, AIS, Atlanta, Georgia, Advice for High School Students,Managing Expectations, Applying Early, Dream Colleges"> Podcast | Tyler-Sant-of-AIS-on-Global-College-Counseling-Authentic--Trusting-Relationships-to-Guide-Students--Parents-e1jfm3d


Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   Click for 3-Minute Listen

Tyler Sant is the Head of College Counseling at Atlanta International School (AIS).

Tyler’s role is to Guide students to US and International Colleges. His philosophy for counseling has been shaped by his own experience in College Admissions at Emory.

  • Building authentic, trusting relationships
  • Believing that Every Student should own their experience
  • Working with Parents and Families of Students
  • Bridging the gap between students’ needs and interests and the families’ needs and interests.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Moving from College to High School
  2. Students Apply to Int’l Schools
  3. Philosophy of Counseling
  4. Managing Expectations
  5. Advice for High Schoolers

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Tyler Sant of AIS on Global College Counseling: Authentic, Trusting Relationships to Guide Students & Parents.

Tyler jokes that there is no College Major on how to be a College Counselor. His own foray into College Counseling was unplanned. He discovered he loved working with High School kids.

Tyler Sant is the Head of College Counseling at Atlanta International School (AIS). On our podcast, Tyler shares his background, his counseling philosophy, working with US and Int’l Colleges, managing expectations, and advice to high school students.

In particular, we discuss the following with him:

  • Tyler Sant’s Background
  • Approach to College Counseling
  • Navigating Colleges in the US & Int’l
  • Advice for High Schoolers

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Tyler Sant, Atlanta Int’l School [0:53]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:55]
  • Professional Background [4:24]
  • Transition to High School [6:31]
  • About Atlanta Int’l School [11:23]
  • Students Explore Colleges in US and Outside [14:10]
  • Role at the School [15:58]
  • Philosophy of College Counseling [22:20]
  • Managing Expectations [28:09]
  • Choosing US, Int’l Colleges [36:47]
  • Starting in 9th Grade [41:25]
  • Changing Landscape [45:41]
  • Advice for Applicants [54:20]
  • Staying Excited [1:00:27]

Our Guest: Tyler Sant is the Head of College Counseling at Atlanta International School. Tyler graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Emory University. He then got a Master’s degree in Public Administration from The University of Georgia.

Memorable Quote: “As an international school, we have students and families and faculty from all over the world. It's 70 Plus nationalities represented in our community, I think 65 plus languages.” Tyler Sant on the Atlanta International School student body.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Recommended Episodes: College Experiences


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Tyler S  0:14  

There's, there's no real substitute for the way that working with teenagers can just sort of help you reframe and gain perspective on what really matters and they help you in not taking yourself so seriously, which I completely appreciate and need. And then I think one of the one of the fun parts of me is so much of what we've talked about that also makes it challenging. You know, it's, it's every year is different. The landscape is always changing.

Venkat  0:53  [Introducing Tyler Sant, AIS]

That is Tyler Sant, Head of College Counseling at Atlanta International School.

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

Tyler jokes that there is no College Major on how to be a College Counselor.

His own foray into College Counseling was unplanned.

A college friend pointed him to an opportunity in College Admissions at his Alma Mater - Emory.

He discovered he loved working with High School kids.

Venkat Raman  1:26

On our podcast, Tyler shares his background, his counseling philosophy, working with US and Int’l Colleges, managing expectations, and advice to high school students.

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the Hi-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Tyler S  1:55  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Moving from College to High School]

I think and you end up developing much more robust relationships. Because you see kids every day you see them at their best you see them at their worst you see them when they're trying and not doing so great. You see them when they're succeeding. And it's not tied to whether or not they end up coming to the college that you work at.

[Students Apply to Int’l Schools]

And we have students and families and faculty from all over the world, it's 70 Plus nationalities represented in our community, I think 65 plus languages. About 30% of our graduating class applies to colleges outside of the US, oftentimes, at the same time they're applying to American universities. And that's not just limited to the students who have lived abroad.

[Philosophy of Counseling]

To hammer home this idea that there is no one perfect place. And there are very few places in the US and around the world that are so completely unique that they don't have peer institutions.


[Managing Expectations]

And so sometimes just starting with like, what do you like about school? Who is your favorite teacher? What did they do that you think? makes them a good teacher? Or that really connects with you? What do you do for fun? What type of people do you hang out with? What types of things do you read? Trying to start with, again, the student first and really spending a little bit of time reflecting before you get towards the college thing.

[Advice for High Schoolers]

You know, I recommend for students that are going to go through the process starting shortly this summer into fall again, to be aware that there's many steps involved in the application process. I think, if I look back and talk with our seniors, they would mention they didn't realize how much time it took to go through all of the steps with their college applications. So.

Venkat Raman  3:44

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by “College Matters. Alma Matters.”

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  3:56

Now. I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Tyler.

So without further ado, here's the podcast with Tyler Sant!


Venkat Raman  4:04  

If you are ready, we can jump right into it.

Tyler S  4:07  

I'm ready. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes chatting with me.

Venkat Raman  4:11  

Absolutely. My pleasure. So cool. So Tyler, maybe the best place to start is a little bit about your background and how you got into this whole business of counseling.

