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Northern Colleges Recruiting High School Students in Cold and Snow

How do colleges blanketed in snow recruit high school students these days?

At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, the admissions office is trying a little humor. The theme: Hawaiian. Tour guides are wearing Hawaiian shirts (over their parkas). Lawn chairs and torches are out on campus to give the illusion of warmth—or at least a sense of fun. (See a local TV news clip here.)

There is also plenty of hot chocolate for prospective students. The banner hanging over the admissions office reads: "The Weather at Bowdoin? It's Snow Big Deal."

William Delamater, a private college counselor in Huntingtown, Md., says that weather doesn't usually play that much of a role in students' college choice.  High school students are likely to be focused on factors such as size, sports, or the intellectual challenge of a campus. For kids looking at highly selective schools, there's not much getting around harsh weather: Most of the Ivy League colleges have snow this time of year, he notes.

While visiting a campus is important, it is especially so for those thinking of colder climates, adds Delamater. "If I was from Tupelo, Miss., and thinking of going to Middlebury [Vermont], yeah, I'd recommend going up there," he says. "When there will be a huge disparity in climates, it's totally advisable."

At Boston University, four information sessions and tours daily are continuing despite the near-record snowfall of seven-plus feet this winter.

"We go out in all the weather—rain, snow—but we do what is safe. We weren't out in the blizzard," says Colin Riley, a university spokesperson. With crews removing snow daily and a melter on campus, he says, sidewalks are in good shape, considering the snowfall.

Still, transportation to and from the city has been difficult in recent weeks. Weather has forced the university to close down five days this winter. But Riley says there is plenty of time for high school students to visit campus. Peak touring season will be in the spring and summer with 60,000 visiting the school annually.

Will the snow scare away prospective students? "I don't anticipate a heavy snowfall in February will have any effect," he says, adding that attrition rates at Boston University are low. Riley adds that many students don't see the campus until they come in the fall because they live far away. At BU there is a large population of international students (140 countries are represented) and many from the West Coast and Hawaii.

As for the tours themselves, Riley says he isn't aware of more questions concerning weather. "We just say, 'this is New England and the old adage is: If you don't like the weather wait 10 minutes.' "

Today in Boston, when the temperatures are in the single digits, Riley says there are 1,200 people touring campus for Winter Visit Day.

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