Uni. of Colorado's Grade Distribution and Student Body

This past year I've been using the FCQ data released by CU to create a schedule that was advantageous to me. However, what I found difficult was knowing what classes were available to me, and then having to search through the data to get an idea of how well they did.

I created an Excel program - for my final project in MGMT 3210 - that sifts this data, and makes it easier for the end user to know their options.

You can download it here, and find the codebase here.

Note: This Excel file will only work on Windows, due to needing activeX

CU Grades By College

This lead me down a path of looking at what other student data CU has released, and how it compares to other schools.

There were many interesting insights gained, such as the fact that women performed better in basically every major except astrophysics, fraternities and sororities on average perform a little worse than those not involved in greek life, as well as underrepresented students transferring into CU only have a 25% chance of graduating.


Which is a better path, taking classes that you would most likely be interested in, or taking classes that have the highest GPA?

There was a time, a couple years back, when I took a US history class to meet a prerequisite of mine. I'm that kid that's going to sit in the front of the class and never miss a beat. I felt like I was on my grind in that class, and received one of my worst grades.

So the real question is, are some classes just doomed to tank your GPA? While looking through the data, the answer is inevitably yes.

CU Boulder releases all of the grades for every class over the past 10 years in what is known as the FCQ grade distribution. With over 64,000 rows and 40 columns, it can be a pain to see which classes are the ones that I should either take or avoid.

To get around this hurdle, I created an application in Excel that will sift all the data for you. If you need an Ideals and Values class, it's just one click away from telling you which class to take.

When taking a look at something like ideals and values, or any category really, it becomes apparent really quickly that some classes produce higher GPAs than others.

For the ideals and values, it can be seen that the class "Ethical Leadership" produces the best grades, while on the flip side, the "Social Entrepreneurship" class produces the lowest GPA.

Well the real question is, what signifies a good GPA? According to CU's student data, the average GPA for CU students in the fall of 2017 is about 3.01 (3.12 for females, and a 2.93 for males).

CU Grades By College

When taking a look at both grade inflation, and average GPAs at other schools, we find that CU is actually on the lower end of the spectrum; in terms of average GPA, as well as inflation of grades.

With elite schools such as Harvard, Brown, and Stanford, they produce an average GPA of around a 3.5, with Harvard being a 3.65, Brown being a 3.63, and Stanford being a 3.57.

Comparing us to other schools in the Pac 12, such as Oregon, Washington, Utah, and UCLA. We find that Oregon has an average GPA of 3.1 (from 2004), Washington has a 3.28, Utah with a 3.1, and UCLA with a 3.27.

CU Grades By College

So CU, in general, resides in the lower spectrum of GPA distribution. Yet, we've seen that some classes do better than others, and that males do worse than females. Let's explore these a little further.

With classes, it's interesting to note that not only do different classes within core sections have different averages, but that the core sections themselves have different GPAs.

Let's take a look at what the best and worst classes are for each core requirement, and what the average is for each core requirement.

*uses data from 2017, and 2016.

Human Diversity:

Average GPA: 3.13
Best Class: Chicana Feminism and Knowledges (GPA: 3.78)
Worst Class: Introduction to Chinese Civilization (GPA: 2.61)

CU Grades By College

Ideals and Values:

Average GPA: 3.02
Best Class: Ethical Leadership (GPA: 3.75)
Worst Class: Social Entrepreneurship (GPA 2.64)

CU Grades By College

Historical Context:

Average GPA: 3.02
Best Class: History of Ancient Philosophy (GPA: 3.72)
Worst Class: Introduction to British History to 1660 (GPA: 2.6)

CU Grades By College

Literature and Arts (lower division):

Average GPA: 3.21
Best Class: Masterpiece of Greek Literature (GPA: 3.74)
Worst Class: Tolkien's Nordic Sources and the Lord of the Rings (GPA: 2.7)

CU Grades By College

Literature and Arts (upper division):

Average GPA: 3.33
Best Class: Introduction to literary Theory and Advanced Critical Analysis (GPA: 3.97)
Worst Class: Selected Readings: Spanish Literature (GPA: 2.92)

CU Grades By College

United States Context:

Average GPA: 3.05
Best Class: Survey of Chicana/o History and Culture (GPA: 3.65)
Worst Class: America: An Anthropological Perspective (GPA: 2.83)

