The Midwest has its charm and students from Colorado are tapping into it
Words by Brandon Bader
Photos by Brandon Bader, Lindsay Morgan and Jordan Tibbetts
Non-Midwest natives might think of the region as flat, boring and flyover country. But it’s more than just 10 states in the middle of the U.S. The Midwest is a hub for many popular facets of American society and culture, and because of that, people are flocking there for school — specifically, people from Colorado.
The first question: Why? To Midwesterners, Colorado is a hip and popular destination for skiing, hiking and camping. Yet the state is seeing people leave toward the middle of the country.
Many leave for school, but Colorado has quality universities, too. In the Midwest, the winters are aggressive, there are much smaller towns and there is often less to do — but the pros still outweigh the cons. There are drawbacks to every location, but for many reasons, Coloradans see the Midwest as a place they can jumpstart their lives — and maybe even call home.
For many people between the ages of 18 and 22, the priority is college. Thirteen of the top 100 universities in the United States are located across the Midwest. Six of those are ranked in the top 50. An education isn’t always necessary to advance in the working world , but an education from a top-flight university can be an easier path to navigate a competitive postgraduate world. Many of the universities are larger as well. The atmosphere of a college town with a vibrant campus can make people feel right at home.
Growing up, Lindsay Morgan bounced back and forth between the Midwest and Denver because she had family in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Her college choices came down to Purdue and Iowa, both on that top 100-universities list. Ultimately, the choice was Iowa. Illinois that feeds directly into the University of Iowa, and because of that Morgan’s choice was convenient to be closer to extended family and get an education.
“Iowa was my choice because I loved Iowa City,” Morgan said. “It was a great town and it was close to family. Being in the Big Ten didn’t hurt either.”
Proximity is one attribute people consider when choosing where to go to school. For Morgan, having family in her area was viewed as a bonus. After getting her degree at the University of Iowa, Morgan returned to Colorado and began teaching.
While not a giant hub for professional sports, the Midwest is home to many schools that play in powerhouse NCAA conferences, such as the Big Ten and the Big Twelve. Forty-three schools are labeled as Division I schools and they play at the highest level of competition. The region’s athletic atmosphere is tantalizing for fans — and the athletes love the challenge as well.
Maddie Beal, from Colorado Springs, is a volleyball player at the University of Minnesota, and she knows what she and her teammates are up against during conference play. Seven of the national champions from the past ten years are all from the same conference.
“Playing in this conference is amazing but also very difficult,” Beal said. “Every team that we play in the Big Ten is very good — every game matters. One bad game by a player can lose a game, but it’s the best experience getting to play with other women who are the best players in the country.”
While the pinnacle of sports exists for the athlete, it does for the fans as well. The excitement in power conferences brings college cities to life.
Jordan Tibbetts is a student at Kansas University. He played basketball in high school but never considered playing in college. Game day at the Allen Fieldhouse is always filled to capacity and the Jayhawks provide excitement for their fans every night they play.
“The Fieldhouse is the greatest college hoops atmosphere in the country,” Tibbetts said. “I was a fan of Kansas basketball before I ended up going there, but once I was there I transformed into a diehard.”
It helps when the team is always winning — the Jayhawks have made the NCAA tournament every year since 1984 and have their program’s all-time record of 2,217 – 839.
A sense of belonging is something that all people crave. While moving to a new city can be daunting, the ability to feel at ease with your surroundings is something that appeals to many who flock here, even in the larger cities.
Emma Kidd, from Colorado Springs is a senior at St. Louis University. She ran track and learned a lot about herself through the experience of living in Missouri.
“Adjusting to a new culture was different,” Kidd said. “I learned a lot about myself being away from home, made decisions for myself that were tough but the support of the friends I made out here really made life easier.”
Savannah Cathcart, from Boulder also attends the University of Kansas. She agrees that the environment played a big role in her decision.
“The lifestyle was really laid back and I loved that,” Cathcart said.
Coming from the Rocky Mountains, chill is the prevailing attitude, so Cathcart fit right into her new surroundings.
“There was a sense of community and everyone was nice and down to earth,” Cathcart said. “I loved KU — it was the right fit for me.”
From Colorado, many of the schools in the Midwest are less than 12 hours away from home, which makes for a reasonable road trip. People say the summers are hot, the winters are brutal and the Midwest is flat. It is the polar opposite of what Colorado is, but for those who choose to move here, their reasons are validated by their experiences — and that means they can enjoy the best of both worlds.