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Old 03-03-2010, 12:13 PM
 
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Not trying to start a flame war here, just interested in hearing everyone's opinions. Between Boulder and Ft. Collins, which would you say is the best college town of the two, and why? What do you like and dislike about both of them? Looking to hear from people who have lived, worked, and/or gone to school in one or both of these towns.
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Old 03-04-2010, 11:14 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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I don't know anything about the school in Ft. Collins.

I can tell you that UC Boulder is a world class establishment. A large school with a huge student population. Large number of departments with quality staff and professors.
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Old 03-04-2010, 05:22 PM
 
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I've actually lived in both Boulder and Fort Collins. It's the classic case of the flagship state U versus the land grant school. Think Texas/TA&M, Virginia/Virginia Tech, Michigan/Michigan St, Oregon/Oregon St, and actually most states in this country. If you're familiar with those schools, you'll understand the difference right away. The "flagship" school is stereotyped as "wine and cheese", with the more rural land grant school being all "cows and ag." This type of situation is pretty common in the midwest, west, and south (the northeast & California are different than the rest of the states, but that's a whole other story).

Generally speaking, CU Boulder has a better national reputation than CSU. It's a solid top-25 public institution (those rankings shift almost from day to day). CSU is not top-25 overall, but it is one of the top programs in the country in two areas: its vet school, and it's natural resources department (including forestry school). It also is very respectable (but not certainly not top 5), in some engineering disciplines and in agriculture.

It's worth mentioning that Mines in Golden beats out either school in the geosciences, and related engineering disciplines. Mines is arguably one of the very top institutions in the country in those areas. It also has a very solid engineering and hard sciences program even outside of geosciences.

Like most other states with this split, CU has more of a reputation for partying and liberal politics than its more square neighbor, though in truth the Rams of Fort Collins know a thing or two about beer, parties, and various herbs as well. CSU campus is not particularly conservative by any means, but overt political activism is far less a feature of campus life from what I have witnessed.

As a town, Boulder is by far more "hip" than its more northern neighbor. In Boulder, residents are justifiably proud of their town and consider it a "special" place. Part of that specialness is the city's commitment to sustainability, transit, growth management. Fort Collins people like their town, but they don't consider it necessarily "special" in the sense that it's somehow fundamentally different than the rest of Colorado. Indeed, Fort Collins is a lot more like a very typical "nice" American small city. In fact, Disney modeled its main street USA largely on the older parts of Fort Collins. To the south of the campus, Fort Collins resembles a nicely scrubbed version of Anytown, USA. If anything, some might find Fort Collins seriously lacking in grit. Boulder is simultaneously richer and grittier than Fort Collins. It's richer in the sense that the number of truly wealthy in Boulder is vastly higher than Fort Collins, but grittier in the sense that there's also a lot more visible population of homeless, panhandlers, and barefoot ex-students (whether real or not) who think they're homeless but aren't.

A lot of the things about Boulder are also true of Fort Collins. Both towns residents like their town. Both have extensive multi-use trails (Boulder has the creek path, Fort Collins the Poudre and Spring Creek trails), both have invested hugely in open space and recreational facilities, both have a fitness-oriented, outdoor mindset, and both are famous for their microbreweries. And importantly, both towns attract a large numbers of hangers-on, recent alums who can't seem to tear themselves away from their college town and alma mater; which is great for employers of college grads but not great for starting salaries.

To me, the differences in the towns affect the residents a lot more than the students. Basically, the students are mostly cut from the same cloth -- students graduate from the same high schools and go either direction, to CU versus CSU. It is true that CU has a lot more out of state students (and charges the ones who do come a lot more money for the privilege), but both schools increasingly try to recruit out of state students in order to get more money in their budgets. CU campus seems a lot more outspokenly political, but part of that I think is that the non-student population base in Boulder tends to be more engaged politically than in Fort Collins. Boulder is of course very expensive, but again, students don't feel the pinch as much directly due to shared accommodation. The other difference, and this is important, is that Boulder is much more tightly connected to Denver Metro than Fort Collins is, though Boulderites are very loathe to admit this.

But above all, the main difference is that Fort Collins appears a lot more normal than its offbeat neighbor. I think both Boulderites and residents of "the Fort" will agree with that assessment. Whether "normal" is good depends on your point of view.
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Old 03-04-2010, 05:25 PM
 
Location: Hillsboro, OR
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Don't forget the Atmospheric Sciences Dept at CSU. #1 in the country!
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Old 03-05-2010, 10:17 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfox View Post
I've actually lived in both Boulder and Fort Collins. It's the classic case of ... [snip]
Very well written!
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Old 03-05-2010, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Originally Posted by psulions2007 View Post
Don't forget the Atmospheric Sciences Dept at CSU. #1 in the country!
Really? What about the one at University of Wyoming? What about the one at New Mexico Tech?
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Old 03-05-2010, 11:54 AM
 
Location: Bend, OR
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I think tfox gave an excellent synopsis of both towns. I think it's hard to determine which school and which town is better than the other because they are both different. As someone who went to CSU and lived in Fort Collins for 5 years, it will always hold a special place in my heart. But I also love Boulder. Growing up in Denver, my family often made trips up to Boulder. I think the town has a great vibe! Of course, it would be pretty hard to live there, as it's mostly unaffordable to the average person.

I think both are excellent schools, regardless of whether CSU is in the top 25 or not! Remember, it's up to you to get a good education, not the school. Decide what's important to you in a school and a town, and then weigh the pros and cons of both.

The hardest part about living in Fort Collins was the distance from ski resorts. However, I was much younger then and I didn't mind the almost 3 hour drive one way to go skiing. Now I would never do that! Other than that, Fort Collins and Boulder have an equal number of outdoor recreation opportunities right out your door!
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:04 PM
 
Location: Hillsboro, OR
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
Really? What about the one at University of Wyoming? What about the one at New Mexico Tech?
University of Wyoming's Dept has a good website, but its a middle to lower tier program overall. I didn't even know there was a New Mexico Tech.

Top Atmospheric Science/Meteorology Departments in the Nation:

1. Colorado State University-Fort Collins
2. The Pennsylvania State University-University Park
3. University of Washington-Seattle
4. University of Oklahoma-Norman
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:32 PM
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfox View Post

But above all, the main difference is that Fort Collins appears a lot more normal than its offbeat neighbor. I think both Boulderites and residents of "the Fort" will agree with that assessment. Whether "normal" is good depends on your point of view.
I was with you all the way to here. Who determines what "normal" is? Maybe they don't have a "Naked Pumpkin Run" in Ft. Collins, but I'm sure they have some other wack-o stuff.
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:04 PM
 
Location: Irvine, CA / Golden, CO
59 posts, read 168,515 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfox View Post
It's worth mentioning that Mines in Golden beats out either school in the geosciences, and related engineering disciplines. Mines is arguably one of the very top institutions in the country in those areas. It also has a very solid engineering and hard sciences program even outside of geosciences.
I disagree. I have worked with ChE, Mech. and Pet. engineers from both schools. In my opinion UC Boulder has a very good engineering program. Nothing against a CSM grad, but giving the choice between the two above schools, I would attend UCB.

UCB provides a broader educational experience and while it is totally my perception, UCB grads seem happier with their college experience than CSM. CSM does seem to try to distill a sense of “work ethic” to their students. Academically, neither school seems distinguishable from the other.

I know next to nothing about CSU-Ft. Collins except they have the only vet school I am aware of in the state.

Disclaimer: I am not an alumnus from a Colorado school.
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