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Cloudy, with a higher chance of enrolling

Jenna Johnson

Glossy brochures have a way of making college campuses look absolutely idyllic: Picture-perfect sunny days! Students sporting iPods walking to and from class across lush green lawns! Classrooms filled with attractive, laughing, diverse, well-dressed students!

But a picture-perfect day might not be the best day to visit some campuses, according to a new study by a University of Pennsylvania assistant professor. The best weather? Overcast and cloudy.

Uri Simonsohn of Penn's Wharton School analyzed weather patterns and the enrollment decisions of 1,284 prospective students who visited an unnamed university "known for its academic strengths and recreational weaknesses." He found that for each standard increase in cloud cover on the day a student visited, the chances of him or her enrolling increased by 9 percentage points.

Simonsohn's study, titled "Weather to Go to College," was published in the March edition of The Economic Journal.

"When you think about it, it kind of makes sense," Simonsohn told the Times Higher Education in London. "To some extent, you do feel less guilty if you are working hard if it is not appealing to be outdoors. If it is cloudy and raining outside, you don't mind reading. If it is beautiful and sunny, you feel like you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing with your time."

The Daily Penn discussed the pro-cloud findings with the university's dean of admissions, Eric Furda, who said the study was "counter-intuitive." And there are no plans to change university tours, Furda told the student newspaper.

A student tour guide, Stephanie Lerner, told the Daily Penn that she gives better tours when the weather is beautiful -- and she "can't imagine a student who wouldn't fall in love with Penn on a sunny day."

Simonsohn has been studying weather patterns and college admissions for years. In 2007, he published a paper in the "Journal of Behavioral Decision Making," titled "Clouds Make Nerds Look Good: Field Evidence of the Influence of Incidental Factors on Decision Making." The study found that on cloudy days, admissions staff were more likely to focus on an applicant's academic credentials than their non-academic ones.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  April 9, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions  | Tags: Penn  
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