Whether to use the weather in picking your school


About the most frustrating thing we admissions officers hear this time of year is that the final decision on a college or university came down to weather.

On the one hand, I find this perfectly reasonable.  I am NOT a cold weather person.  I grew up in the midwest and prety much whined my way from the first puff of cool air in the fall straight through until summer.  It’s also possible I complained about the humidity in the summer.  But that’s the not the point.  The point (other than the realization that I was a fairly whiny kid) is that I was NOT going to go to a school north of my hometown.  My parents argued that there were many many fine schools positioned in a northerly direction.  I countered that there were plenty south of us too.  I ended up applying to a few in that northern direction, but I wasn’t seriously considering them.  Later, to make a mockery of my own choices, I took a position at a school in Michigan and met my wife there.  Since her family is there I am often required to head north.  Surprisingly, I find I can still whine pretty well.

 On the other hand, picking a school just by the weather on the day you visit is just plain nutty.  I often joke in my campus presentations that Mason has perfect weather – 65 to 85 degrees with a light breeze every day, and it only rains after sundown (with credit to Lerner and Lowe’s Camelot).  I will say this even when we’re in the midst of blizzard.  This is meant to make light of the importance students place on the weather the day of their visit.  Unfortunately I need to stop using the joke, since many families lookc amazed saying, “really?” at which point I have to try to control the urge to ask them to withdraw their applications. 

Nevertheless, we do put a lot of pressure on the campus visit.  We (and by that I mean mostly me, but maybe some others in your life too) keep telling you that the college search process is really about finding good matches, that many schools will be great for you, and that its crucial to visit to figure out which one “feels” right.  No wonder, then, that you start making judgements based on the weather, or the food you had that day, or whether the few folks on campus you met seemed attractive (or attracted to you). 

Unfortunately, I also tend to tell you that much of the numbers that colleges dump on you are kinda meaningless.  And that we work hard to fill your head (or at least your inbox) with propaganda. 

So final answer: yes, I think weather can be a factor – as can food, and even the dating scene.  Just try to be a bit reasonable about how much stock to put in the short time you’re at that campus, and if it has a lot to otherwise recommend it, you might just have to visit again.  Hopefully when it’s not raining.  In fairness I should mention that during my own college search I visited one college where it was raining when I arrived.  Half way through the tour the sun came out and, I kid you not, a huge rainbow appeared across the sky overhead.  And yes, I picked that school.  Because I’m still convinced the tour guide was really into me.  Be seeing you.

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