I am answering a question from a mom from Southern California today. Here is what she wrote:
Could you comment on choosing colleges that are in different weather areas?
After reading your blogs and talking to other parents, a student can get more more merit aid if she applies out of state. My daughter plans on applying to Gonzaga University, Regis University, University of Portland – just to name a few). My concern is her adjustment to the weather. I have spoken to parents who told me that their sons and/or daughters have transferred out of a certain college because of the weather. It was making them depressed and unhappy. I have also spoken to parents who said their son/daughter stuck it out and is doing fine. I know your son and daughter went out of state and experienced different weather. What advice can you give on the weather situation?
San Diego and Snow
The mom’s email reminded me of a college visit that my husband and I took with our daughter years ago to Ithaca College. During the tour, my daughter asked how many inches of snowfall Ithaca typically experienced and the student guide mentioned a very high number — I can’t remember what it was — and then he noted something to this effect: The snow shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re from someplace like San Diego. Of course, that’s where we live.
I’d love to hear what other parents have to say, but I doubt that the weather is the main reason why students leave a college. If a student is unhappy, the weather might contribute to the unhappiness, but I find it hard to believe that snow, sleet, rain or muggy weather will prompt students to pack their bags. I should also add to that list incessant sunshine. As a transplanted Midwesterner, who has lived in Southern California since 1984, the near constant sunshine gets on my nerves. I realize by admitting this that many of you out there would like to slap me. How can you complain about San Diego weather?
The Best Spring Ever
After growing up in San Diego, my daughter initially found the snow a novelty at her college in Pennsylvania. She was very excited about the first few snowfalls and being able to wear wool clothes for the first time in her life. She was disappointed, however, when she returned after Christmas break to Juniata College and the crappy weather was still hanging around.
I will never forget, however, how excited she was when that first spring in college finally arrived. She raved about how wonderful the spring was and how she enjoyed spreading a blanket under the trees and hanging out with friends. I laughed and told her that she was enjoying an amazing spring because she had experienced her first hard winter.
Playing in the Snow
My son Ben has always been interested in living in a place where snow is commonplace. He’s gotten his wish at Beloit College in Wisconsin. As a freshman he loved the snow and when the epic storm that struck Chicago (and Beloit) arrived this past winter, he grabbed the shovel in his dorm and flew outside to build what he called a “snow tent.”
What I think teenagers from warm climates like Southern California don’t realize is that attending college back East or up North can be warmer in some respects than cold weather climates. The houses in San Diego are poorly insulated and drafty. In contrast, the buildings back East are well heated and frankly they can be far too hot as far as I’m concerned.
Relenting on the Weather
I’ll share one more story about a kid from San Diego, who was in my son’s high school carpool. Madison, who is a year ahead of my son, had initially been adamant that he didn’t want to go to any college where it’s cold. I told him that if that was a requirement, he’d eliminate many of the nation’s colleges from contention and tons of the best ones. He reluctantly relented on the weather as a deal breaker. Madison ultimately received a very large financial aid package from Beloit College, which helped melt away his leeriness about the upper Midwest. The Japanese and creative writing major, who is a rising junior, is a very happy kid.
What matters more when picking colleges is getting the right fit in things that truly matter. Can you can a good education at a college? Can you obtain the resources you need to succeed at a school that is supportive? Can you make friends? If those things fall into place, the weather won’t be a big deal.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College. She also blogs for CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.