Editorial: Displacing our self-worth


Throughout recent years, we’ve seen an ample number of fluctuations at Lehigh — increases in tuition, increases of on-campus dining prices, decreases in staff, but most notably for many students, increases in our school’s acceptance rate (gasp!).

For many prospective students, an acceptance rate holds substantial value and carries a heavy weight when it comes to college applications. 

While it can help gauge how competitive enrollment is, it is often conflated with representing one’s own value

To put this in more plain terms, if we were to revert back to the class of 2022’s acceptance rate of 22 percent, people may come to believe that Lehigh students were somehow more valuable that year than Lafayette students, who were admitted with a 29 percent acceptance rate. 

For this reason, there was plenty of uproar from current and past Lehigh students when the school’s acceptance rate shot up in 2020.

The last two first-year classes saw a sizable increase in undergraduate acceptance rates — the class of 2025 with an acceptance rate of almost 45 percent (despite an increase in applicants) and the class of 2024 having an acceptance rate of 49.5 percent.

For a school with an acceptance rate typically in the 20s, this, for some, is a scary and embarrassing statistic.

But, should it really be so scary and so embarrassing? It is true that our school’s population is growing, but it should also be recognized that Lehigh has been working to grow and is currently attempting to expand interdisciplinary programs under President Joseph Helble. Sure, our acceptance rates are rising, but we predict this is only a temporary trend as the school attempts to increase student population size. 

Not to mention, for the alumni reading, it’s true that Lehigh isn’t the same school it used to be. But, perhaps that’s for good reason. It’s not solely an engineering school anymore and it’s no longer an all-male institution — while we have a ways to go, Lehigh is becoming a more diverse place for its students.

In fact, our acceptance rate dropped by 10 percent from last year in admitting the class of 2026, now at an acceptance rate of 36 percent. It’s purely a fluctuation.

Regardless, does the value you assign to yourself, strictly based on one number, really supersede the overall value of a Lehigh education?

Just because Lehigh is admitting more students doesn’t mean the worth of its academics are changing. 

Yes, students may care due to the competitive nature of the often-dreaded, but also exciting undertaking that is the job search. Yet, a school’s reputation is built over many years —  one or two years with higher-than-usual acceptance rates do not define an entire institution.

While we recognize that an acceptance rate does hold importance, we believe it’s not important for the reason most people think.

Although acceptance rates prove to be significant through its representation of interest in a school, a lot of the time, acceptance rates are more so attached to ego and competitiveness. 

Unfortunately, in a world where money drives much of our professional and educational motivation, we often attach a great amount of weight to random numbers for faulty reasons.

With that in mind, remember that your worth isn’t determined by your school’s acceptance rate. If you live in that mindset, matters out of your control will negatively change your perception of yourself. Time keeps moving forward — we can’t do anything to stop it, so there’s no reason to be upset by things out of your power.

Universities are always changing and adapting in order to advance.

Having a low acceptance rate may be pretty to look at and may lead to feelings of self-worth, but realize that your education is about more than just a statistic.

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