Daniel McElroy: How did you become a college counselor and what led you to ESM?
Josh Davis: Both my parents are educators who worked in the international school system, so I was constantly around teachers, families, expats—that’s just what I was used to and what I was comfortable with. And I had always thought about how there wasn’t really a system of mentors for us, as young international students.
And originally when I was looking to get back into education, I had been teaching for a while and I had gotten into this routine of getting to know students very well for a semester or two and then having them move on to other classes and teachers. But I wanted to do more and focus on the wider educational impact I could have. I wanted to be this presence for students they could be accountable to and who they felt was invested in them and their success, and I knew that my 3 years of experience working in the Yale Admissions office could provide valuable insight.
That’s where counseling came in, and with ESM it was the perfect marriage of all these things where you could focus on all the aspects of education tangibly and kind of see your impact come to fruition.
DM: What about this work energizes you?
JD: Helping students figure themselves out goes without saying, but one thing I love about my job is talking to parents. Especially a phone call where the mom or dad is a little bit frustrated with the student, and I get to reassure them that it’s all going to be okay. I always know the kids are going to be fine—of course there are going to be ups and downs—but I never really worry about them. It’s being able to put parents at ease by reminding them it’s okay for their kids to make mistakes and that I’m going to be there to support them that makes me really feel great at the end of the day.
DM: What do you wish you’d known as a junior in high school yourself, and would knowing it have changed anything about where you’re at today?
JD: I think about that quite a bit. I always use my own vulnerabilities as part of my process with students and sometimes I tell them I wish I had gone even deeper into my passion—basketball. I often ask myself if I really maximized my potential, or did I take shortcuts with my work ethic? I wish I had been more honest with myself at the time about how much it meant to me, and then treated my dream of going pro as seriously as I could have.
Sometimes students are overwhelmed when I ask them, “What’s your dream?” And I always preface it with the fact that, even though I didn’t get to the ultimate professional ranks, I still followed my dreams by coaching basketball and commentating, and at the end of the day I was still so happy with how far I did get. And I kind of half jokingly dreamed my dreams! So I always tell students to really believe in their dreams all the way, because that’s going to open so many doors. Even if you fall short, you’re going to get close to something that’s equally invigorating or fulfilling.
DM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
JD: Ok so it’s a Will Smith saying that’s basically about the same thing as my last point. “Don’t focus too much on your Plan B because it will distract from your Plan A.” It’s not saying you shouldn’t have a Plan B, but it’s the same idea that if you really believe in your key passion, your one thing, it will take care of a lot of other things. Side note/true story: Denzel Washington gave me love advice, in front of my dad, on my first day moving into college.
DM: Do you have any hidden talents or unexpected passions? If so, what?
JD: I used to do a bunch of commentating for FIBA (the International Basketball Federation). I don’t do it much anymore aside from here and there in my free time, but it’s led to some pretty cool experiences. My commentary on Luka Dončić was used ahead of the NBA draft, and I met Kobe Bryant a couple months before he passed away when he was the ambassador for the World Cup and I was commentating.