Tyler S  4:24  [Professional Background]

Yeah, I've joked with colleagues of mine that people don't actually it's a good story to share with kids who get sometimes overly hung up on college majors. Not a college major on how to be a college counselor. And if you had told me as a senior in high school or freshman or sophomore in college, that this is where I would end up I don't think I even would have known that this was a career path that existed or how someone sort of found their way onto it. So I ended up Shortly after graduating from Emory, working in a different job, I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do. And I took a job working in a law firm and spent about a year working as a legal assistant and exploring whether or not I wanted to go to law school. And after a year of that, had decided that that was not the right path, at least not at that moment. And happened to be living with a college friend of mine, who was working as an assistant soccer coach at Emory and whose mom worked in the admissions office. And as I was looking for something new, he said, Oh, well, I know some of the people in the admissions office. And this seems like something that you might be interested in and good at, you should explore this. And that is how I ended up working in Undergraduate Admissions at Emory, where I spent a little over three years and really enjoyed working for the place that I graduated from, and I loved and yeah, from there, like so many of us in selective college admissions, became really interested in the idea of working in high school and supporting students in a more complete and more authentic way than I think sometimes you get to do on the admissions side of of these roles.

Venkat Raman  6:26  

So what was that transition, like from college to high school?

Tyler S  6:31  [Transition to High School]

It was great, it was challenging, it was a lot of the things that I hoped it would be, and a lot of things that have been really great that I just couldn't have anticipated, I think, working in admissions, especially if you work for your alma mater. It's a really fun, interesting, good. Early job in your career, it's a lot of travel. And I really enjoyed that aspect of it. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of long hours, it's a lot of on campus programming, and coordinating events and planning things, which I really loved the sort of team aspect of that. And the work is not so challenging, or so stressful when you've got 12 or 15, people who are all relatively similar in sort of age and stage and career and life that are kind of pulling together towards the same thing. And I love that about admissions. And you eventually realize too, that if you work at a place like I did, and you enjoy working with high school kids, it's like, okay, well, I love recruiting, I love being on the road, I interact with all these kids, and of all the students that I meet, a small fraction of them end up actually enrolling at the institution that I worked at, by the time you get through, like, you know, some of the kids that you meet, don't apply some of the kids do. And if you work at a place like I did, you're telling the vast majority of everyone who applies no anyway. And so that includes the kids who you meet traveling and that you love, and that you've read, and that ultimately don't get through. And so I was really excited about the idea of working more closely with kids in an authentic way and seeing them not just when they're at they're like, buttoned up best, which is how I felt I saw kids, as a college admissions professional, you know, they knew that they had some skin in the game interacting with me, or at least I had something that they wanted, right. And moving to a high school. It's a much more natural interaction with kids, I think and you end up developing much more robust relationships. Because you see kids every day you see them at their best you see them at their worst you see them, yeah, when they're trying and not doing so great. You see them when they're succeeding. And it's not tied to whether or not they end up coming to the college that you work at. Instead, it's it's trying to sort of develop their interests and cultivate in them the things that they care about to map on to whatever's next for them, and then sending them out into the world to go do those things. And that part's really rewarding and fun. So all of those things were there, all of those things were what I was, for things that I was looking for, I think the things that were challenging, in some ways, is just getting used to being a part of a smaller team. So having gone from an office that was like, go, go go. Lots of people, lots of people pulling together to you know, most high school college counseling offices, if you're lucky. If you have a big staff, you have three or four or maybe five college counselors. And you, you work with your group of kids and then try to build a sense of camaraderie beyond just the students who were assigned to. And that was one of those things that for me, I think became a really good goal and moving to the high school side was like, How do I recreate a sense of team within an office that I'm part of? And how do I bring some of the things that I really loved from the work on the college side to the way that we interacted as a staff and to try and grow the culture of an office and to think of yourselves not just as college counselors, working with your kids, but as part of the team that supporting an entire class and ultimately, a whole school students. And those were really, for me really rewarding challenges to take on and to begin thinking of myself more as an educator. Though I'm, I've taught a couple of sections of classes in the past, most college counselors don't teach. And that doesn't necessarily mean that we're not educators, I think we're in the business of educating our communities, our families, our students, and also our faculty and our administration, and also the people who are attached to the community beyond those that we see every day, folks like our alumni, and through our admissions office, the prospective families were exploring our schools.

Venkat Raman  11:17  

So tell us about your current school, the Atlanta International School.

Tyler S  11:23  [About Atlanta Int’l School]

Yeah. So is, is still a somewhat new place for me. So this is my first full school year I got here last February. So it was a year in February. And this is my first graduating class that I've seen all the way through. And that has been such a great for me a really good professional piece of growth. I worked at another Atlanta area school for close to 10 years before this, another wonderful place that I loved with a great team of people who I was very close with. I was really excited about the idea of Atlanta International School specifically, because it was such a different community than where I was working before this. As an international school, we have students and families and faculty from all over the world, it's 70 Plus nationalities represented in our community, I think 65 plus languages. About 30% of our graduating class applies to colleges outside of the US, oftentimes, at the same time they're applying to American universities. And that's not just limited to the students who have lived abroad or who have citizenship elsewhere who have family that are living outside of the US. Some of our families who have lived in Atlanta for generations, and students who have been here their whole lives because of having attended a place like this or open minded in their college search, where they're willing to explore places in the UK or Canada or the Netherlands. And that's a really fun and different way to do a type of work that still feels like college counseling and still feels familiar and comfortable in sort of the core ways that I interact with kids. But the actual schools themselves and the list that are being built for students is it's really interesting and different than where I was before. In a cool way. And then I think, you know, on top of that, this being just such an incredibly diverse place and being so deliberate in how inclusive we aim to be things that as a school community, and as a school culture, were really appealing to me. And that remind me in a lot of ways of some of the reasons that that Emory was such a good fit for me in such a life changing experience as a student, and then later working on campus. There some clear parallels there.

