Founded in 1844 by the Reverend Thomas Nelson Haskell, Colorado College (abbreviated as CC) is one of the nation’s best private liberal arts colleges.
Over its nearly 150 year history, the school has graduated an impressive group of alumni, including The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb and Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman.
Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, CC has developed a reputation for academic excellence and unconventional thinking.
According to U.S. News & World Report, Colorado College is the 26th best liberal arts school in the nation, edging out respected competitors such as Bryn Mawr College and Harvey Mudd College.
Even more notable is the school’s reputation as a trailblazer among institutions of higher education. Colorado College subscribes to a student-first approach, which empowers individuals to become the driving force in their education.
They choose the courses and their plan of study, and they have a great deal of leeway in deciding how they’ll go about earning their degree.
It’s no wonder that U.S. News puts Colorado College in third place on its list of Most Innovative Schools, behind only Agnes Scott College and Berea College.
But Colorado College isn’t just about academics. The school has a vibrant culture, making for an exciting student experience.
In addition to its championship hockey team, CC offers several historically significant buildings and the Gaylord Arts Center, a state-of-the-art facility for bringing in performers worldwide.
Colorado College Acceptance Rate
In the 2020-2021 school year, 10,969 hopefuls applied to CC. Out of that group, 1,599 received letters of admission, giving Colorado College an acceptance rate of 14.6%.
By any measure, that’s a low acceptance rate. At 14.6%, two out of every ten students will be accepted half the time, and only one out of every ten students will be accepted the other half.
However, this rate is not out of line for elite liberal arts schools like Colorado College. The similarly ranked Bates College in Maine has a 14% acceptance rate, while New York’s Vassar College has an acceptance rate of 25%.
As these numbers show, high-ranking liberal arts colleges are simply more selective than other institutions.
While these lower rates do put more pressure on applicants, selectivity can have benefits for those accepted.
Elite schools tend to be more prestigious, as they accept only the best of the best. In such an environment, top-level students inspire one another to do their greatest work, raising the overall quality of the student body.
GPA for Colorado College
Colorado College prides itself on using a holistic method to evaluate the quality of its applicants. For that reason, the school does not have a minimum GPA requirement, choosing instead to look at the entirety of a student’s application.
That said, a quick look at their student body indicates that Colorado College students certainly tend to be high academic achievers. On average, students entering CC have a 3.89 GPA.
To earn those kinds of numbers, you need to get almost entirely A’s in your undergraduate work. The occasional B won’t completely destroy a GPA that high, but they should be few and far between.
More importantly, you should make sure that your B’s come only in classes outside of your major. If you’re a Literature major, a B in a Math class won’t destroy your chances, but a B in English will reflect poorly on you, and vice versa.
That last point underscores the reasoning behind GPA expectations. While Colorado College doesn’t have a minimum average they demand of their students, they still want to know that new applicants can keep up with the workload put before them.
If you’re struggling to maintain an A average in high school, the school might decide that you won’t be able to handle the rigors of their curriculum.
Still, one must keep in mind that GPA is just one tool used by admissions counselors at Colorado College. Low grades can be offset by stronger elements elsewhere in an application.
SAT & ACT Requirements for CC
As is increasingly the case, Colorado College has gone test-optional for the ACT and the SAT. Applicants no longer need to send their standardized test scores as part of their application package.
In fact, the school reports that 50% of their admitted students in 2021 did not submit standardized test scores.
That said, it may be to your benefit to submit your scores. Standardized tests measure general knowledge gained during high school and your critical thinking skills.
Because they cover such a range, some students find they do better on the ACT or SAT than they do on tests given by their teachers.
In other words, if your GPA is lower than the norm for Colorado College, a high standardized test score can offset that problem.
The scores can show admission counselors that you have the aptitude they expect, even if you struggled in a particular class or with a certain teacher.
For that strategy to work, your standardized test scores need to match those earned by students already at CC. On average, students accepted into Colorado College in 2021 had ACT scores that fell between 29 – 33 and scores between 1280 – 1450 on the SAT.
Unsurprisingly, these are very high scores, significantly higher than the national averages. But this is why it’s essential to take advantage of the school’s test-optional policy.
If you’ve earned scores in that range, you should definitely include them in your application, especially if your GPA is a bit lower than the average at Colorado College. But if your scores are much lower than those averages, then leave them out of your application and bolster other elements.
Other Requirements and Admission Tips
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about grades and test scores, but Colorado College uses a holistic approach when evaluating its applicants.
In other words, admissions counselors want to see everything an applicant can bring to their student body, not just book smarts.
A holistic approach values the cultural and personal qualities of college life and understands that educational experiences on their campus don’t just happen in the classroom.
For that reason, applicants must show that they can enrich the student body at CC.
Teacher evaluations are one of the most important ways to demonstrate that value to the admissions committee. Colorado College requires two evaluations from teachers in core courses (English, Math, etc.), preferably from your junior year.
To be sure, these evaluations will cover your academic potential. But they’ll surely also talk about the other aspects you brought to the teacher’s classroom, such as your ability to collaborate or ask thought-provoking questions.
Although it’s not required, Colorado College also likes to see a letter of recommendation from your school counselor. Even more so than with your teacher evaluations, this letter will speak to your personal qualities, telling the admissions committee the non-academic benefits you’ll bring to the student body.
All of these application materials must be submitted to CC by November 1st for early decision admission and by January 15th for standard admission.
Essays for Colorado College
Perhaps the personal essay is the greatest tool for applicants who want to make an impression on Colorado College admissions counselors.
A personal essay is exactly what it sounds like, a short written piece describing your personal qualities.
For the 2021-2022 semester, Colorado College has one fairly straightforward prompt for its application essay.
The basic essay asks students to write no more than 200 words answering this question: “Why do you wish to attend Colorado College and how would the Block Plan serve your educational goals?”
Of course, your first question to that prompt is “what is the Block Plan?”
The Block Plan is the term CC uses to describe its semester structure, which consolidates its courses into three and a half week intensive blocks instead of stretching out over a full semester. According to the school, this approach “allows you to focus your energies solely on what you want to do.”
For that reason, your essay should indicate how you’ll use the Block Plan to advance your educational goals. It should take care to focus on the unique qualities offered by this plan, as opposed to a traditional semester structure.
Because a personal essay is, by definition, personal, there are no hard and fast rules to writing a good essay. There are, however, techniques a student can use to improve their chances.
By using strong word choices and evocative details, you’re far more likely to make an impression on your readers and stand out.
Is Colorado College Right for You?
Colorado College is a unique school, with a structure that differs from any other institution in the nation. Its approach gives much more flexibility to students than most schools, empowering them to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their education.
That said, the school is certainly academically rigorous. To fit in with the students at Colorado College, you’ll need to pull top-level grades and demonstrate strong study skills. Even with its holistic evaluation approach, CC chooses only the best and brightest from its applicant pool.
To that end, those hoping to study at Colorado College need to craft a unique and striking application.
That means not only taking advantage of the school’s test-optional approach to put yourself in the best light, but also crafting materials that present you as a free-thinker uniquely suited to CC’s innovative Block Plan structure.
If that sounds intimidating, then you may consider looking for a more traditional liberal arts school. Just because CC does things differently doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.
But if you appreciate breaking the mold and want to study at a school that’s just as outstanding as you are, then Colorado College is the school for you.