Despite some changes in the undergraduate application process, COVID-19 and the Path to Prominence have had little impact on Lehigh’s early decision II acceptances, released on Feb. 10.
Bruce Bunnick, Lehigh’s director of admissions, explained that the admissions team foresaw a concerning year in terms of applications due to COVID-19, but the team was pleasantly surprised. Early decision II applications increased from the year prior by nine percent, Bunnick said.
“COVID has not had as big of an impact as we thought,” Bunnick said.
The university adopted a standardized test-optional policy for the 2020-2021 application season. Of all applications received, 40 percent did not submit standardized test scores, Bunnick said. This breakdown suggests the policy was favorable among a large number of students applying.
Bunnick believes this policy has caused a nationwide change in the philosophy of applications and admissions. Students may be applying to more universities as a result of it, he said.
The difference between early decision II and regular decision is that students are contractually obligated to attend Lehigh if accepted via the early decision II application process. Alli Goldstein, an accepted student who applied early decision II, plans on pursuing a joint degree in computer science and business. Goldstein said admissions across all schools seemed more competitive this year.
“I definitely saw it as a competitive process, and was really nervous about the competition because most colleges’ acceptance rates are dropping this year,” Goldstein said.
There has been a 15 percent increase in regular decision applicants from last year, Bunnick said.
During last year’s application season, the university saw an increased acceptance rate that reached about 40 percent. This was a result of the university aiming to expand as part of the Path to Prominence initiative, Bunnick said.
“We had to be more aggressive with the number of offers of acceptances that we made, knowing that we had to increase the size of the class,” Bunnick said.
Bunnick said he expects to see an admissions rate slightly lower than last year’s application season, but said they cannot be certain until the application process is completed.
Another piece of the Path to Prominence was the opening of the College of Health. Bunnick said the college had no impact on the university’s overall acceptance rate.
The College of Health attracts students with specific interests in the social side of health. Mia Zibello, ‘24, who is currently enrolled in the college, is studying population health. Originally, Zibello was interested in Lehigh because of its proximity to her home, but found herself drawn to the new college specifically.
“When I toured, I heard about the College of Health, and that specifically drew me here. I knew I wanted to be pre-med, but I loved the social aspect of the college of health,” Zibello said.
Bunnick said the university is working to create interest in the College of Health. He said creating buzz around such a new idea has been challenging, but the university has made strides in creating an aggressive communication campaign to target interested students.