How to Write the Lehigh University Application Essays 2016-2017
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In eastern Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philadelphia, lies one of the oft-nicknamed “Hidden Ivies,” Lehigh University. Commonly touted for its engineering school, its prime location near booming business hubs (like New York City) and a reputation for excellent research programs have made the university an epicenter of academic excellence.
An undergraduate student population of 5,062 and acceptance rate of 34.3% also make this mid-sized school among the most selective in the country — meaning you should take great care in writing your supplemental essays if you hope to study at Lehigh next fall.
For reference, the middle 50% of accepted applicants had SAT critical reading, math, and ACT scores of 610-700, 660-750, and 30-33, respectively. Additionally, Lehigh keeps track of the interest that applicants demonstrate in the school through things like campus visits and informational sessions and considers these points when making admissions decisions. If possible, definitely visit the Lehigh University campus! If this is not possible due to logistics or expense, consider getting in contact with your region’s admissions officer to build a relationship.
Beyond demonstrating interest, though, one important step towards gaining acceptance is an exceptional set of essays. Here, we’ve detailed how to write successful and effective responses to each of Lehigh’s essay prompts.
Lehigh University Essay Prompts
What do you and Lehigh have in common? (250-350 words)
There are two definitive ways to approach this prompt. The first being your average, “We both value diverse perspectives,” or “We place an emphasis on interdisciplinary education.” This would fall under the traditional approach category because there is little creativity injected into the writing.
Although you could be pointing out valid similarities between your values and Lehigh’s, this method won’t make your essay stand out in the admissions office. Think about the thousands of other application essays that will be written with almost identical language and wording. So while there is nothing inherently wrong with taking the prompt at face value, there is also a more abstract, distinct way to respond.
For example, starting off with a sentence along the lines of, “Like Lehigh, I aspire to be covered in snow on a blistery winter day in January,” will not only make your reader do a double take, but it allows you to delve into one of your interests that may not have come out in your application yet (like skiing, hiking, etc.). Make sure to then connect these back to the university though and how you look forward to pursuing them on campus.
We can’t stress enough the importance of being unique in the college admissions process, so when possible, always try to be a little out-of-the-box with your prompt interpretations. Don’t go off the deep end by any means, as there is a fine line between creative interpretation and total misinterpretation, but strictly adhering to a prompt that only has eight words to begin with isn’t necessary. In fact, we encourage you to be liberal with your understanding of the question.
Please select one of the following prompts (150-250 words)
A. Imagine that you just completed your visit to Lehigh University. What would you tweet about us and why?
Your response to this question could easily overlap with the previous “What do you and Lehigh have in common?” prompt, so if you choose this option, be careful not to repeat information or reasoning. This question also reveals the school’s assumption that you have visited the school and shows they are concerned with demonstrated interest (which we talked a bit about earlier on).
For those not on Twitter (or in case you’ve forgotten), the character limit for a tweet is 140 characters, so there is little time for a full-blown profession of love for Lehigh or a lengthy story about your awesome tour guide. While this might sound unconventional for a college essay, do keep in mind that you don’t need to pay complete attention to English grammar conventions. But you should be direct, purposeful, and not unnecessarily wordy. Due to the character limit, you also only have time to discuss one (maybe two) things about your visit, so choose wisely!
As far as possible topics, professors, research opportunities, and other primarily academic motivators to attend the school should have been referenced in the previous prompt. While you can definitely include some of these, understand that this question is more geared towards things like the student body, the atmosphere, extracurriculars, or even the physical campus itself — normal, more reactionary topics that you might actually tweet about in real life. Think along the lines of this: “Smiling faces. The Baker Institute. Trees as far as the eye can see. I could spend years here.”
The simplest way to structure your response would be to begin with your tweet, because including it later on will probably result in a clumsy introduction or just awkward wording in general. This also eliminates the need for extra words since you’re only afforded 150-250 to begin with.
B. Describe your favorite “Bazinga” moment.
If you’re not familiar with the television show The Big Bang Theory, needless to say, this prompt might not make much sense. We’ll do our best to explain the concept of a “Bazinga” moment, but another prompt that doesn’t take so much time on the front end to understand might be a better choice if you’re a newcomer to the world of Sheldon Cooper.
With that being said, Sheldon, one of the central characters on the show, is so engrossed with science and his work that his social skills are almost nonexistent — making for some incredible, sarcastic humor. He often exclaims “Bazinga!” after a joke or prank, and the word could technically double for “Gotcha!” or “Fooled you!”