Venkat Raman  14:00  

What's roughly the distribution of students who end up going to a US college versus outside of the US from your school.

Tyler S  14:10  [Students Explore Colleges in US and Outside]

Yeah. So year to year, it moves a little bit, but typically anywhere from about 12 to 18, or 20% of students will attend a college outside of the US. So we'll graduate a little bit over 200 students this year, and we're not quite to may one yet. And we're still awaiting a couple of conditional offers from the UK, but we'll send we'll send this year students to Canada, the UK, France, the Netherlands. Last year students that attended school in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and so there's a really nice, a really nice balance and that's a smaller group of students than those who had offers to choose from getting included non US schools. So, to me, I think the goal is being able to, to work with families to understand that truly, you can go anywhere from this place. And whether that's something that you're planning on because of the financial appeal and your citizenship status or something that's a totally unfamiliar idea to you as a high school freshman or sophomore. We include that really in kind of an organic way, as part of the way that we start working with families around college counseling, it's just thinking beyond American universities is really kind of the norm here.

Venkat Raman  15:42  

Do you do you have any special goals for this role? Now that you said you're a year into? What kinds of things do you see yourself doing? And then we can sort of dive into how you're approaching this sort of truly global look at colleges.

Tyler S  15:58  [Role at the School]

Yeah. So much of my first just being completely frank, my first year has been trying to figure out sort of the, the rhythms and day to day reality of this place. Sure. And doing that, especially coming in a year ago, February, when we still had some students who are remote, we had the disruptions of COVID, my team was remote for much of the end of last school year, I actually took some of my very first Jr, meetings with students who were using my office as like a quiet space for zoom, and I was working remotely. And so my first interactions with my actual office, were like, making kids stand up and pan the laptop around like, Hey, can you just show me where my, Do I have a cabinet someplace? Because that was, that was kind of my first introduction this year has, thankfully felt much more normal. Yeah. But some of the things that we're really focused on and that I'm thinking about, as we get to the end of this year is making sure that we have good and this is, I think, sort of standard good practice for college counseling at this point in general, but evaluating the ways that we reach families and give access to the resources that are here, in age appropriate ways and touch points that make sense for families, something that I'm becoming really familiar with here is that so many of our families are coming from a background where the parents didn't attend college in the US and need. And this goes back to that idea of just a feeling like and an educator, we need to do a good amount of work with families around just educating what the American system and what the holistic admissions process looks like. At the same time, that we're educating our American families about how much admissions has changed since the time parents applied to college. We're also working with international families who were educated in a very different system. And the admissions process was entirely different than it will be for a son or daughter of theirs who's applying to only American schools. And so thinking about building out, essentially sort of the curriculum that we have for families to really understand each of those experiences and pathways through the admissions world. And then thinking about how do we give some information, some access to resources for younger families. Without this is this sort of tightrope that people walk in, in schools like this, where if you have a child who's attending a really rigorous academic institution like we are, we're at full IB school from K through 12, we expect that 100% of our students are going to complete the full ib diploma. We have a full language immersion program. That's I mean, really one of a kind, certainly in the city and in the southeast, for students beginning in our lower school and in our primary years, and so families enter into this place, and also at the price point that we are within this competitive, Independent School landscape in Atlanta with college undermines that. Yeah, that's just a basic assumption. And so we don't have the luxury of saying, I don't think okay, great. Well, we'll see you when you become an 11th grader. Yeah. And if we do that, you end up sort of indirectly allowing families or by withholding a resource families are going to go if they have Have questions and find the information someplace else. And so I recognize that that sometimes leads to more anxiety, right? So by by staying out of the equation, we try and limit the amount of hovering or college stuff that we introduced to kids early. But sometimes that backfires, because a family instead goes out and buys as many books as they can, or worse ends up, you know, reading some of these online forums or, you know, places on Reddit that like, by the time they then get to us, we've held them off until grade 11. And by the time they get to us, they've then got a really

Tyler S  20:42  

a really shaky foundation of what they think the process is like. And so I think going forward, that's one of those things that, you know, again, in an age appropriate way, without sitting down in front of a fifth grader and saying, Hey, let's talk about where you're going to college, but being available to introduce some kind of key topics and themes, and then understanding that for many of our families, there's not the same understanding of systems, whether that's, you know, an American family that doesn't completely understand what it looks like to apply out of the US or a non US family who's here living in Atlanta working that wants their child to stay, and wasn't educated in the US themselves, I think we run the risk of if we intervene too late, spending most of our time trying to undo the damage that's already been done by, you know, myths and bad information that's out there. So I think thinking about all of that in a way that that integrates into the school community, and does so without it being like, hey, here comes the college guy to talk to you in fifth grade.

