As the two largest schools in the University of Colorado system, the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) offer distinct experiences and strengths. If you want a quick take: CU Boulder is a more prestigious traditional college campus known for strong undergraduate education, while CU Denver focuses on professional programs and urban access as a commuter school.

This comprehensive guide contrasts these two CU campuses across factors like academics, campus life, admissions, and more. Read on to determine which University of Colorado school may be a better fit for you.

CU Denver Overview vs. CU Boulder Overview

CU Denver: Urban Commuter School

The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is known for its urban campus located in the heart of downtown Denver. With its vibrant and bustling atmosphere, CU Denver offers students a unique experience that combines the benefits of a large, comprehensive university with the excitement of city life.

As an urban commuter school, CU Denver attracts students who prefer to live off-campus and commute to classes. This allows students to take advantage of the many opportunities Denver has to offer, including internships, networking events, and cultural experiences.

The university has strong ties to local industries, providing students with valuable connections and career opportunities.

CU Denver is particularly renowned for its business, engineering, and healthcare programs. The Business School consistently ranks among the top in the nation, and the College of Engineering, Design, and Computing boasts state-of-the-art facilities and innovative research centers.

CU Boulder: Flagship Residential Campus

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is the flagship campus of the University of Colorado system. Situated at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, CU Boulder offers students a breathtaking natural backdrop and a close-knit residential community.

As a residential campus, CU Boulder provides students with a traditional college experience. The majority of students live on campus, fostering a strong sense of community and creating opportunities for lifelong friendships.

The campus is known for its beautiful architecture, expansive green spaces, and stunning views of the mountains.

CU Boulder is renowned for its strong programs in environmental sciences, aerospace engineering, and the arts. The College of Engineering and Applied Science is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the country, and the College of Music is one of the most prestigious in the nation.

While both CU Denver and CU Boulder are part of the University of Colorado system and offer excellent educational opportunities, they provide distinct experiences for students. Whether you prefer the urban energy of downtown Denver or the natural beauty of Boulder, both campuses have something unique to offer.

Comparing the Locations: Denver vs. Boulder

CU Denver: In Colorado’s Largest City

Located in the heart of downtown Denver, the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) offers students a vibrant and dynamic urban experience. As Colorado’s largest city, Denver is a bustling metropolis filled with a diverse range of cultural attractions, entertainment options, and career opportunities.

The campus itself is nestled amidst the city’s iconic skyline, providing students with a unique backdrop for their academic journey.

With its prime location, CU Denver students have easy access to a wide range of internships and job opportunities. The city is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, startups, and government organizations, making it an ideal place for students to gain real-world experience and build their professional networks.

Additionally, Denver offers a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues for students to explore and enjoy.

Furthermore, Denver’s outdoor recreational opportunities are second to none. With the nearby Rocky Mountains, students can easily escape the city and enjoy hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The city also boasts a thriving food scene, with a wide variety of cuisines to satisfy any palate.

CU Boulder: College Town of Boulder

On the other hand, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is located in the charming college town of Boulder, known for its stunning natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. Surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, CU Boulder offers students a unique blend of academic excellence and outdoor adventure.

Boulder is often ranked as one of the best college towns in the United States, thanks to its vibrant arts and music scene, numerous outdoor recreational activities, and a strong sense of community. The town is filled with local shops, restaurants, and cafes, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for students.

CU Boulder’s location also provides students with unparalleled access to outdoor activities. From hiking and rock climbing to skiing and snowboarding, the opportunities for adventure are endless. The town’s commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness also aligns with the university’s values, making it an attractive choice for environmentally-minded students.

In addition to its natural beauty, Boulder is home to a thriving startup and tech scene, with many successful companies and entrepreneurs calling the town home. This creates numerous internship and job opportunities for CU Boulder students, particularly those in fields such as engineering, computer science, and entrepreneurship.

CU Denver CU Boulder
Location Downtown Denver Boulder
Size Colorado’s largest city Charming college town
Opportunities Access to diverse industries and cultural attractions Strong tech scene and outdoor recreational activities

Both CU Denver and CU Boulder offer unique locations with their own distinct advantages. Whether students prefer the bustling city life of Denver or the laid-back charm of Boulder, they can find a university experience that suits their needs and aspirations.

For more information about CU Denver, visit their official website here. To learn more about CU Boulder, visit their official website here.

Academic Program Differences

CU Denver Strong in Professional Programs

When it comes to professional programs, the University of Colorado Denver is renowned for its excellence. Offering a wide range of programs in fields such as business, engineering, healthcare, and the arts, CU Denver prepares students for successful careers in these industries.

The university has established strong connections with local businesses and organizations, providing students with valuable internship and job placement opportunities. With state-of-the-art facilities and highly experienced faculty, CU Denver ensures that students receive a top-notch education in their chosen professional fields.

CU Boulder Excels in Undergraduate Education

On the other hand, CU Boulder has built a reputation for its exceptional undergraduate education. The university offers a diverse range of undergraduate programs across various disciplines, including sciences, humanities, social sciences, and more.

With a focus on interdisciplinary studies and hands-on learning experiences, CU Boulder fosters critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills in its students. The campus provides a vibrant and engaging environment for undergraduates, with numerous research opportunities, clubs, and extracurricular activities.

Students at CU Boulder benefit from the university’s commitment to fostering intellectual curiosity and academic growth.

Campus Environment and Student Life

CU Denver: Commuter/Part-Time Student Focus

The University of Colorado Denver has a unique campus environment that caters to commuter and part-time students. With a large percentage of students living off-campus, the university has created a vibrant community that extends beyond the campus boundaries.

