Media Briefings

Weather To Go To College: How Cloud Cover Encourages University Enrolment

  • Published Date: March 2010

Prospective students who visit a university on a cloudy day are more likely to decide to go there. That is the central finding of new research by Professor Uri Simonsohn, published in the March 2010 Economic Journal.

In a survey of students, the study finds that, unsurprisingly, undergraduates strongly prefer doing their homework on cloudier days and going outside to play with friends on sunnier ones. These associations may mean that weather during a college visit tints how a place is perceived. In particular, universities visited on cloudy days may seem more compatible with academic activities than those visited on sunny ones.

Analysing data on campus visits by 1,284 prospective students to a university well known for its academic strengths and relative weaknesses in opportunities for socialising, the research asks if weather during a campus visit influences young people’s decisions to enrol.

The study finds that students visiting on cloudier days are more likely to enrol conditional on being accepted. A one standard deviation increase in cloud cover is associated with a 9% increase in enrolment.

It might be argued that this correlation is driven by seasonality. Perhaps students visiting on cloudier months – say, December rather than September – are a better fit for the school. But the effect of the weather actually gets a bit stronger when controlling for the time of the year of the visit.

Similarly, the likelihood of being admitted is not correlated with the timing of the visit. And finally, weather from two days before or after the college visit does not predict enrolment, only weather on the exact day of the visit. All together these findings suggest that the effect works via the perceptions of the visitor.

Choosing which university or college to attend is one of the decisions people think most about before making. It involves so many dimensions that it becomes tempting to obtain as much information as possible about it.

A common source of information is visiting the different colleges: what better way to find out how living somewhere for four years would be than actually being there – for a few hours at least.

It turns out that visiting a prospective college may have its drawbacks. One is that it is difficult to tease apart factors that influence the experience of the visit from factors that would influence the experience of attending that college.

For example, if the tour guide has a very good attitude, visitors may leave with a feeling that people are very nice at that place. But if a visitor has their wallet stolen on campus, that experience may dramatically exaggerate safety concerns.

Weather, of course, is something that will be present on all visits. It turns out that weather during a college visit can have a noticeable effect on people’s final decision of which college to enrol in. People have strong associations with the kinds of activities performed under different weather conditions.

These associations may mean that weather during a college visits tints how the visited school is perceived. In particular, schools visited on cloudy days may seem more compatible with academic activities than those visited on sunny ones. This is intuitively similar to evaluating an umbrella on a rainy day as opposed to a sunny day.


Notes for editors: ‘Weather to Go to College’ by Uri Simonsohn is published in the March 2010 issue of the Economic Journal.

Uri Simonsohn is at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

For further information: contact Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768-661095 (email:; or Uri Simonsohn via email: