To the seniors in high school who have opened their mailboxes to find a Lehigh acceptance letter, congratulations!
You’ve completed the hardest part — you’ve written essays, completed interviews and visited numerous campuses. The hard work is done, but now comes the most important, and sometimes the toughest, task: Picking the best college for you.
Every college across the nation is doing its best to entice high school seniors to attend their university. They are painting perfect pictures of what campus life is like. And Lehigh is no different.
As current students, we would like to offer you an uncensored glimpse into what Lehigh life is truly like, things we wish we had known about before ultimately selecting the university as our four-year home.
Lehigh is notorious for its competitive engineering and business programs, and sometimes it feels as though the academic emphasis is placed solely on these programs. From alumni networking opportunities to case study competitions with other colleges, many opportunities are advertised university-wide for students within these areas of study.
These types of opportunities within the College of Arts and Sciences are not always as clearly displayed, though they do exist. Students, however, must take initiative to seek them out for themselves.
There are opportunities to conduct research and publish papers, to attend academic and professional conferences, and to find mentors within niche areas of study — you just have to take initiative.
The beauty of many of the small academic departments in Lehigh’s CAS is that they allow students to make connections and develop relationships with professors. Students in these majors are often on a first-name basis with their instructors — these types of relationships are not created out of thin air, they are sought after and cultivated.
Passion drives opportunity, and Lehigh students must be driven to get the most out of what this school has to offer.
It should be acknowledged that Lehigh students tend to lack pride in our athletic teams. The student section at many sporting events are often empty, though this is an aspect of student life that student groups are looking to improve. On the other hand, there is the Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry, which provides for a week packed full of school pride, endless parties and hating on Lafayette College.
Most students truly have the “work hard, play hard” mentality ingrained within them, displayed by their intensity to earn high grades while maintaining active social lives. For the most part, students prioritize their academics and social lives above all else.
Greek life is undoubtedly the largest social presence on campus. After Panhellenic and Interfraternity recruitment atthe beginning of each spring semester, 40-50 percent of undergraduate students end up being involved in Greek life, and their presence is loud and clear.
Usually throughout sophomore and junior year, Greek students live in chapter houses on the Hill. The geographical difference between Greeks and non-Greeks perpetuates the divide between the two groups. If you don’t wish to go Greek, however, Lehigh works to provide community on-campus housing options.
Lehigh is in the process of expanding, part of a plan called Path to Prominence. The school is seeking to add students from more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and to become a more national university, rather than primarily attracting students from the East Coast.
However, the university continues to suffer from homogeneity in terms of race, region and wealth. About half of Lehigh’s students are from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Only 4 percent of Lehigh’s population identifies as black, compared to 13.3 percent of the population of the United States. While only 15.1 percent of Lehigh’s student body comes from the bottom 60 percent of income-earners, over 13 percent of students come from a family in the top 1 percent.
If you have the opportunity to visit Lehigh again before making your final decision, please do. Ask students on campus about their experiences because chances are, they will be honest with you.
Explore Bethlehem. South Bethlehem might not give off the best first impression, but from Musikfest to delicious restaurants and hidden speakeasies, the city truly has more to offer students than what meets the eye. Take the time to walk across the bridge and visit the North Side or stay on the South Side and walk along the Steel Stacks, one of the most historic parts of the Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh has a rich, passionate atmosphere in which to learn and grow. One that emphasizes both the intellectual and social development of its students through a variety of opportunities, if only students take the time to seek them out. However, the Lehigh community is certainly not perfect, and there is much work to be done in improving relationships among students and in the wider Bethlehem community.
But perhaps, you, a young, wide-eyed senior in high school, can help foster the changes this university needs.