Venkat Raman  21:57  

A good thing to discuss or is is your, quote unquote, philosophy or approach to counseling, when you've been doing this for a while now? What kind of things have you developed that you feel? You know, is important, what kind of values and what kind of goals and what kind of actions you think?

Tyler S  22:20  [Philosophy of College Counseling]

Yeah, I think, you know, you asked earlier, what it was like, and the transition moving from college to high school. And, yeah, I recognize that, so much of my philosophy, and the work that I do is shaped by having worked at Emory, not because of the university, necessarily, but because of the people who are in that admissions office. And so I think back on people like Doug Hartog, who now works at the University of Virginia, who hired me and sort of initially trained me and Scott Allen, who is still at Emory, and has been just a, a really key mentor in my professional development. That philosophy of having worked for people who were really interested in building relationships and and being honest, and not just in recruiting as many kids as you can, getting as many applications as you can, I was really fortunate to work in an admissions office that was certainly interested in competing for applicants, but was not interested in selling ourselves in a way that was disingenuous, or that encouraged kids to be looking at the wrong the wrong fit. And I don't know that that experience is as core to every other admissions office out there. But I think because of the model that I had, and people like Doug and like Scott, and then and colleagues, who so many of whom have ended up on the high school side of the desk with me and who I sort of followed shortly thereafter, whom Fortunately, for the group of us are here in Atlanta, if you just sort of sampled the Atlanta college counseling community, which is a really fun part of this work that we're also so tight knit. Almost every single private school, within about 10 miles of each other here, has somebody in their office who worked at Emory and you can then zoom out beyond that. And there are people that are now like, heads of school and in some of these really senior level leadership positions in schools that I think would probably also say something similar, that that they were led towards working in education because of the tone and the culture and the values that were instilled by the people in that office. And so I'm I'm really grateful for that. And I think that shapes the philosophy that I've been which is, which is really about building authentic relationships, trusting relationships, working with students in a way that puts the student in the driver's seat, but also understands that parents are certainly partners in this process and in the vast majority of families that I work with are going to be a big part of at least the financial part of college investment. And so focusing on kids, allowing kids to lead and trying to bridge the gaps where needed between a student's interests and needs and a family's interests or needs. I think that that, for me, is the fun part of the work and the challenging part of the work when those things don't completely line up. But you get to kind of serve as mediator in those positions and to help advocate for a student's sometimes within their own family in a way that's really rewarding. And so that's sort of the the initial sort of core philosophical piece is just being willing to, to partner with people in a way that's honest, and that's authentic here, and that's really trying to put students best interests at mind, at the forefront. And then beyond that, I think, from a school philosophy, making sure that we exist within and this is part of the fun challenge of still being relatively new somewhere, making sure that college counseling exists within the culture and the values and the ethos of the rest of this place. And so that looks different at different schools, the things that our students value, the things that our families value, the perceptions that faculty have the background, the faculty have, the way that we interact with our admissions office, the way that we interact with our alumni office, these are all things that really create fun opportunities to think of College Counseling beyond just our work with kids, but also our work with the whole the entire community of who we are.

Tyler S  27:13  

And so yeah, I think that's, if we'll part one of that responses, philosophy working with students and families, then I think Part Two is philosophy of kind of grounding college counseling within the bigger organizational life of the school. I think that's something that and that keeps this interesting and fun for me beyond just the work, trying to understand and make sense of what's happening in college admissions.

Venkat Raman  27:45  

So how do you, how do you approach the whole business of managing expectations? Right, I mean, students, the parents, you know, whether it comes to the dream colleges are whether you're advocating for a certain type of fit, or what does that take? And what are the challenges there?

Tyler S  28:09  [Managing Expectations]

It was easier 10 years ago, when places were more predictable.

You know, I think, I think at the at the beginning of the conversation, it's about just really trying to remind families and to, to hammer home, this idea that there is no one perfect place.

And there are very few places in the US and around the world that are so completely unique that they don't have peer institutions or analogous places you could point to that would offer a similar type of experience.

And so we really try to work early on on helping students not pick the college first, but instead pick the criteria, the ways that they want to learn the types of people they want to be around the type of community they want. And then from there, mapping those qualities that the student has identified that they care about on to options of places that would fit.

And sometimes that leads you to a place where there is one college, that seems like a really excellent fit. And we try to be as realistic as we can about the way that schools are reviewing files, the obstacles that might be in the student's path, either based on the selectivity of that place, or the potential cost of that place. Or a potential disagreement with parents around distance or setting or things like that. And then when a student all of those things included in the equation says yeah, okay, that and this is still I think the top choice for me, then it's about trying to help understand and be strategic around where a student can best position themselves to be as competitive as they possibly can at that particular school.

And so, in terms of managing expectations, a lot of what we've had to do over these last few years, is really educate families early and in in a transparent way around the differences between timing of applications. So our families go and visit a college campus, they can go visit Tulane, and come back and find that the university is published, you know, 15% Admit rate or whatever the number is that a school is getting that year, right? That single number is almost meaningless, because there's not a single admission around there students who apply early decision, there are students that apply early action, and there are students that apply regular decision, and there's a different treatment of each of those. And so we really try and educate families as best we can around what benefits are there for a student to pull on the same way that the university is doing this, right?

