Life in northern Maine during the winter months can be brutal. With highs that sometimes don’t reach double digits, stepping outside can be a hard task. But for college students, attending school in a colder region could be leading them to earn better grades. Even if they have to put on 10 layers of clothing to go outside, most are up to the task. Students attending the University of Maine at Presque Isle are quite familiar with this process.
The month of January brought along average highs of 22º with lows of 2º. Between the Houlton Center and UMPI campus, students found themselves with six school cancellations due to snow and cold weather. In most parts of Aroostook County, snowfall records have reached nearly nine feet since November. These factors lead many to wonder why anyone would want to pay to attend school here. But for the students living here, they manage just fine academically.
Bundling up in a sweatshirt, winter jacket, mittens and hat is how Alexandria Brace, 20, starts every morning. Brace, a sophomore studying secondary education biology, is a recent transfer student. She previously attended Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. “I transferred because it was honestly just too expensive and they didn’t have as nice an education program as we do here,” Brace said. “It’s a little colder than home, Vermont, but I just dress warm. The cold doesn’t bother me.”
Nearly 290, or around 21 percent, of UMPI’s students enrolled made dean’s list last semester. This number, which has stayed close to that of the fall semester of 2017, suggests that the cold is not holding students back. “I have a higher GPA here than I did at Franklin Pierce,” Brace said. She finished her first semester at UMPI with a 3.74 GPA.
Two hours south of UMPI, Caitlyn Dyke, 18, attends the University of Maine at Orono. Dkye is a freshman studying psychology. She says inclement weather has not been an issue there, as there have been no cancellations so far. “It rains all the time,” Dyke said. “It snows, but it usually doesn’t last that long.” When asked if she made dean’s list, she shared that she did not. Dyke finished with a 2.6 GPA.
Brace shared that being in a small town such as Presque Isle helps make taking on the cold a little easier. “Everyone here supports the students at the college and the students are very involved in the community as well.”
Just a five-minute drive from campus lives Melanie Junkins. Junkins has lived in Presque Isle since 2005 and worked in the school district for eight years now. She has seen many students come and go in the area. She has also witnessed the atmosphere of the college town firsthand. “It’s a great vibe that UMPI gives off,” Junkins said. “It brings a great number of students up here to our area that have not experienced northern Maine.”
For the students of UMPI, bundling up every morning has become second nature. People can adapt to cool climates, just as they can adapt to snow days every other week. There is more to the county than meets the eye, but only if people can see past the harsh winters. The university’s morale and community build off each other. This combination creates endless opportunities and allows for great success of UMPI’s students.