One of my current senior advisees was just accepted to Colorado State University. I had hoped to come to campus during the summer of 2020, but the pandemic cancelled my plans. However, I’ve learned enough about Colorado State University to share my virtual impressions. I found lots of photos of the campus and community on Pinterest. Friends in the counseling world shared photos with me, which I will use in this post. There’s also a student-developed YouTube page called A Ram’s Life that’s worth checking out. There’s a lot to unpack, so read on!
The university was founded in 1870, but I saw more buildings in a virtual visit that were built well over a century later. There’s an emphasis on “rustic” brown and green blending with plants on some building walls. The campus looks very easy to navigate on foot or by bike. Access to mountains and outdoor recreation in Colorado or Wyoming is also very easy. It’s impossible to come here and find nothing to do on-campus or nearby.
I have previously reported on two other Colorado schools: Colorado College and the University of Denver. Both attract students from neighboring “fly over” states as well as Texas and both coasts. The same holds true for Colorado State University. Colorado State has over 3,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com in each one of these metro areas: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York. There are over 2,500 alumni in each one of these metro areas: Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and Washington DC. Over 66,000 are based in or around Denver.
But while CU Boulder plays varsity scholarship sports in the high-profile PAC-12, Colorado State competes in the Mountain West Conference. These schools are football rivals. But CU-Boulder usually has the better team and certainly has the larger following. My virtual impressions is that the students are happy. But they are less likely to attend alumni watch parties than CU-Boulder alums after they graduate. In addition, Greek life is not overly popular, attracting less than five percent of the men and less than six percent of the women. However, Colorado State students love their mascot, ‘Cam the Ram’ , shown below. Cam is one of the few live college mascots that students can pet up close.
Colorado State’s most notable athletic alum, in my opinion, is women’s basketball star Becky Hammon, recently named head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the WNBA New York Liberty in 1999, she became a six-time all star over a 16-year professional career. As an assistant coach for eight years with the San Antonio Spurs, she became the first female acting head coach in NBA history.
During the virtual information session I heard that downtown Fort Collins was the model for Disneyland’s Main Street USA. Check out these photos below and see for yourself. Over a fifth of Colorado State alumni registered in LinkedIn.com, a community of nearly 45,000 people, remained in the Fort Collins area.
Through this handy tool I learned that:
It’s not hard to get into either school from Colorado or elsewhere. While Colorado State is test optional, the middle 50 percent for those who submitted SAT scores ranged between 1090 and 1250. For those who submitted ACT scores the range was between 23 and 29. The average GPA was a 3.7 unweighted. The same numbers will probably get you into CU-Boulder. However, if you come from outside Colorado, Colorado State will be the better value for your money.
A member of the multi-state Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), Colorado State attracted 40 percent of its current freshman class from out of state. WUE non-resident tuition and fees are $21,600, an incredible value for the money. Residents of other states may qualify for merit scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $10,000/year off a non-resident charge of $31,600.
A New Jersey resident who can get into the main campus at Rutgers would pay less to go to Colorado State than she would pay to go to UDel, UMass-Amherst, Penn State-University Park or the University of Maryland-College Park. She would definitely pay a lot less than she would to go to the University of Colorado-Boulder. That school charges more and is far less generous with merit aid. On average 2021 graduates who took out loans owed just under $26,000. That’s $1,000 less than the maximum they could have borrowed under the Federal Student Loan Program.
While many flagship state schools admit freshmen to honors by invitation, Colorado State invites admitted students with a 3.8+ unweighted high school GPA to apply. If you like Colorado State and have the grades and a strong extracurricular resume, don’t be afraid to apply for Honors. Honors students receive a far more personalized education–in any major–within a fairly large (27,000 undergrads) school. Honors housing is very nice and there is additional financial support as you advance in your academic program. The downside: this program welcomes only 400 freshmen each year, so admissions will be quite competitive. Colorado State has about the same number of undergrads as UMass-Amherst, a very similar school that I have visited. Yet UMass-Amherst has nearly twice as many honors students.
Colorado State is Colorado’s Land Grant University. It offers several majors in agriculture, animal studies and natural resources that you cannot get at CU-Boulder and many other public universities. The more unique programs that attract incoming freshmen to Colorado State include Zoology, Animal Science, and Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. The top majors by job placement rates include Biomedical Engineering, Restoration Ecology, Equine Science, Environmental Engineering and Apparel and Merchandising.I have never seen a school that listed as many concentrations within their majors as Colorado State. A plus of having so many majors: it’s easy to find course to fulfill your core requirements, even in the subjects you are weakest. There are also many minors that are tough to find elsewhere.
If you walk into Colorado State undecided there is an Exploratory Studies program. However, it is easy for a freshman and an academic advisor to become confused about possible majors when so many choices are available. It seems difficult to enter totally undecided on a major, then hope to transfer into most of the STEM and health-related programs.
I took a data dive into the school and found that it lost nearly a fifth (18 percent) of the freshmen who began their education in Exploratory Studies in 2018, 2019 and 2020. This might help explain why over half of a freshman class does not graduate on time. By comparison, the business school, the College of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences had retention rates closer to 90 percent. If you are drawn to Colorado State, write down three to six possible majors, check out the paths to declaring them, and try to be sure that you can graduate on time. Classes are likely to be large at the start, unless you get into the Honors College. About a fifth of all classes taught during the last academic year had over 50 students.
Fort Collins also has a housing ordinance that mandates that only three unrelated people can live together in an off-campus house or apartment. These ordinances exist in many other college towns, especially those that host large public universities that cannot house the majority of their students. However, Fort Collins is also an attractive place for young people to live and work full time . So, rentals near campus will be more expensive than some families might like. Colorado State is one school where families should weigh the costs of owning a car against the costs of conveniently located off-campus housing.
Unless you are looking for a “spirit and sports” vibe, Colorado State University can be a great place to spend four years. It’s a great buy for a B+/A- student who wants to attend a very large university. However, Colorado State also appears to be a place where you can become confused or distracted if you are drawn to the setting, but do not have some ideas as to what you would like to study.
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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