The members of the class of 2022 haven’t arrived on campus yet, but they’ve already overcame a significant challenge: they were accepted to Lehigh with a 22 percent acceptance rate, a new record low in university history.
Out of the 15,623 students who applied for a spot in the class of 2022, 3,418 were selected from the Early Decision I, Early Decision II and regular decision applicant pools.
Bruce Bunnick, the interim vice provost of admissions and financial aid, said this year’s total applicant pool was 12.6 percent larger than last year’s, which consisted of 13,871 students. Bunnick said Lehigh received more applicants this year than ever before, and he largely attributes this increase to expanded outreach efforts in the United States — specifically in California — and abroad.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to attract students who will be a good fit for Lehigh,” Bunnick said. “We’re trying to diversify the campus and (globalize) the campus.”
Lehigh’s Western Regional Office has helped attract prospective students, and Bunnick said the opportunity to engage with undergraduates, faculty and alumni also encourages students to apply.
As Lehigh’s application becomes more competitive, the university is also becoming more expensive.
Patricia A. Johnson, the vice provost for finance and administration, said additional costs will go toward merit increases for faculty, the costs of signing on new faculty, financial aid increases, and utilities and services such as snow removal.
Johnson said Lehigh’s increased cost of attendance aligns with nationwide trends and won’t deter future applicants from applying, as long as Lehigh is able to offer need-based and merit-based financial aid.
“We want more money and more gifts to be able to put in the endowment, so we are able to provide this aid,” Johnson said.
As Lehigh becomes more costly and competitive, its “work hard, play hard” reputation persists. However, the university placed ninth on The Princeton Review’s list of party schools for 2018, in comparison to its fourth place position in 2016 and 2017.
Bunnick doesn’t believe this change will have much of an impact on applicants.
“The one part that I can cite easily is that we’ve been on that list in some way, shape or form for some years now,” Bunnick said. “It hasn’t deterred students.”
Hank Portney, ’21, did not consider Lehigh’s party rankings when he applied last year.
Portney is curious to see how rankings and campus expansion might affect the demographics of students who attend Lehigh.
“Given that Lehigh is really pushing with the Path to Prominence, it could be interesting to see if Lehigh is leaning towards more of (an) academically focused school and less of a socially focused school,” Portney said.
While Portney is just beginning his time at Lehigh, Juan Shiraishi, ’18, is enjoying his fourth year in Bethlehem. He said he hasn’t noticed a substantial difference on campus over the years, despite the school’s drop in party rankings.
Before coming to Lehigh in 2014, Shiraishi had little knowledge of the university’s party school reputation.
“I don’t think the impact will be huge,” Shiraishi said. “People who know Lehigh know it’s a really good academic institution across the board.”