Yeah, in my most cynical moments, I think of these as just enrollment management levers that you can go through and you can pull on that have a pretty predictable outcome. If you admit more students from early decision, you can be more selective in regular decision, you can eliminate some of the uncertainty of your yield, you can drive down your overall admit rate, you can look more selective and in a byproduct of that in future years, you can continue to reproduce more and more applications.

So on the student side of that, it's about educating families that that that is, at many places, that's that's the landscape, that's the model is in place. And if you want to have the best shot that you can at a place that's very selective, then in many situations, that's applying early decision. And in some cases, that's having a first choice where you might apply early decision. And if you're not admitted, there a second choice lined up where you apply early decision to. So it's it's there's more of that strategy around timing and expectations. I don't always love those conversations, if I'm being really honest, because there are some cases where a student says, and they've, they've taken to heart what I've said, and they go, okay, there is no perfect right fit for me.

So these three schools are all places I'd be happy to go. And if one of them has early decision, and two of them do not. And there's a substantial difference in likelihood of admissions for early decision students, then sometimes it's saying, Okay, well, if you just want to go to one of these, these three schools, then applying early decision to this one is the most likely chance to get you there. That feels a lot more transactional than I usually like to be.

But I think that's the landscape that we're in now, when you're talking about half or more than half of freshman college classes being built from the Early Decision Group. So that's part of it. And then I think the other expectations piece that we run into, like so many other, really, it's a luxury to live in a state that has excellent public, higher education. And so families here, they look at the benefit of Georgia Tech, UGA, Georgia State, and anywhere outside of Georgia in the US has to sort of compete with the prospect of the cost of those places. And many of our families look at Georgia Tech. And if they're really sort of boiling it down to a return on investment idea, you can look at the starting salary for a kid from Georgia Tech compared to what your out of pocket cost is going to be if you're an in state student that's being at least partly or fully funded towards tuition from the Hope Scholarship.

Many of my families have said, and it's hard to argue with this, they've said like, Well, my kid graduates from high school, I'm basically gonna get a raise, because Georgia Tech will be less expensive than high school was. And on the back end of that the starting salaries for these kids is, you know, 75k a year. Yeah. Now, the trade off is that just because of those numbers you can consume on the front end doesn't mean that it's the right fit for the kid once they get through. So really trying to sort of manage the understanding of what are each of these places going to provide for the student experience once you're there and is that really the right fit for the student? himself or herself and knowing that you might be better off and you can If If cost of driving part of that you can use knowledge and savvy and resources that we can provide to have other places that aren't just Georgia Tech, or that aren't just UGA or Georgia State, I'm competing at a somewhat similar cost.

And you can do that more readily. Especially if you're willing to look outside of the US where the cost for some of these world renowned places in the UK or in Canada, for an American student, is still significantly less than if you were paying for either full pocket, public tuition or private tuition costs at private colleges in the States. So we have a little bit of a cultural sort of piece here that helps us where I think our family are open to the idea of, oh, well, I can attend McGill for less than I can spend going to Boston University, and you say, okay, like, now we're now we're really getting into a pretty nuanced and more savvy approach to how you're looking not just the cost, but also the fit and combining all those things, to keep as many doors and options open as you can.

Venkat Raman  36:24  

So are you finding that international looking at international options, is the main the key driver is cost, or I'm sure that other parameters depending on where the student is from or where they're interested in. But is that one of the big drivers you feel or what are some of the other things that...

Tyler S  36:47  [Choosing US, Int’l Colleges]

it's part of that is not, it's not always the the leading factor, and oftentimes with the students that I work with here, and, again, I'm really privileged to be in a place where as an IB school, these kids have been taught to be intellectually curious and open minded, and collaborative and innovative, all throughout the curriculum here. And that curriculum is also one that makes it really predictable, to show a student, what types of requirements they need to have to be admissible to someplace out of the US.

So one of the really beautiful things and some of our American families are, like pleasantly surprised by this, one of the beautiful things about the admissions process at schools, out of the US is if you're an IB student, they give you fairly transparent minimum marks that they want you to have on the IB diploma, and sometimes in certain classes to be admitted to the program or the academic course that you're interested in. And so we can sit down with the student at the start of grade 11. And say, if you're interested in going to one of these colleges in the Netherlands, for example, here's what you're shooting for. And they'll give you a conditional offer of admission, if you can show those exam scores as predicted marks early in grade 12. And so one of the really beautiful things and the reason that our kids are able to look far beyond the US is that the IB is built to do that.

Yeah, and that's a real advantage. I think that we have over our peer schools, which are more heavily reliant on AP classes that don't quite have that same predictability in how they're viewed out of the state. And so, sometimes what happens is a family says, oh, okay, well, if I can explore places that are both predictable in terms of where I might be admitted, and what I need to do to get there. And in many of these universities, I might have a shorter time to completion of my degree and get right into what I want to study immediately. And that's many of our families, that's the biggest difference is, you're applying directly to an academic course. One of the schools that our students look at in the UK, and you're not going to have the liberal arts experience that you might have for your first year or two of college in the States. But the trade off is that if you really have a good sense of what you want to do, you get right into it, you specialize earlier, and oftentimes you're done faster, and you're off to whatever is next and and working. And so that time to the time that degree completion is also one of those things that for a lot of families is is really appealing. And then does, you know, and the and sort of tie back to that idea of, of the economic piece and the return on investment where you say, All right, you only have to do this for three years to get the credential that you need to go do Do what you want to do. And because of that, you know, we don't need to sink costs into the general education required chemistry class that you have zero interest in, but we'll have to take at an American institution during your first two years. So there are there are trade offs, all of that, right, you know, some of the valuable experiences that I have looking back, as someone who sort of was, as I joked at the start, like, was not on the college counseling career path as a high school student. Absolutely. Some of the most valuable experiences were the classes that I had to take and sort of begrudgingly walked into, and then by the end of the semester, was like, I think I'm going to be a sociology minor, which I was, having had no exposure to a subject like that in, in high school. So it's neither none of these things are sort of perfect systems, but they are all options that a family can, can explore based on again, just kind of where the student is, and what is best for them at that point in their education.

