Admissions Deans: Pray for Rain!

>Times (London) Higher Education reports research showing that bad weather influences student decisions -- positively!

Uri Simonsohn, assistant professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, wanted to examine whether the same "deviations from rationality" apply to high-stakes decisions such as selecting a university.

He analyzed weather patterns and the enrollment decisions of 1,284 prospective students who visited an institution known for its academic strength. He found that an increase in cloud cover of one standard deviation on the day of the visit was associated with an increase in the probability of enrollment of 9 percentage points.

Weather influences thinking in the other direction, too. Simonsohn's work also suggests that jocks should try to schedule interviews on sunny days, while nerds are rated more highly after interviews. (That gives a whole new meaning to cloud computing!)

I wonder if this effect is really universal. When California was building its university system in the 1950s and 1960s, many prominent East Coast professors, and gifted students, were lured partly by the sunshine. On the other hand, the studies suggest why some excellent schools in the Sunbelt, despite high-quality faculties and often lower tuition, have not been as competitive in admissions as one would expect with the often-overcast Northeast. And while the attraction of Silicon Valley climate is evident, perhaps the year-round drizzle of the Pacific Northwest was also part of the success in recruiting talented programmers to Microsoft, Intel, and Amazon.com.

Presented by

Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in National

From This Author

Just In