University of Colorado Boulder

University of Colorado Boulder College Visit Review #CUBoulder

When we heard that The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) spring conference was going to be held in Denver, visiting CUBoulder was one of our top priorities. An easy one hour trip by public bus from airport to campus, once we got on campus, we could see firsthand the appeal. Views of the Flatirons form the backdrop to this picture-perfect campus of sandstone buildings with red-tile roofs. Bicycles and bike racks are omnipresent, and students are friendly and easygoing. We visited during finals (not ideal!) but there were plenty of students around to talk with. And the libraries were bustling with students studying, but they did not seem tense.


For a large, public university, 85% of classes have 50 or fewer students. Students form close relationships with professors and through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) can do research as early as freshman year.  Signature programs include Aerospace Engineering, Business, Music, and a new Media and Communications program. The range of academic abilities varies, but overall students are more collaborative than competitive.

Our tour guide came from Tennessee where she attended a highly academic private school. Initially she looked at highly selective private colleges in the South, but after visiting Boulder she was attracted to the more balanced, laid back vibe and the excellent honors program.  At first she was nervous about Boulder’s reputation as a party school, but she was pleasantly surprised when she came and instead found a really nice mix of students. She is also able to do a lot of things and she’s very active both academically in research and as a tour guide. She had a lot of AP credits and that helped her get higher standing academically, which gives her even more flexibility to explore her options.  She has also gotten involved in the UROP (University Research Opportunities Program).

Academic Support

Boulder also offers strong academic support including free tutoring for students in freshman dorms. Every department offers dorm tutors.  Students who need additional academic support can submit their paperwork after May 15 to apply for any accommodations they need.  More and more kids need accommodations and Boulder has made them available.  

Campus Life/Student Body

“Buffs” are attracted to the outdoor lifestyle and the students tend to connect through sports and outdoor activities such as ultimate Frisbee and skiing. The admissions officer described them as healthy, optimistic, friendly, ruddy-cheeked and excited about life.

Greek life exists, but is not an overwhelming presence. Sports facilities are top notch including a stunning, picturesque basketball gym with full glass walls overlooking the mountains. The Student Recreation Center is also home to a state-of the-art climbing wall, an ice arena, indoor and outdoor pools, and multiple fitness studios.

Bikes and longboards pepper the campus as primary mode of transportation on the campus. The ski/snowboard club is biggest club on campus and they sponsor Sleep to the Slopes which transports a packed bus of kids at 5 am to the local mountains for hiking, skiing and snowboarding every weekend.

Freshmen live on campus and there are a variety of residential/academic living options: major-based living and learning, hobby-based living and learning, and new in 2017 FIGs (First Year Interest Groups) focused on specialized academic topics (examples include Sustainable Communities and Cultures, Social Justice).

About 90% of students move off-campus after freshman year and live about 10 minutes away in “the Hill” neighborhood. There is no need for a car as buses run on campus and to Walmart and Target and every 15 minutes to Denver. Students receive a free bus pass.

Game days are big at Boulder and there is lots of school spirit. For $99, students have season tickets to both football and basketball games. All other sporting events are free. CU buses fans into Denver for special games.


CU Boulder home to 26,000 undergraduates, 30,000 students total. About 40% of students come from outside of Colorado.

CU Boulder is Common Application exclusive and students are strongly encouraged to apply EA as they give rolling responses. Students are automatically considered for merit scholarships, there are some merit scholarships available for out-of-state students. They encourage all applicants to file the FAFSA for scholarship consideration. They consider weighted GPAs as reported by your high school, and they superscore the SAT but do not superscore the ACT.

The College of Arts & Sciences is, by far, the largest college and the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Leeds School of Business are the most competitive colleges. Students apply directly to a major, and if a student applies to one of the more selective programs or colleges and is not admitted, they will be automatically considered for admission to the College of Arts & Sciences. It is possible to move from Arts & Sciences to Business, but it is extremely difficult to transfer into Engineering.

The profile of the middle 50% of accepted students into Engineering is weighted GPA of 3.87-4.0, ACT of 29-33, new SAT of 1290-1470. They are particularly interested in grades in math and science classes and pre-calculus is the lowest math they’ll consider. Calculus is more the norm. Aerospace, Mechanical, Computer Science and Chemical engineering are among the most competitive majors. There is an Open Option within the College of Engineering and there is no penalty for undecided students making that selection.

Business majors have a GPA of 3.54-4.0, ACT of 27-31, and new SAT of 1270-1380. Grades in math classes are very important.

Mid-50% admission statistics for Arts & Sciences are: GPA 3.37-4.0, ACT 24-30, new SAT 1170-1350.


CU Boulder is a solid choice for an outdoor enthusiast who wants the advantages of a big research university and big sports. The cities of Boulder and Denver are easily accessible and offer a multitude of cultural activities.

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