So in terms of your Lehigh essay, you can choose to reference your love for the show and the best “Bazinga” moment you have witnessed while watching, but you will then have the task of connecting it to your own life. Maybe the show actually inspired you to learn more about the actually Big Bang, or perhaps weekly viewing parties were a bonding activity for your group of friends. Whatever it is, don’t forget to include the ever-important aspect of self-reflection.
Alternatively, you could explain a “Bazinga” moment in your own life. However, considering they’re directly referencing the show, it wouldn’t hurt to at least briefly mention The Big Bang Theory. Do you love pulling pranks? Do you, like Sheldon, have a passion for dry humor? These are all solid ways to approach the prompt.
C. If your name were an acronym, what would it stand for and how would it reflect your strengths and personality?
Our apologies to applicants with long names. But jokes aside, this prompt gives you plenty of leeway both structurally and in terms of content. You could choose to format your response with the letters of your name alongside the left-hand margins and your explanations located directly to the right, and if you feel comfortable with your poetic abilities, writing the essay in the style of a poem would definitely be one way to stand out.
Similar to the “five characteristics” prompt, think of words or adjectives to describe yourself that are both revealing and not always expected. For example, if one of the letters in your name is a “C,” don’t be afraid to use “Cake-lover” as one of your personality traits. The trick is finding a balance between humor and serious insight. Admissions officers don’t want to be bored, but they also don’t want to read an essay that is 100% sarcastic. So if “cake-lover” is one of your examples, counter it with a more serious descriptor next.
D. In your opinion, what are the five characteristics of a successful person?
A little more serious in nature, the obvious answer to this question would be words like “dedicated,” “ambitious,” or “intelligent.” But keep in mind a generic essay that explicitly answers the prompt might not even reveal anything about you. While your approach to the prompt might allow admissions officers to infer certain things — do you take risks, read between the lines, etc. — it’s still important to include a personal story or explanation at some point.
For this prompt specifically, one option is to write about how you have exhibited these characteristics in your own life or, alternatively, times when you could have employed them. If you believe having a knack for conflict resolution is one trait of a successful person, write about the time in your life that taught you this. Was it an argument with a friend? Standing up for yourself in class? Learning to compromise? Whatever it is, talk about yourself in addition to just the characteristics!
A slightly more creative way to approach this question would be to use adjectives not commonly chosen to describe leaders or successful individuals. Say you want to write about being self-motivated. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty generic-sounding character trait. Instead, you could describe this idea by stating, “To me, all successful people are runners.”
Now I know what you might be thinking, I know plenty of exceptional, goal-oriented industry leaders who don’t enjoy an afternoon run after work. Chances are, your admissions officer could be thinking the same thing, but you undoubtedly will spark their curiosity.
The key here is that you’re not using the term “runners” literally. Running for sport implies a drive to succeed, a desire to push past obstacles and boundaries — like Kathrine Switzer’s unstoppable appetite to prove her critics wrong when she was the first female marathon runner in 1967. These are traits that most definitely make for a successful person.
Like the example above, choose “characteristics” that have multifaceted meanings and that you can connect to historical events or times in your own life. As crazy as this sounds, you could even make up your own words if you have the context and explanation to back them up. Remember, your goal is not only to meet expectations, but also to stand out in the admissions process.
E. You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?
Given the prominence of viral videos and social media in our generation, the question’s place on Lehigh’s application should come as no surprise. By far the most versatile prompt on this list, Lehigh is begging you to let your weird side out. While you still want to come across as a serious applicant, this is one question where one of your goals could be to make the admissions officer chuckle, perhaps even remember your application out of the hundreds of others.
The key to using humor in college essays is not just to be funny or sarcastic, but to allow your wit to speak about your personality and the traits that will make you an ideal fit for Lehigh. To give you a more concrete (and semi-embarrassing example), let’s say your favorite past-time as a toddler was dancing outrageously to Shania Twain and your parents happen to have countless home videos of your “performances.”
After first describing why your childhood moves deserve to go viral, you could delve into how that outgoing, self-confident attitude has translated into your current self. If you’ve become more reserved over the years, how has that affected your life, relationships, or studies, positively or negatively? What can be learned by approaching challenges (or life in general) with a carefree attitude?
While obviously this is one very specific example, we want to impart on you how important it is to write supplementary essays with depth and personal reflection. Understand that even simple, seemingly straightforward prompts shouldn’t just be taken at face value. Make sure your choice of prompt reflects the traits you want to present in your application.
As with any college application essays, bear in mind that the amount of time you spend on them will directly reflect your desire to attend the school (in the mind of an admissions officer). Considering Lehigh has such comprehensive additional essay requirements that will no doubt test your creativity, this is not an area of the application to rush through. Brainstorm, plan, and appropriately outline before you even begin writing. And most importantly, express your individuality!
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