Lehigh released regular admissions decisions for the class of 2025 last week. There were 14,106 total applicants and the acceptance rate was almost 45 percent. (Jenna Simon/B&W Staff)

Lehigh’s class of 2025 marks second year of acceptance rate spike


The last two incoming first-year classes have seen a dramatic increase in undergraduate acceptance rates. For the incoming class of 2025, there was an acceptance rate of almost 45 percent, despite an increase in applicants. 

Prior to the class of 2024, which had an acceptance rate of 49.5 percent during the onset of the pandemic, Lehigh’s acceptance rate had been consistently in the 20s.  

The university saw a 12 percent increase in regular decision applicants this year. There were 14,106 total applications received, and just under 12,400 in the year prior. 

For the class of 2025, 6,381 students were accepted. The university’s acceptance rate rose to almost 45 percent, which Dean of Admissions Bruce Bunnick saw to be generally consistent with the class of 2024.

Bunnick said they had a more diverse applicant pool this year. The admissions office paid close attention to first-generation college students specifically. Bunnick explained that the university’s transition to being test-optional played a large role in the increase. With uncertainty looming due to COVID-19, students applied to more colleges. 

“Students likely felt as though they could cast a wider net with test-optional policies being more widespread,” Bunnick said. 

Caroline Marx from Short Hills, New Jersey, was recently accepted to Lehigh through the regular decision admissions process. Unsure of what to write about in her essays or even where to apply, she said the process was stressful and she felt overloaded with information.

Marx said she felt pressure to send her standardized test scores to Lehigh because she knew of other applicants who were.  

According to Bunnick, approximately 60 percent of students chose to submit standardized test scores when applying through the regular decision process.

Although the domestic applicant pool rose, the international applicant pool remained consistent with years past. Among the international applicants however, there were 25 percent fewer applications from students with Chinese citizenship, said Morgan Volkart, associate vice provost of Western region and international recruitment. After the U.S., the second largest population of Lehigh students are from China. 

This decline is not unusual. The Common App reported an 18 percent decline in undergraduate applicants from China to all U.S. colleges and universities. Volkart said many variables are involved in this decrease, and not all of them can be measured coherently. Students faced travel problems due to visa issues as well as safety and health concerns, she said.  

“It is still very hard to take it all in, being an international student not being able to step foot on campus prior to attending,” Volkart said.  

One aspect of the application decrease from China could be attributed to how the media portrayed the handling of COVID-19 in the U.S., Volkart said. 

Volkart said the decrease in applicants from China did not impact the overall application from international students, as there was an increase in applicants from other countries. The international pool became much more diverse, with applications from Kazakhstan, India, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia and more. 

Regardless of applicant numbers, Volkart said the admissions committee is unable to accept every international applicant it believes would be a good fit for the university. Lehigh is need-aware when reviewing applications from non-U.S. citizens, meaning it must be sensitive as to who is admitted in terms of who is financially able to attend. 

The need-aware policy is a result of the university’s small financial aid budget, making international admissions more selective than domestic admissions. The overall acceptance rate internationally was around 20 percent compared to the 45 percent reported domestically.

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  1. ‘14 grad. Lehigh seems like a drastically different school now than the one I attended not even 10 years ago.

    Really a shame that the administration doesn’t seem to be paying attention.

    Lots of weight is put covid for this result, but the culprit behind the curtain is the flimsy “path to prominence” plan.

    Used to be a highly regarded, highly selective school. Now, not so sure.

    Glad I have a grad degree from another school that so far hasn’t disappointed me as an alumni.

  2. Due to its relatively small endowment, LU needs to have 40%+ of students paying full freight to compensate for discounts to the 60%. The unis education quality has declined while expenses have risen…a lot. So LU is declining as a “value” and it needs to give out a lot of offers to find the “dumb rich”. The rich have a lot of choices as do the high quality academic students. The school is in a real bind. And with declining HS demographics since class of 2023, the prospects do not look good for growth in student body at LU along with improving selectivity or quality. In fact LUs best move would be to condense down to what has made it famous over the years and cut the rest out. Become a great tight uni of 4,500, drop D1 for D3, and teach/research again.

  3. You have to wonder why schools like Villanova are having no problems. At some point you need to look at the people in charge.

  4. Nicholas Barker on

    This is getting ridiculous! Let us all just admit the Path to Prominence was an unequivocal failure and go back to square one. Furthermore, it is time to clean house with administration, primarily student affairs. I don’t think I have met a more tone-deaf admin than the one at Lehigh.

  5. Current Senior Student on

    Hoping the next president isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers and do what it takes to change the culture, because otherwise this school is looking at a downward spiral

    Truly a masterclass in mismanagement over these past few years from the student perspective

  6. I hope the Board and Administration are doing some deep thinking as to why applications to Lehigh have cratered while interest in competitor schools (eg Colgate, Bucknell and Villanova) have remained stable or grown. Colgate is half the size of Lehigh and gets more applications. Villanova has only ~1,000 more undergrads but gets 10,000 more applicants. Of course it’s only one metric, but the rate at which we’re losing ground to our peers (at least in terms of applicant interest) is alarming: https://www.collegekickstart.com/blog/item/class-of-2025-admission-results Only Fordham is less selective than Lehigh on this list.

    • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

      Villanova has historically been more savvy about who they let in and not just academically. It continues to focus on having a certain caliber student body and not trying to be everything to everybody.

      I don’t understand what Lehigh is trying to accomplish by its scattergun admissions and lack of attention to who they are letting in. It was a much higher ranked school when I applied and there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that I would have even looked at the place if it resembled then what it has deteriorated into. I regret so little in life but I truly regret not transferring out the first time the notion crept into my head freshman year. Any second-tier state school would be just as good, if not better!

      I think a major mistake was switching mascots and diminishing its emphasis on the engineering school. It would have a better idea to market the school as having other crown jewels in addition to engineering: the relationship with the UN and all of the programs it enriches, research and patents that have come straight out of Lehigh’s labs, the incredible job offers that Finance and Accounting majors receive at some of the best financial/consulting firms in the world, D1 sports, etc.

      That being said, I am honored to have gotten my masters from a top state university system and chose to highlight that as my ultimate academic accomplishment.

  7. I have to say, I’m a bit taken aback by this. My son applied EDI and was accepted. There were many reasons for his choice, but I have to admit part of the reason he did ED was he was under the impression Lehigh was pretty selective. This is not a good sign. I hope the administration has a plan to turn this around.

  8. Thomas Hinkle on

    This is truly an embarrassment to the Lehigh community as a whole. What are we paying over 60K for if the school is not academically selective. The management of Lehigh University must take steps to ensure Lehigh remains a coveted place to learn or they are doomed. Unfortunately so is the alumni.

  9. We are a new family in Lehigh. My son applied ED because of the academic programs offered, which we could not find at other smaller liberal arts colleges. The admissions selectivity has to be put in the context that the school is expanding enrollment by 20% in a short period. What matters is the quality of the Lehigh experience, and from what we have heard, it has not changed over the years.

  10. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    Lehigh began its downturn in the mid 90’s when it abandoned its brand as the “Lehigh Engineers”when they were ranked #32 by US News. Now it is barely in the Top 50 trying to be a liberal arts Ivy Wannabe.

  11. global candidates in any case, there were 25% less applications from understudies with Chinese citizenship, said Morgan Volkart, partner bad habit executive of Western locale and worldwide enlistment.

  12. ‘19 alum here – hard to believe that just 7 years ago I was thrilled of the idea of calling myself an alum one day. Now it’s just embarrassing…

  13. Hello my husband and I are both the Class of 1991. Our children are in high school and are considering not even applying to Lehigh solely because of its 50% acceptance rate. The administration has to do something drastic to change this. We are currently ASA Packer donors and have been for 30 years but maybe not going forward.

  14. John G. Lewis '90 on

    We may need to tighten and close any increase to the student body, at least temporarily…. As part of the ‘Path to Prominence’ initiative Lehigh’s entire undergraduate body was to be increased by 1000 students in a relatively short period of time, with further increases down the road. Perhaps therefore this facet of the Path to Prominence should be re-examined or given up.

    Yet for me what is important is to retain what has made Lehigh distinctive and strong for more than a century and a half. This involves two primary points: 1. Maintaining the quality and variety of Lehigh’s academic offerings. (This largely has not changed, as far as I can understand.); and 2. Preserve and strengthen the stone gothic architecture at the center of campus. If Lehigh finds it needs to expand materially, then properties and areas at the periphery of the campus should be examined as lead possibilities as a general rule for growth. And consider what Villanova is doing for some of its new dorms: beautiful full, stone structures some 3 or 4 stories high.

    The noted recent drop in applicants is curious and disappointing. Yet it has only been 2 years. There has of course been the covid crisis… We may temporarily speculate that the development in admissions is anomalous and will correct itself.

    Let us not be rash or precipitous here. Let’s be patient.

  15. My wife is a 92 alum. Accounting and has done very well. She absolutely loved her time at the school. Our son is heading to college in the fall of 22 so of course we visited he alma mater. No brainer.
    Maybe it’s a one off. bad luck, what have you, but it was a terrible experience. Our student tour guide was late, she looked like she rolled out of bed, and was very negative. She basically came in and said the tour didn’t matter, no one cares about it, but whatever. Picture a dozen parents just put their heads down in unison and tune out. Half the kids smirked. No one paid attention to her and it was over. She tried to rebound but it was way to late. My wife was stunned. The admissions meeting done in a hall by faculty was an absolute mess. Poorest one we saw. No direction. Aimless jingoism. Scattered and unfocused. We left with no confidence and desire to even apply there….and we didn’t. My wife of course said nice things in the survey about the tour, like everyone, even thought she was not happy Why? We want our kids to get in! Our son is adopted, South Korean, and he was quite literally both laughing and horrified at the force fed agenda. To compare to UVA, VT, GW, and Villanova on our southern swing (we are from Boston) this was a joke.
    My son is going to Northeastern. Talk about building confidence, being professional, understanding what it takes to succeed on campus and in the world, engaging students, etc. Went from a choice to number one after the visit. Lehigh went from being a choice to forgotten immediately. One makes you feel confident, the other becomes a none thought, with some laughs and smirks to boot.

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