The city of Denver itself becomes the students’ playground, offering a wide range of cultural, recreational, and professional opportunities. Students can explore the city’s thriving arts scene, enjoy outdoor activities in the nearby mountains, or intern at one of the many companies located in the area.

While CU Denver may not offer the traditional “college experience” of living in dorms and attending football games, it provides a dynamic and diverse environment for students to thrive academically and professionally.

CU Boulder: Quintessential College Experience

On the other hand, the University of Colorado Boulder offers a quintessential college experience that is characterized by a lively and vibrant campus life. With a picturesque location nestled against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, CU Boulder boasts stunning natural beauty that enhances the overall student experience.

The campus is known for its iconic red-brick buildings, sprawling green spaces, and a strong sense of school spirit. Students at CU Boulder can participate in a wide range of extracurricular activities, including over 500 student organizations, competitive sports teams, and a thriving arts and music scene.

The university also hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, creating a sense of community and camaraderie among the students. Living on-campus provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves fully in the college lifestyle, fostering lifelong friendships and lasting memories.

CU Denver CU Boulder
Campus Environment Urban setting in downtown Denver Scenic location against the Rocky Mountains
Student Housing Primarily off-campus housing options On-campus dormitories and housing complexes
Extracurricular Activities Strong focus on professional opportunities and internships Wide range of student organizations, sports teams, and arts/music scene
Community Dynamic and diverse community beyond campus boundaries Tight-knit community with a strong sense of school spirit

How Admissions and Acceptance Rates Compare

CU Denver Easier to Get Into Overall

When comparing the admissions and acceptance rates of the University of Colorado Denver and CU Boulder, it is clear that CU Denver is generally easier to get into. The acceptance rate at CU Denver is higher than that of CU Boulder, making it a more accessible option for prospective students.

According to the latest available data, the acceptance rate at CU Denver stands at around 70%, while CU Boulder has a more competitive acceptance rate of around 80%. This means that CU Denver accepts a higher percentage of applicants compared to CU Boulder.

One possible reason for this difference in acceptance rates could be the number of applicants each university receives. CU Boulder, being a larger and more well-known institution, attracts a higher number of applicants, resulting in a more competitive admissions process.

On the other hand, CU Denver, while still a reputable institution, may receive a smaller pool of applicants, leading to a higher acceptance rate.

CU Boulder Much More Competitive for Out-of-State

While CU Denver may have a higher overall acceptance rate, it is important to note that CU Boulder is significantly more competitive for out-of-state students. The acceptance rate for out-of-state applicants at CU Boulder is much lower compared to in-state applicants.

According to data from the university, the acceptance rate for out-of-state students at CU Boulder is around 30%, while the acceptance rate for in-state students is closer to 80%. This means that out-of-state students face a much tougher competition when applying to CU Boulder.

One reason for this discrepancy could be the university’s commitment to serving in-state students. Many public universities, including CU Boulder, prioritize in-state applicants as part of their mission to provide affordable education to residents of the state.

This results in a higher acceptance rate for in-state students and a more competitive admissions process for out-of-state students.

It is important for prospective students to consider these differences in admissions and acceptance rates when deciding between CU Denver and CU Boulder. Factors such as residency status and academic qualifications can play a significant role in determining the likelihood of acceptance at each institution.

The Difference in Tuition and Expenses

When considering which university to attend, one of the key factors to take into account is the difference in tuition and expenses. Let’s compare the tuition and expenses at the University of Colorado Denver and CU Boulder to help you make an informed decision.

CU Denver Generally More Affordable

If you are looking for an affordable option, the University of Colorado Denver may be the better choice for you. The tuition fees at CU Denver are generally lower compared to CU Boulder. In-state students at CU Denver can expect to pay around $X per year, while out-of-state students can expect to pay around $Y per year.

This makes CU Denver a great option for those who want to receive a quality education without breaking the bank.

In addition to lower tuition fees, CU Denver also offers a range of scholarships and financial aid options to help students offset the cost of their education. These scholarships can be a great way to reduce your overall expenses and make attending CU Denver even more affordable.

CU Boulder: Higher Tuition, Especially for Non-Residents

On the other hand, CU Boulder tends to have higher tuition fees, particularly for non-resident students. In-state students at CU Boulder can expect to pay around $X per year, while out-of-state students can expect to pay around $Y per year.

This difference in tuition can make CU Boulder a more expensive option for those coming from out-of-state.

It’s worth mentioning that although CU Boulder has higher tuition fees, it also offers a range of scholarships and financial aid options to help students manage their expenses. Additionally, CU Boulder has a strong reputation for offering an exceptional education and a vibrant campus life, which may be worth the higher cost for some students.

Comparison of Tuition and Expenses

Tuition (In-State) Tuition (Out-of-State)
CU Denver $X per year $Y per year
CU Boulder $X per year $Y per year

Ultimately, the decision of which university to choose will depend on your individual circumstances and priorities. It’s important to consider not only the cost but also the quality of education, campus facilities, and the overall fit with your academic and personal goals.

Visiting the websites of both universities – and – can provide you with more detailed information about their tuition and expenses, as well as the various financial aid options available.


While both quality options within the University of Colorado system, CU Denver and CU Boulder offer very different overall experiences. Urban commuters may gravitate toward CU Denver for its professional offerings and location, while traditional-aged students seeking an immersive four-year college journey tend to prefer Boulder. Considering your own needs and priorities will help determine which CU campus makes the most sense for you.

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