Miserable weather makes universities more attractive

Miserable weather makes universities more attractive to prospective students

According to a recent article in the Telegraph:

Schoolchildren who visit a university on a cloudy day are more likely to decide to go there because they prefer to study somewhere that is not sunny. Far from the stereotype of pupils picking a place where they think they will have most fun, they subconsciously prefer somewhere amenable to doing homework, it was found. Professor Uri Simonsohn, of the University of Pennsylvania, made the discovery after analysing data on campus visits by 1,284 prospective students to a university.

He and his team found that students were nine per cent more likely to enrol to the university if the weather was grey and there was no sun. In order to rule out the possibility that students visiting on cloudier months – December rather than September – were keener, he controlled for this and found that the effect of the weather actually gets a bit stronger.

This doesn’t feel quite right. However, the proposition is that students prefer working on cloudier days and having fun outside when it’s sunny. Fair enough. The argument then runs that these associations may mean that weather during a campus visit affects the perception of the institution so that universities visited on cloudy days may seem more compatible with academic activities than those visited on sunny ones.

This is interesting stuff. The general assumption in student recruitment activity is that sunnier days are better because campuses look much more pleasant and attractive. Moreover, rain tends to make concrete, prevalent at many UK universities, look pretty grim and generally off-putting. But then it’s not like you can choose the weather for your open day in any case.

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