How well (or badly) do southern students cope with U Mich winters?

My child has recently been accepted to U of Florida, UNC-Chapel Hill, and U Mich. She’s been in the Deep South most of her life, and is not at all used to cold weather and dark winters. For various reasons, Michigan is leading the pack for her, but she’s worried about the weather. We have a visit in a couple of weeks, but obviously, it’s not going to be as cold as winters can get there. If your child is from a warm weather state, and attended U Mich, did the pros of the university outweigh the big con of the weather?

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No experience with Michigan, but Maine is not a tropical paradise in the winter, haha. (Average daily temp in Jan is a high of 12.) My D’s college had students from all over the country and the world. Her best friends were from Florida and Hawaii, both of whom have stayed in the northeast. Your daughter will be fine, really.


We’re from Arizona. My kid is a junior at Hope College in southwestern Michigan. Even though we visited in March of senior year, it was still a big shock for my kid to experience actually living through Michigan winters. It hasn’t made my kid want to quit, but he’s definitely sure he wants to live someplace warm again after graduation. He chose this school due to a great merit scholarship and also a research opportunity and it’s been worth it for that. But the biggest complaints I get in texts home are about the weather.


Yes, that’s the more common experience I’ve observed or heard of for kids moving to cold weather locations for college.

They’ll adapt and do fine - won’t be a reason to quit or transfer out.
But it’s also hard to get used to, so many will want to move out to warmer climes post graduation.


My two friends from warm/tropical climates who went there do not have good memories of the weather there; 30 years later… They are split on whether they would recommend it or not for someone from the South. UNC seems pretty enticing and don’t think it’s a step down any more from a reputational perspective; not as large and should feel right at home. UF should be fun but seems gigantic; ideal weather year round though. She should go wherever she is most excited to attend, however. She could always transfer down if too cold up there.

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Here is a look at where Michigan admits are from:

There are a lot of kids from warmer climates. You can adapt to the cold (for 4 years in particular). You can dress for it. But that likely will depend on the kid. I expect some kids can adapt better than others.

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We came to UIUC for grad school after I spent most of my life in Israel. Central Illinois is pretty brutal after Israel. While I remembered (a bit) what winter was like in Michigan (my father was faculty a MSU before we left), your body doesn’t retain the memory of the cold.

It really wasn’t bad, at least not the first few years, until winter because tedious to me.

You actually buy real winter clothes, not the stuff that you wore in the winter, which is not appropriate for fall and spring. Snow is still a novelty.

Winters being dark have more to do with the number of cloudy days, of course- the total difference in daylight between FL and the Lower Peninsula of MI in mid-winter is less than one hour. Also, you simply spend a lot less time outside - less because it’s too cold to be outside, and more because dressing up warmly is a bigger chore than grabbing a sweater.

Again, that was not what we were used to, but the novelty was great, and having a real fall, real winter, and a real spring is nothing to sneeze at either. Moreover, Michigan has real foliage, which means that the colors during fall semester are beautiful. Not New England level, but far nicer than anything one will see in Florida.

The novelty factor will carry through for the first 2-3 years, and by then she will be used to it.


Yes we will definitely need all new clothes! We don’t have any real winter clothes. My oldest child is in college in Philly, and that transition was fine for her – but Philly doesn’t get nearly as cold as Michigan!

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Thanks. That’s what I worry about. We’re going to have to think really hard on this!

Same here. My older kid is in Philly so I keep Phoenix, Philadelphia and Holland MI on my weather app all the time. Philly weather hasn’t been as big of an adjustment. We got my Michigan kid winter clothes from Eddie Bauer.

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Mine is from the Chicago area and only chose schools that have seasons (except CalPoly SLO), but I can give you my own experience! I was born and raised in Southern California and went to college in Bellingham, WA (midway between Seattle and Vancouver). In short, I loved it. It was a wonderful experience to be somewhere so different from what I was used to. I also picked up a great LLBean coat and boots! I learned to dress in layers so that by the time I huffed my way to class I could shed my coat and not roast. Living in a climate with real winters actually means getting sweaty a lot when it’s cold outside (if you’re dressed properly). The shorter days and long dark winters were not my favorite part, but there’s something to be said about adapting to seasonal life. You just have different rhythms during the times of the year. The long amazing summers more than make up for it!

Our son was born and raised in AZ and went to high school in CT and college in NY. We bought him appropriate clothes. He adjusted just fine.

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I am from downstate NY and went to college in upstate NY, directly on the shores of Lake Ontario (home of the infamous Lake Effect Snow), where “feet of snow” is measured in double digits. Even though I was from NY and was used to “inches” of snow, dealing with “feet” and a relentless winter wind coming off the lake, was a complete shock to my system. We had the worst winter my freshman year - I was miserable and thought seriously about transferring someplace warmer. Walking to class in a whipping wind and snow is not for the faint of heart.

I’m glad I didn’t end up transferring, and eventually I adapted - but I never embraced the winter and always complained about it (that was back in days before The North Face, UGG, etc. - I survived in a P-coat from the Gap and Payless boots!)

That said, if she loves the school, she will put up with the winter. She will complain, but she will put up with it. I would just be sure that she is properly outfitted for a Michigan winter. I’m in the south now with southern-born kids, and there was no way I could convince either of them to go north for college. I have one at college in Virginia and she complains about the snow & cold, which is nothing like a Lake Ontario (or Michigan) winter (I just have to laugh at her).

The weather is a lot nicer in Chapel Hill though…just sayin’.


This. Congrats to your daughter, @Beezus. There is no better college town. I don’t see any close seconds on her list.

Go Blue!


So here is my $.02. The cold isn’t the issue with MI weather. You adapt. It’s the dreariness. The proximity to the lake causes the sun to say goodbye from November through March. Colorado winters are freezing, but you have sun. MI winters are just downright long, cold, dark, and dreary.

The upside is Ann Arbor is a ball of energy, there’s always something going on socially, athletically, or academically, and everyone’s in the same boat.


I went to high school in the deep south. I went to a midwestern flagship and was fine with the weather. For grad school, Michigan was one of the places under consideration. I visited in March and it was a high of 23 degrees and when I was out of the wind, it was fine. The bad part, however, was the wind. It made me feel as though my bones were going to shatter (I needed a forehead cover…the hood of my down coat wasn’t good enough…and obviously I no longer live in the north or I’d know the name of the forehead cover :laughing:). The next weekend I went to North Carolina to visit a grad school there. We had iced tea on the patio in front of the department. I didn’t end up at Michigan.


Thank you! Yes the dreariness is definitely important to consider, too!

That’s too funny! The weather down here really is something else!

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What state do y’all live in Beezus? I’m in NC and we do get some snow. It snowed 3 times this year. That is more than enough for me! But if you’re in an area that doesn’t get any snow at all it might be enough of a change. I know for sure my kids and I could not do Michigan. I’d actually be happy with Florida weather, but I just don’t love Florida. NC is good for me. You get a smidge of winter, but it doesn’t last. It’s 2pm and 66º on March 1 right now here in NC. If she hasn’t visited UNC, it’s definitely worth a look.

We’re in Georgia. But I lived in North Carolina years ago, and I did love the weather there. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. We’re going to see UNC next week!