Venkat Raman  41:09  

You know, if you're talking to a ninth grader or a 10th grader, would also schools in, you know, in the US and outside factor in the initial discussions, or is that something that you introduce, you know, as time goes by,

Tyler S  41:25  [Starting in 9th Grade]

So, the way that I think about it is we sort of we come from the background, more into the foreground each year, during Upper School. So in grade nine, we work with the people who support the kids more than we work with the kids directly. And by the end of grade nine, were then in front of the students in one of their advisory meeting times, where we just sort of showcase your finishing grade nine. At this point, like, what's really important important is having a strong foundation of study skills. If you feel like you're not quite settled socially, this is the time to begin feeling like you're you're connecting to this place, the stakes are pretty low right now, in terms of college admission stuff. And by the way, you should know that as an AIS student, you have so many incredible options all around the globe. And so early on, it's just, you're in a great place, do the things that the people around you that are providing the scaffolding, are encouraging you to do and keep an open mind. And we can showcase to you all the different options that that will result in. By the time you get to grade 11, when you're really exploring colleges. So that's grade nine grade 10, we're a little more deliberate in that we're then working with students as they pick the classes they'll take during grade 11 and 12. So the IB diploma is, it's a two year commitment to each of your courses, right? So that has some different stakes for our students. In that it's really important you get fit into the right higher level classes, the right standard level classes, courses that really meet your intellectual interests, that will challenge you appropriately, so that you can be successful over two years, because you don't have that luxury of taking a grade 11 course that you decide you don't love. And so by grade 12, it's over and you replaced it with something else. If you've signed up for higher level physics in grade 11, you're expected to complete higher level physics over two years of a really demanding course. Sure. And then on the back end of that, that also sometimes dictates options that students have if they're looking outside of the US for colleges. So if a kid wants to apply to a business course in the UK, then they need to have in many cases, certain IB classes for admissions to that program. If a student wants to attend college in Germany, there's certain math requirements they need to have. And so we make sure on the front end that students are considering those possibilities as they're picking courses. And we're really transparent with students and families around the doors that you keep open the doors that you might need to close based on picking the appropriate two year curriculum for you as you get through to DP and at the end of this again, the goal is 100% of our students embark upon the DP. And by the end of it it's it's pretty close to 95% of students finished the full diploma program and so it's a little unique in that it's not unlike some of our the local public schools or other IB schools that I've read applications from this isn't it's not a A select program for a small group of kids. It's just kind of the only the only game that's here.

Venkat Raman  45:09  

So let's let's talk a little bit about, you know, how things have changed? And what does it mean for college applications today? You mentioned that, if it was 10 years ago, things were much easier. Tell us why it's harder now. And also, what does it mean, for college applicants of tomorrow, as in, you know, maybe in the next six months, and next couple of years? What's different? What do they have to consider? What did they have to factor in?

Tyler S  45:41  [Changing Landscape]

Yeah, I think. You know, I joke that had 10 years ago was easier and 10 years before that, it was probably easier, a lot of that has to do with me, some of that just has to do with the the, well, a couple of things. So we're in this unique moment where colleges for the last five, six years have been planning towards this population of Clif. So the number of students college age students in the US at least is tapering off and now expected to drop.

If you look at data from this year that the Common Application, for example has put out, you're seeing on the whole more applications, overall, more applications per student, and specifically, the biggest application growth at schools that are considered selective, so admitting fewer than 50% of the students that apply.

So what's happened is we're, we're not getting more kids. Yeah, we're getting more applications, we're getting more applications per student. And it's tending to move more concentratedly towards selective schools and towards the schools that tend to get the most attention in the media and through families. And this leading to this sort of, it's almost this barbell sort of curve behavior where you've got all this interest in highly selective schools, and then you've got all of these schools that are really desperate for students. But and are losing enrollment, and especially post COVID are losing enrollment, and are not able to keep up so so you have this really imbalanced demand for places that Yeah, at some of these selective schools means that the rich can keep getting richer, in a sense, right?

So you see, schools that are adding applications, and then that was really kind of accelerated by places that have gone and now remained test optional, which Yep, on the whole is, I think, a really positive change. But it isn't a factor that makes things more complex. And it makes things a little bit more complex for families, I think, at schools, like the one that I work at, where there's a lot of pressure around testing, and for our families who aren't coming from an American background, there's not a whole lot of experience with the SAT or the ACT.

And so we're, I think, as a profession, we're not really totally sure just yet, what tests optional means if they as long term at some of these highly selective places, and what assumptions might be made for certain communities and certain demographics of students. So when you look at test optional as a driver for more access, and more diversity, that is a really powerful outcome that we're seeing in some of these places that for a long time, have desperately been trying, and I worked at one of them had been trying really hard to get more underrepresented populations.