CU Grades By College

Contemporary Societies:

Average GPA: 2.9
Best Class: Community Issues in Leadership (GPA 3.97)
Worst Class: Environmental Economics (GPA: 2.46)

CU Grades By College

Natural Sciences (sequenced):

Average GPA: 2.68
Best Class: Introduction to Molecular Biology (GPA: 3.24)
Worst Class: General Chemistry 1 (GPA: 2.33)

CU Grades By College

Natural Sciences (non-sequenced):

Average GPA: 2.86
Best Class: Air Chemistry and Pollution (GPA: 3.57)
Worst Class: Introductory Chemistry (GPA: 2.57)

CU Grades By College

Natural Sciences (labs):

Average GPA: 3.06
Best Class: Laboratory in Biological Anthropology 1 (GPA: 3.47)
Worst Class: Laboratory in General Chemistry 1 (GPA: 2.64)

CU Grades By College

Written Communication (lower division):

Average GPA: 3.23
Best Class: First Year Writing in Energy, Environment and Sustainability (GPA: 3.43)
Worst Class: College Writing and Research (GPA: 3.04)

CU Grades By College

Written Communication (upper division):

Average GPA: 3.39
Best Class: Writing in Physics (GPA: 3.88)
Worst Class: Topics in Writing (GPA: 3.3)

CU Grades By College

While maybe not surprising, it's interesting to see that natural sciences average GPA is around a 2.67, while written communication (upper division) has a 3.39.

Student Data

When taking a look at the student data, it becomes interesting to see which majors have the highest, and lowest GPA, in each school. It's also interesting to look at how each school compares to each other.

CU Grades By College

Arts and Sciences

Average GPA: 2.93
Highest Major: Dance [3.52]
Lowest Major: Computer Science [2.76] (excluding open option)

CU Grades By College

Business School

Average GPA: 3.16
Highest Major: Accouting [3.27]
Lowest Major: Marketing [3.12] (excluding open option)

CU Grades By College


Average GPA: 3.13
Highest Major: Journalism [3.21]
Lowest Major: Communication [2.85]

CU Grades By College


Average GPA: 3.38
Highest Major: Leadership/Community-Engagement [3.7]
Lowest Major: Elementary Education [3.29]

CU Grades By College


Average GPA: 3.17
Highest Major: Applied Mathematics [3.41]
Lowest Major: Architectural Engineering [2.98]

CU Grades By College

Environmental Design

Average GPA: 3.06
Highest Major: Design Studies [3.22]
Lowest Major: Environmental Design [2.98]

CU Grades By College


Average GPA: 3.52
Highest Major: Composition [3.81]
Lowest Major: Voice Performance [3.38]

CU Grades By College

There are a few interesting things I noticed throughout this, first the computer science major in the arts and sciences (BA. comp sci) is the lowest with a 2.76, while the computer science major in the engineering school is the second highest (BS. comp sci) with a a 3.28.

Graduation Rates

When sifting through CU's data on graduation rates, there are a lot of interesting stats that pop out. Those who take out FAFSA loans, on average, have a higher percentage of graduating in 6 years (73%) compared to those who don't (69%). Females have a higher percentage of graduation within 6 years than males - 70% and 67%, respectively.

One very alarming statistic that stands out is the percentage of students who graduate in 6 years with respect to their GPA. While the data presented by CU is based on what a freshman's projected GPA will be, it's still quite interesting. For students whose GPA is expected to be greater than a 3.2, the average graduation rate in 6 years is 81%. For students whose GPA is expected to be between 2.8-3.2, the average graduation rate in 6 years is 69%. For those students projected to have a GPA less than a 2.8, their expected graduation rate is around a 55%. When digging into the last stat, it's interesting to see that 60% of those who reside in 2.8 GPA range come from out of state; compared to only 40% in the above 3.2 range. It should be noted that students who come from out of state pay around 3x the tuition of those who are in state.

CU Grades By College

Another interesting fact is graduation rates dependent on where one's dorm is/was on campus. For those in central campus, the average graduation rate in 6 years is 71%. For those whose dorm was located in Kittredge, the average graduation rate in 6 years is 75%. While in Williams Village, the average graduation rate in 6 years is 61%.