Cloudy days make campus more attractive, study finds
April 9, 2010, 4:22 am · Updated April 9, 2010, 12:00 am·
Students may prefer clouds to sun when visiting colleges, a new study by a Penn professor reports.
Visiting a college on a cloudy day could increase the likelihood that you’ll apply and enroll at that particular school, according to a study by Wharton professor Uri Simonsohn.
Simonsohn was surprised with his findings. He was “expecting the opposite” result, since data show that people are happier during sunnier weather.
However, he said students generally associate cloudy weather with academics and sunny weather with fun, causing them to think more carefully about an institution’s academics when it is cloudy outside.
The study, called “Weather to Go to College,” analyzed weather statistics and enrollment of 1,284 students who visited an unnamed college.
Simonsohn found that there was a 9 percent higher chance of enrollment when the visit occurred on a cloudy day.
Simonsohn wrote the study as a graduate student and it has only recently been published. The idea came to him while he was hosting a prospective student and the weather was particularly nice.
“I told him it was not common weather, which got me thinking about the weather’s effects,” he said.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda found the study to be very interesting since it is “counterintuitive.”
Furda said he thought a possible reason behind the findings is that visitors can “get a sense of how a place rises to the top” when the weather is bad.
He does not believe that the study will impact how tours are run, since the University cannot control the weather. However, he said Penn should look at what it is about cloudy weather that makes a school appealing and work to incorporate those characteristics into the tours, regardless of the climate.
College junior and Kite and Key tour guide Stephanie Lerner disagreed with the study.
“I think prospective students are much happier when visiting Penn on a sunny day,” she said. On those days, Penn students are out distributing flyers on Locust Walk or sitting on College Green, which “lends to a more collegiate atmosphere.”
Lerner said she personally feels she gives better tours in good weather and “can’t imagine a student who wouldn’t fall in love with Penn on a sunny day.”
Similarly, College freshman Amanda Taitz found the study surprising.
“One of the reasons I really liked Penn was because it was sunny and the school looked so beautiful,” she said.
Since the weather helps to “determine your mood,” Taitz felt that nicer weather put her in a better mood when she visited Penn.