And it seems like now we've removed one of these barriers, or at least a perceived barrier so that students are able and I watched, there was a news hour piece that came out, I think yesterday and they spoke with John Latting, at Emory. And he was talking about this that and they interviewed a student is really compelling young woman who had an ACT score that was going to be far below the middle 50% And really great grades and probably wouldn't have applied to Emory if they weren't test optional, applied, got in, got the full funding she needed to enroll as having this incredible experience. And so those stories I think are really powerful.

Tyler S  49:52  

And also, I think the uncertainty of the long term commitment to test optional is one of those Things that for younger families, they're watching really closely. And then on the other end of that, when you look at these pretty big differences in what percentage of admitted students did and didn't submit test scores, yeah, now that we're out of the initial disruption of COVID, that caused so many places to become test optional, the assumption is not for many students that they weren't able to take the test, because those, those barriers are gone, the test centers open kids are able to do test prep.

And so I now have students who were really concerned about initially, the the wisdom was sort of if your test score falls below the middle 50%, give or take, then that's probably an opportunity and your grades are good. And you feel like you have other standout components in the application, that's probably a good reason to not send your test score, yet. Now I have students and families who are wondering, okay, well, if this particular university only admitted 30% of students without a test score, and the middle 50% range is 30 to 33. And I have a 28. If I don't send that score, are they going to assume that my score was even lower? Yeah. And so it's now there's this, again, it's creating a way for a little bit of of confusion, and some of this may also comes through the test prep industry and other places that are feeding some of this, you know, it's like, well, of course, the tests don't matter, the tests don't matter. And to a degree, that's true. But it creates this this world now where it's like, okay, well, how low is too low? And what are the assumptions being made? And how come this one university admitted.

And I think this is sort of some of the difference, we're seeing the places that have been test optional, pre COVID, who are really confident in their data are admitting 50 55% of their freshman class without test scores. You look back at you know, if you look at George Washington, if you look at Wake Forest, if you look at you, Chicago, places that were committed to this and have good data, I think are more confident admitting a bigger group of the class without the test scores, where some of these places that are just sort of now at the end of this year getting initial data on how their test optional kids fared, I think they'd been more conservative in the size of the freshman admitted group that didn't send test scores. And we'll see what that looks like. Longer term. I think the the really interesting, and probably most beneficial change is being fully tested blind. Yeah. As the UC system has gone. But we're probably a long way from some of the places that make these trends adopting that completely.

Venkat Raman  52:57  

Yeah, and then you had MIT going back? Exactly. Yes.

Tyler S  53:02  

You know, and I like, again, that's one of those sort of education pieces that we just try and, and as many times as we can say to families, that this is not a one size fits all, process for kids the same way that it's not for institutions. And so different institutions are going to make decisions that serve them the best, they're not necessarily doing that with the students best interests in mind. They're serving the institution over the kids and that's understandable, you know, that's, that's part of how this works. But it's it is it's a good reminder to families that different places will behave differently depending on what's best for the institution and not necessarily what's best for applicants. On the whole. They're in the business of serving institution. They're not necessarily in the business of serving applicants until they become students on campus.

Venkat Raman  54:07  

What kind of advice would you have for high schoolers in general about college and the ones who are getting ready to apply what, what are some key things to keep in mind?

Tyler S  54:20  [Advice for Applicants]

I think the most important thing on the on the way into the conversation is taking time to really reflect on and understand what it is that matters to you. And some kids do this more naturally than others. There are plenty of students that I work with and it's like, what do you I don't know what really matters to me at this point. I'm 16. Video games mattered to me. Soccer matters to me. Yeah, good grades mattered to me. And so it's it's sometimes really hard for kids to fix strapless eight, with the things they care about on to a college experience. Yeah.

And so sometimes just starting with like, what do you like about school? Who's your favorite teacher? What did they do that you think? makes them a good teacher? Or that really connects with you? What do you do for fun? What type of people do you hang out with? What types of things do you read, trying to start with, again, the student first and really spending a little bit of time reflecting before you get towards the college thing.

And if you can do that, then we can start building out and identifying where a student might grow into an experience. So be reflective, be open minded. And then be willing to, to chart your own course I think we live in this. Each of our schools have little kind of micro cultures and trends within classes. And we see this every year where there's like, this year, for example, the hot city was Boston, it, we sent more applications to colleges around Boston, than we have in years. And that's fine.

But yeah, I think you need to be willing to look beyond just where your friends are looking or what's familiar. And really try to be true to what you think will provide the best experience for you knowing that it's very unlikely you're going to be with the exact same friends and people you have now on a college campus. And so you don't want to be making your application decisions based on decisions other people are making that are probably not going to end up where you do. So a little bit of independence, and open mind willingness to be reflective. And then as you especially as you get into senior year and the application process.

And this is I think really important for parents as well, looking for, and really looking for keeping an eye out for any of those moments that bring some sense of joy back to this process. And that I think, helps to mitigate the stress that will come with this. We tell families all the time, this is really kind of a it's a pick your own ending sort of adventure. And I have students who apply to one college and they're finished, I have students that apply to 18 colleges against our recommendations. Yeah. And that's fine. It's it's a, it's a pick your own adventure type thing. But whether you're deciding to do this in a way that is going to be a little more work or in a way that's really streamlined and trying to minimize stress, there will be some discomfort that comes with the process.

