Choosing a university or college graduate program is a big decision—there are tons of options out there, and every one of them is going to have pros and cons. Add in the extensive application process and then waiting to hear whether or not you’ve been selected. While it’s important to consider the reputation of the school and the programs offered, the location is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle—what are the opportunities in that city or town while you’re in school and once you graduate?
Here are seven reasons why you should consider Colorado in your graduate program search.
1. Colorado has several nationally-ranked schools in the sciences.
Colorado is known for research universities, particularly in engineering and applied sciences, with a couple specialty schools sprinkled in. The biggest system in the state is the University of Colorado, with several campuses, and then there is the internationally recognized Colorado School of Mines, with a focus on the geosciences.
2. Easy access to the outdoors.
If you are even considering Colorado, chances are you enjoy spending time outside. Every major Colorado city has miles of trails to enjoy, usually within a few minutes (or less) from campus. There are paved bike paths and natural walking paths, and when you get closer to smaller towns, it’s easier to get on bigger trails for grander adventures. There’s a reason why Colorado is named the fittest state year after year.
3. There is a wide variety of outdoor adventures.
As important as it is to study, you’ll also need to take breaks. There is so much to do in Colorado, you’ll wonder how to find time to explore it all.
In the summer and fall, there are hiking trails that range from a casual walk to summiting 14,000-foot peaks. The same peaks that are prime skiing destinations in the winter are perfect for mountain biking in the summer. Colorado may not have an ocean, but there are plenty of rivers and lakes for tubing, paddling (both whitewater and flatwater), or stand up paddleboarding. There are golf courses and frisbee golf courses, as well as plenty of parks to just hang out and enjoy the day. In the winter, try snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding at any one of the many resorts in the Rockies. If you are an experienced backcountry skier, head out on your own and carve your own trail.
4. Colorado has four national parks and 42 state parks to explore.
If you want a little more direction than "go hike that mountain over there", look no further than Rocky Mountain National Park or any one of Colorado’s 42 state parks. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of four national parks in the state (along with Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, and Sand Dunes) and the state parks are scattered throughout Colorado. From the plains in the east to the mountains in the middle to the western slopes, you’ll find something different at each one. Whether you use nature as an inspiration, as a learning opportunity, or as a break from the rigors of a grad program, you’re practically guaranteed to find it in Colorado.
5. Colorado is the second most educated state in the U.S.
A report released in September 2016 by 247WallSt.com stated that 39.2% of adults in Colorado have at least a Bachelor’s degree, second only to Massachusetts. Having a more educated employee pool is going to attract more quality employers, which means access to better jobs for you.
And better jobs mean better pay. The median household income in America is $55,775, but the median household income in Colorado is much higher—$63,909. Generally speaking, the cost of living in Colorado is a little bit higher than the national average, so making more definitely makes a difference.
6. The job market, especially in Denver, is consistently growing.
Besides finding a solid program, it’s equally (if not more) important to find a job once you get out of school. The state of Colorado has the seventh lowest unemployment rate in the country, and labor department economist Ryan Gedney says that the job market has "the strongest, most consistent growth we’ve seen since the mid-’90s".
And depending on what your career aspirations are, that job market growth might really benefit you. The key industries in Colorado, which is third in the United States in employment concentration, are: aerospace, aviation, breweries, bioscience, broadcasting/communications, energy, finance, health/wellness, and information technology. All of these industries have seen steady growth over the last couple years, and many are national hubs. Not to mention there’s also funding, mentorship opportunities, and even affordable housing for artists through Colorado Creative Industries.
7. If you visit, you’ll love it.
Above all else, make sure you visit any potential schools. Talk with professors, current students, or even alumni about their experiences, especially after graduating. Get a feeling for the area and how easy (or not) it might be to get around. You might get a different vibe from a school when you see it in person, even if it checks all the boxes otherwise. And once you see Colorado, your most difficult decision will be which school to choose.
Originally written for Colorado.