Road Trip: "Aha!" Moments at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Who would have thought that the University of Colorado would be abbreviated “CU”? That, however, isn’t the Aha! that matters.  With an 80% acceptance rate overall (67% for regular decision) and a ranking of #92 by US News you might not expect academic rigor.  But, Aha! CU is ranked 12th in Aerospace / Aeronautical / Astronautical Engineering and is consistently among the top universities in the country to receive NASA funding…which leads to opportunities in research and more. CU is a tier-one research institution with a focus on undergraduate research (UROP, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program provides small funding grants to hundreds of students each year). Note that, of the approximately 31,000 students on DU’s campus 26,000 of them are undergraduates.

After the information session and tour I was fortunate enough to run into Clare Yang, Aerospace Advisor for CU, Boulder as I spent time walking through the engineering quad.  She was full of energy and information about their program and conveyed that it has four areas of focus:
o   Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation
o   Bioastrostronautics
o   Remote Sensing and Earth Space Sciences
o   Vehicle Sensing

She has found over the years that, “Students usually know that they want Areo between the ages of 3 and 14.”  She shared that students can be directly admitted to the Aerospace program (Ryan Kriste is Admissions Officer that handles engineering); their admits have a 3.8 min unweighted GPA and 32-36 in ACT Math. Ms. Yang provided advice as well: 80% of the Areospace curriculum requires software programing, so get familiar in high school with MatLab, C++, Java, etc. Freshmen in the program do research.  Students cannot do a study abroad. When you leave CU with a degree from Areospace you often will take a job in Mechanical or Electrical engineering and Orbital Sciences will likely recruit you.  CU is Orbital Sciences 5th priority in recruiting across the nation – behind MIT, Stanford, CalTech, and Michigan. Not surprisingly, seventeen astronauts are CU alums.

Outside of Areospace, Aha! the Residential Academic Program (RAP) is much more than universities’ more common Living & Learning Communities.  Though CU does have Living & Learning Communities, RAP is comprised of twelve dorms each of a different academic focus where some classes are taken in the dorm with a small class size of fellow hall mates.  Our tour guide, a second semester Freshman, had all but one of his classes through RAP his first semester and two RAP classes his second semester.   He indicated that he had traveled with RAP to both Paris (global tourism class) and San Francisco (entrepreneurship class).  One of the RAPs is for Honors students. Many are one-year programs though some are multiple year programs.  Typically, however, students move off campus after the first year obligation to live on campus.

Consider the University of Colorado if you are looking for a large campus with an undergraduate focus… and if you are interested in aerospace, take a close look.