And I think you have to seek every opportunity that you can to find some joy, and that could be on a college visit, it could be writing an essay that reminds you of something funny or interesting. It can be taking a moment out of working on application things just to send a quick email of gratitude to a teacher who wrote a recommendation for you, but trying to look for those things that keep you grounded and present.

And that try and limit the impact that college applications and decisions have on your ability to enjoy just the rest of senior year we try to reiterate this idea of a senior year well lived involves a whole lot more than just college applications. And if you get so wrapped up in applications and decisions and process, it's really easy to get to this part of the year and look back and go, Man, what the heck happened to all the other parts of senior year that were supposed to be fun.

Tyler S  59:10  

So just looking for any of those ways and for parents to help guide students towards those experiences and those moments that bring you back to what's fun and what matters now and isn't just driven by where you might be a year from now or two years from now. I think that's it's really critical. Some of my favorite moments of applying to college involves college tours that I did with my mom, and I look back and senior year and you know, weren't any other parts of my life that I got to go spend a weekend. Just me and my mom walking around a college campus like wondering, is this a place that I could call home are these people that are my people like what would it be like to live here? What would it actually be like to go to classes? isn't to interact it? Those were, at least for me, like those were special moments. And I think it's important that we we look for those as deliberately as we can.

Venkat Raman  1:00:16  

So Tyler talking, have fun as we start winding down. What keeps it fun for you every day? I mean, you've been doing this for over a decade. What keeps it fun?

Tyler S  1:00:27  [Staying Excited]

Yeah, it's I think there are a lot of different things. I mean, the kids keep it fun. That's the simplest, simplest answer is that. And I've been very fortunate now to work in two different schools with completely different types of kids. But in both environments, I've gotten to interact with really bright, inquisitive, fascinating, funny, quirky, weird, wonderful kids. There's, there's no real substitute for the way that working with teenagers can just sort of help you reframe and gain perspective on what really matters. And they help you in not taking yourself so seriously, which I completely appreciate and need. And then I think one of the one of the fun parts of me is, so much of what we've talked about, that also makes it challenging, you know, it's it's, every year is different, the landscape is always changing. And, for me, there's this real piece of that, that keeps me intellectually engaged in what I'm doing, where I have to learn and understand what the landscape looks like if I'm going to help students and families navigate it. And that challenge is one that I think really keeps me reading and seeking out opportunities to learn from colleagues. And gosh, that I guess that's the third part. So it's fun because of the kids. It's fun, because it's always dynamic and changing. And there's something to learn. And it's fun, because this is a professional with so many really brilliant, interesting, funny, excellent people, the adults that I work with, both in high school and across Atlanta, and then across the world. And being part of this, this network of college counselors has been for me a really, really fun part of this work. And even when it's crazy, and even when none of us really understands what a college did this year, right? We can all get together and say, you know, can you believe that this university has parked this many kids on the waitlist this year? Yeah. They're going to call 200. Kid, how is this going to work. And there are so many people to learn from I have so many, and I mentioned some earlier, but I just have so many colleagues who I admire and who I look up to. And I'm really fortunate to be in a profession where I feel like, there are plenty of days where I know, almost nothing compared to the people that I can learn from. And that is a really nice place to be because you continue to grow, and you can reach out to someone who wants to support you or help you or help you develop professionally. And I don't think that every professional environment out there is quite so tight knit in that way, especially beyond the schools that we just work in day to day. And I think it's something that makes us a little bit unique from, from teachers, I have friends in the teaching community at each of the schools I've worked with who are sort of like, a little bit jealous of work that the college counselors have, beyond just schools, but it keeps it fun and interesting. And, and it keeps us sane when things are unpredictable and a little wild.

Venkat Raman  1:04:12  

No, that sounds great. Sounds like an adventure. And every year is a new adventure. Or maybe it's every day. That's a new adventure, but it's so, Tyler. So Tyler, thank you so much for taking the time sharing your experiences, insights, your views. You've been very generous with your time. Thank you so much. And I'm sure we'll talk more. But for right now. Thank you. Take care, be safe.

Tyler S  1:04:40  

It's been my pleasure. Thank you so much for being interested in a little bit of what I do for work and I hope we'll continue the conversation.

Venkat Raman  1:04:48  

Absolutely. Take care


Venkat  1:04:56

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Tyler Sant of Atlanta International School.

His role is to Guide students to US and International Colleges.

Tyler’s philosophy for counseling has been shaped by his own experience in College Admissions at Emory.

  • Building authentic, trusting relationships
  • Believing that Every Student should own their experience
  • Working with Parents and Families of Students
  • Bridging the gap between students’ needs and interests and the families’ needs and interests

I hope students and parents find Tyler’s counsel helpful.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at [].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on forward slash podcasts [].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit forward slash almamatters [] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Podcast for High Schoolers, US Colleges, College Podcast, High School Counselor, High School Students, College Counseling, College Admissions, College Application, Extracurricular, Applying to US Colleges, Atalanta International School, AIS, Atlanta, Georgia, Advice for High School Students,Managing Expectations, Applying Early, Dream Colleges.

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