Acceptance rate drops for fourth year in a row


Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the number of years Lehighs acceptance rate has been in decline. This year marks the fourth consecutive year of acceptance rate decline, not the fifth.

Lehigh’s acceptance rate has dropped to 25% this year, marking a consistent four-year decline. The Office of Admissions recorded 20,395 applications — the most in Lehigh history.

Lehigh granted admission to 5,170 students, which is 76 less than last year. The target number of freshman spots is 1,500.

Although more men applied, more women were accepted, comprising 52% of the admitted students. Of the admitted pool, 48% are men, and six applicants marked “prefer not to answer.”

The Early Decision I and II applicant pools were also larger this year, filling 61% of the admitted student spots. Bruce Bunnick, director of admissions, said this doesn’t mean Lehigh is lowering its standards for admission.

“Early Decision isn’t a replacement for academic performance that might be questionable or students who, candidly, might face higher academic risks at Lehigh,” Bunnick said.

This admission season is marked by the Supreme Court’s June 2023 ruling in SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina, which ruled affirmative action programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Bunnick said the office didn’t import race and ethnicity into its review process as years past did. To counter the Supreme Court’s ruling, Bunnick said the application essays were tailored to allow students to showcase their personal, lived experiences as well as what they plan to bring to Lehigh. 

“I think the students submitted very insightful responses and it helped us to continue to shape and mold a class that is diverse, inclusive and that important factors were taken into consideration,” Bunnick said. 

Dan Warner, the vice provost for admissions and financial aid, said the admissions office still found ways to create a diverse community through recruitment efforts.

Warner said the Office of Admissions knows the makeup of the applicant pool after releasing decisions, but won’t know the makeup of the freshman class until after May.

“Quite candidly, I expected that we would see a significant drop-off in the percentage of students coming from underrepresented backgrounds,” Warner said. “But I’m not so sure that’s going to be the case. I’m optimistic that we’re not going to see the same kind of drop-off that I feared we might.”

This was also the first year admissions considered applicants’ qualifications for the Lehigh Commitment.

An estimated 360 admitted applicants qualified for the Lehigh Commitment, which provides a full tuition grant for families earning less than $75,000. 

Warner said he hopes the Lehigh Commitment attracted more applicants who may have not been able to afford Lehigh otherwise, but said it’s hard to quantify. 

“Being able to have that program, have a name, have it easy to understand may have helped students to feel more comfortable about applying,” Warner said. 

This admission season, Bunnick said, marks the last class of applicants before the demographic shift — a rapid drop in college-aged individuals in the general population because of the 2008 recession and the declining birthrate that followed.

In terms of the growing applicant pool, Warner said the Office of Admissions has positioned Lehigh in a strong space to react to the cliff. 

“We’ll have to work hard to continue that momentum and if we’re going to have another record-high number of applications next year, we’re going to have to work really hard at that,” Warner said.

In 2023, over 16,000 visitors came to campus from May to December. Bunnick said April is also a busy month for the office, as the team welcomes more than 1,000 admitted students to campus through events such as LehighFest on April 13 and April 20.

This year, Sophia Montalbano was admitted to Lehigh. She was drawn to the five-year, dual-degree program in Arts and Engineering and attended LehighFest to learn more about it. 

Montalbano has not committed to Lehigh yet, as she is still weighing her options. Her financial aid package, she said, is one of the reasons she has not yet committed to Lehigh. 

“That’s the main focus of my decision,” Montalbano said. “It’s so little of an amount (of aid). It’s a lot of money.”

Approximately half of the student body, Warner said, receives financial aid. The university recently announced a tuition increase to bring the total cost of attendance to $82,200 for the 2024-2025 academic year. 

Warner said he is excited about seeing all of the potential freshmen visit their future home. 

“We have a bunch of people who are visiting campus now and I just get to see the faces of the people who are going to be part of the community next year,” Warner said. “You read all of these applications and the stuff they’ve done, and they come to campus and they’re human. We’re going to see them walking around campus and it’s really cool.”

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