Welcome to college in Colorado. No matter if you’re brand new around here or you were born here with the skis on your feet, you’re in for a real treat.
To help get you all settled in and ready for the road ahead, we’ve put together this guide to prep you for a life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.
Chapter One: Coloradan Conversation Starters
Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Colorado is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Coloradan, you gotta know a thing or two about 'em first. You can't just spout off a bunch of facts from the state's Wikipedia page on populations and state birds and all. You gotta go for a way, way deeper dive.
When trying to assimilate to local culture, try out a few of these conversation starters:
- You’ll get your mouth washed out with soap if you mention junk food around here. Colorado is a state known for its healthy eating with a restaurant scene that caters right to it. Even the meats around here are grass fed and organic. And if you’ve just gotta have a burger, ask someone where to find the best bison burger in town.
- Most true Coloradans are born with bindings on their feet, skiing straight out of the womb. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the hobby now. Just ask where the best powder is and hit the slopes over the weekend.
- Starting a conversation with someone’s hard enough when you don’t know what to say, but try it when you don’t have the breath to say it. The entire state of Colorado rests over 10,000 feet above sea level, which will literally leave you breathless. Just keep your chatting with nice short sentences and remember to keep those lungs moving.
Chapter Two: Where to Crash
If you’re not already set on living in the dorms, you’re going to need to know where to lay your ever-growing head at night. So let’s talk about the hot rentals around the area.
According to rentcafe.com, the home of the University of Colorado, Boulder, has one-bedroom apartments averaging around $1,983/month — yikes! In Fort Collins, though, you’ll be paying a more reasonable $1,548 on average. Better, but remember that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby suburbs for a few hundred less.
PRO TIP: If you put two to three bunk beds in every room and grab a bunch more roommates, your rent will be dirt cheap!
Chapter Three: What's with These Locals?
To live among Coloradans, it’s best if you understand them. To start off, when you think of Coloradans, you probably picture some super-fit, twice-a-day yogi who drinks kale smoothies like they’re going out of style. Ha, as if kale smoothies would ever go out of style.
But actually, Colorado is full of all kinds of different cool people. There are plenty of outdoorsy types who take full advantage of the state’s hiking, biking, rock climbing, off-roading, and camping. There are health nuts who love the easy access to organic, locally grown, vegan foods. There are hipsters who love outdoor concerts and beards just as much as they love irony. Colorado is also full of gym rats, beer snobs, ranchers, ski fanatics (who joke that winter is just "ski season") and die-hard Denver Broncos fans. So a pretty eclectic bunch, that’s for sure.
Natives often brag about the authentic Mexican food around here. Coloradans definitely like things spicy, and some say they put green chilies on top of pretty much anything and everything. They also love their game meats like bison and elk. Order a nice bison burger smothered with green chilies, and you're sure to impress the locals and make some fast friends.
Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town
Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Colorado life, it’s time to focus on those studies. But everyone knows how distracting roommates, video games, and fridges can be when you’re trying to focus. So why not try some of the great sights and local hot spots for a little study sesh? Here are a few places we recommend:
- The Stanley Hotel: Like it’s been said, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." So why not escape the bustle of the city for the incredible Rocky Mountain views that surround this century-plus old hotel known for being the place that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining? Now if you’re trying to write a novel, it may not be very effective.
- Garden of the Gods: This National Natural Landmark has been called "paradise in one magical stop." Located in Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak, this park features ginormous red rock formations, hiking trails, camping, Jeep and Segway tours, horseback riding, and photo ops galore.
- In a Ski Chalet: Warm up by the fire in a plush leather chair with a warm blanket and a laptop. Ahhhh, just right.
- Any coffeeshop: Pretty much every Colorado town, especially the college towns, are packed with unique coffeehouses dedicated to the perfect cup of coffee and ambience. Whether you’re into loud jazz or chill hop, you’ll find a place that’s just right for the way you get down with your studies.
Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Colorado
One of the best things about college are the weekends. And Colorado has plenty of incredible things to do, see, smell, and eat to rest your mind from all that studying you’ve been doing. Here are a few of our favorite local things to do:
- Fifty-Two 80's: You may have no idea what the ‘80s were all about, but your parents do, and they used to be cool. This museum in Denver is completely dedicated to '80s popular culture in what's been described as a "tightly packed womb of nostalgia." Vintage items are on sale to the public, including toys, clothes, and other memorabilia. There are pinball machines, classic video games, and bins stuffed with all kinds of trading cards. You'll find Garbage Pail Kids, Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears, Ghostbusters, New Kids on the Block, Atari, and many, many more.
- Tiny Town + Railroad: Why go to a full-sized town when you can explore one much faster in tiny little fun-size? In Morrison, you can roam a charming miniature village that'll give you a "glimpse into the wholesome fun of yesteryear." What began as a gift to the creator's daughter in 1921 expanded to an attraction large enough to open to the public within just five years of additions. There are tiny homes, stores, schools and even tiny lakes, most likely filled with tiny fish.
- Manitou Incline: Located right outside of Manitou Springs in Cascade, this crazy-steep hiking trail will have you climbing 2,000 feet in less than a mile. The trail is located along old cable car tracks, and is a favorite "tough" workout among locals. Estimates of the time it takes to reach the top average around 40 minutes. Just watch out for signs of altitude sickness.
- Skiing: No better way to get classes and studying off your mind than speeding down a double black diamond slope through the Rockies. And there are plenty of spots around here for that.
- Visit the Parks: More than one third of the entire state of Colorado is owned by the federal government, making it the largest park system in the nation with over 205 different city parks and 20,000 acres of mountain land. You’re sure to find a spot that you’ll never forget.
Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene
Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after graduation or maybe you’re still undeclared. Either way, we’re so sure you’re going to want to stick around after the ceremony that we should probably talk about the local market and which careers are hot right now around town.
To start with, Colorado’s unemployment rate is only 3.0%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is impressively low compared to the national average of 4.1%. The minimum wage in the state is also pretty nice. At $10.20/hour, it’s well above the federal minimum of $7.25/hour, according to minimum-wage.org. Things already seem pretty optimistic.
But let’s talk specifics. What are all the cool jobs in this cool state? Well, the fastest-growing gigs at the moment, as listed by zippia.com, include interpreter/translator, miner, home health aid, diagnostic medical sonographer, esthetician, information security analyst, cement mason, and insulation installer. But if you wanna know where the real money is, the highest-paying opportunities right now include OB/GYN, anesthesiologist, surgeon, psychiatrist, airline pilot, CEO and pediatrician.
Can you work with those? If not, nothing to worry about, the opportunities around here are as plentiful as the ski slopes.
Chapter Seven: Pack Your Skis, ‘Cuz Here You Come
All right folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Colorado college life. It's true that we can't pack in absolutely everything that's important to consider before making a huge cross-country move, but we hope we helped you get the ball rolling.
Good luck. And remember to breath big, and often.