Fall City woman offers sound college advice

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BELLEVUE - Claire Nold-Glaser of Fall City does whatever she can to create a relaxed ambiance in her Bellevue office.

On one of her bookcases is a small fountain with water running over rocks, and she lights her office with the soft glow of lamps rather than overhead fluorescent lighting.

She wants everyone to feel relaxed because they are making some of the most important decisions of their lives. As a college planning and educational counselor, Nold-Glaser has spent a lot of time leading children, and their parents, through what has become the long, frustrating and confusing task of choosing the right college.

"It's amazing how much infrastructure there is to this decision," Nold-Glaser said. "It's actually a pretty simple process."

As a high-school guidance counselor, Nold-Glaser spent eight years helping students make college decisions. After getting her master's degree at City University in guidance and counseling, she taught at Ferndale High School, Eastside Catholic High School and Bellevue High School. Through the years, Nold-Glaser saw her students presented with more opportunities than she had growing up.

"When I graduated ('79), no one thought of going to school out of state," Nold-Glaser said.

She also saw how complicated the whole process had become and was frustrated with how little time she was able to spend with each student. Businesses that seemed to bully or scare families into buying their college advice book or taking their college services were especially irritating. Wanting to spend more time with students, she decided to start her own business as an independent counselor two years ago.

"I feel really passionate about families not being ripped off in the process [of applying for colleges]," Nold-Glaser said.

Although she is in the business of offering advice and help, Nold-Glaser said one of the main problems in choosing the right school is that everyone has advice on how to get into college. Her job is to glean the good advice from the bad and give families something more manageable than the mountain of paperwork they are given the last couple years of high school. By being an objective and knowledgeable observer to the process, Nold-Glaser hopes to intertwine a bit of unbiased advice to everyone involved.

"We're all in this together," Nold-Glaser said. "Myself, the students, the parents, the school guidance counselor and college admissions counselors."

Although she has clients who are as young as freshmen in high school, Nold-Glaser's first advice is to get students to the college fairs held in the spring of their sophomore years. The purpose of the fairs is not to lock students into a career path or school choice, but to get them to realize there is life after high school and that the choices they make their junior year will be crucial in determining what happens after they graduate.

Once a child is committed to giving college a try, Nold-Glaser will meet with them to develop an idea of where they would like to go and what they would like to study. She'll have them take a personality preferences and vocational interests inventory to discover some skills they may have and with what kind of learning style they would excel. They also develop a plan for researching colleges, preparing for tests and getting together material for college applications. Nold-Glaser knows that students come in all different personality types and she wants to serve those who have only a vague idea of what they want to do, as well as those who have their path to graduate school planned.

She also wants to dispel the myth that college is only for those who have walked the straight and narrow academic path. In the class of 2004, the GPAs of her clients ranged from 2.6 to 4.0, and she has helped children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and learning disabilities apply for colleges.

Along the way she will pepper students with hints she has gathered from experience. For example, don't ignore small schools. Some believe only Division I schools are worthwhile and nothing could be further from the truth. Canada has good schools, which more and more Americans are attending. Also, when visiting a college campus, Nold-Glaser tells students to go to where the food is. Prospective students are given a polished speech when they visit campuses, so she encourages them to talk to the everyday student who is eating lunch in the student union.

"People are happy to talk about their college experience," Nold-Glaser said.

To develop her knowledge base, Nold-Glaser goes on trips to campuses all over the United States. She recently got back from Rhode Island, and this summer she'll head to Maine and Minnesota. She is a member of two professional organizations, the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), which both have strict sets of ethical standards that prevent Nold-Glaser from being a cheerleader for any particular school. She also doesn't help families hide money so they can be eligible for more student aid, so don't ask.

Some people may be content getting their recommendation from one of the magazine listings that come out every year, but Nold-Glaser wishes they would just go away. She despises the term "top-tier school," and said the rankings are misleading because they give too much weight to some schools while completely ignoring others. She is more of a fan of books like Steven Antonoff's "The College Finder," which lists top schools for specific needs. Listed are schools that have everything from the best opportunities for volunteerism, to those that have a strong conservative political bent to the campus.

After she brings students along the path of applying for schools and then waiting for a response, Nold-Glaser becomes involved in what she said is the highlight of her job. The best part is hearing that students are accepted and then keeping in touch with them as they live out their years of higher education.

"I have had a lot of great lunches," she said.

Nold-Glaser knows people go to college for many different reasons. Some want to learn a particular set of skills for a specific career, while others are looking for a broad, liberal arts education. No matter what the reason, college is a great experience and Nold-Glaser wants to make sure everyone gets a chance to go without losing their minds and money in the process.

"College is such a great opportunity to explore and expand your mind," she said.

* Nold-Glaser can be reached at (425) 373-1192 or by e-mail at

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at

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