How to Write the Lehigh University Essays 2020-2021

Located in picturesque Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University is a small, highly rated university with a reputation for its interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to education. With its beautiful campus, elite business and engineering schools, and ample opportunities for research and study abroad, it’s no wonder that Lehigh is the top choice of so many students.

 

The application to Lehigh is competitive, with an acceptance rate of 32% for the class of 2024. The middle 50% of enrolled students traditionally have SAT scores in the 1350-1480 range and a 31-34 on the ACT. However, according to their website, Lehigh is adopting a “testing optional” policy this year due to the novel coronavirus. With the exception of student athletes and those applying to the accelerated program with SUNY Optometry, students can decide whether or not to submit SAT and ACT scores for the 2020-2021 application cycle.

 

Essays are always important, but without standardized testing scores, your essay is the prime source for admissions officers to learn about you. Therefore, it’s so important that your essays stand out. In addition to the common application, students applying to Lehigh University need to submit three supplemental essays. Sound scary? We’ve got your back! In this post, we’ll discuss how to tackle these essays to give your application the best shot.

 

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Want to learn what Lehigh University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Lehigh University needs to know.

 

Lehigh University Supplemental Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: How did you first learn about Lehigh University and what motivated you to apply? (150 words)

 

Prompt 2: A compelling characteristic of Lehigh’s community is that our students want to be actively engaged in their learning, their community, and the world. Our students look to make a difference and have a real-world impact. We expect our community to challenge your viewpoint, your naturalized assumptions, and the way that you see the world around you. In the words of Lehigh’s President, John Simon, “The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has shaken our nation, and brought into harsh relief the life-threatening, systemic racial injustice that affects the lives of so many every day. Members of our community are angry and fearful, and we will support them…We need to make Lehigh University an actively anti-racist institution. By this, we mean actively speaking out and addressing acts of racism, racist comments, racist practices, policies and procedures.” 

 

What would you want to be different in your own country or community to respond to issues of inequality, inequity, or injustice? (300 words)

 

Prompt 3: With the understanding that you are able to change colleges at Lehigh after the first year, please briefly describe why you chose to apply to the first choice college or major above. (200 words)

Overview

 

We know you’ve been writing what feels like thousands of essays, so you’ll probably be happy to hear that these essays are all 300 words or less. While that may be a relief, it should also raise a bit of a red flag – short word counts can actually be a bit more demanding since they require you to condense a lot of important information (like how great and qualified you are) into a very small space. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you don’t need to spend a lot of time on these essays just because they’re short. Especially given Lehigh’s “test optional” policy this year, your essays can make or break your application. But don’t panic. We know – easier said than done. But rest assured that we’re here to help you write some brilliant essays!

Prompt 1

How did you first learn about Lehigh University and what motivated you to apply? (150 words) 

This prompt probably doesn’t need much interpreting—it’s a straightforward “why this college” essay. This essay wants to know what prompted you to apply to Lehigh and how you first learned about their institution. You’ll notice that the word count here is pretty short, at a measly 150 words. That’s not a lot of space at all, so make sure to be concise and get straight to the point.

 

The most common mistake that people make with “why this college” essays is that they’re too general. They write an essay that any applicant could write because they list the aspects of Lehigh that anybody and everybody is excited about. This sends the message that the applicant didn’t do much research beyond a quick Google search. For this reason, admissions officers end up reading hundreds of practically identical essays. Instead of rattling off generalities, you want to make your essay unique and interesting!

 

So how do you find a unique aspect of Lehigh to talk about? Research! You can find a full list of ways to research for the “why this college” essay, but we’ll give you a quick breakdown now as well. 

 

  • Start by making a list of all the reasons that you want to go to Lehigh. You might realize looking at this list that it’s full of generic answers such as “great location,” “good price,” and “my test scores are in the competitive range.” Don’t panic! Use those answers to guide your research. 

 

  • Look for more specific information about what Lehigh has to offer — like unique courses, an internship program, a club you’re interested in, or research projects. Now is a great time to head over to the university or department website or visit student social media groups. Or, even better, ask your guidance counselor to connect you to a current student to talk to! The more specific the information you include as your “why Lehigh,” the more you’ll stand out.

 

You may think that admissions officers are looking for a specific answer, but the truth is that they really just want to get to know you better! There are no wrong answers, and trying to give a “correct” answer is boring and overdone! Find something you’re genuinely passionate about and run with it.

 

You may find yourself getting so caught up in the “why Lehigh” part of the question that you totally forget to answer the part about how you first heard about Lehigh. Don’t fall into that trap! No matter how good your essay is, skipping part of the prompt will make you appear careless and you certainly do not want that. Think back to the first time Lehigh was on your radar. Did a friend mention it to you? Do you live nearby? Maybe a character in your favorite TV show went there or you read about it in a book.

 

A mistake a lot of students make with essays like this—especially with such low word counts—is that they spend too much time writing about all the amazing things about the college. I know what you’re thinking: But isn’t the prompt asking me to talk about what I like about Lehigh? Well, yes and no. Admissions officers want to know what you like about Lehigh, but frankly they already know that it’s an incredible institution and they don’t need you to remind them. They’re much more interested in what parts of you match up with their values.

 

Sound confusing? Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re interested in Lehigh because of Professor Christopher Burke’s social psychology research on dealing with stress through partner support. Prof. Burke isn’t applying to Lehigh and the admissions committee already knows all about him, so spending 100 words talking about how great he is wastes time and words. Instead, introduce your interest in his research, and then frame it around your own research experience on the effect of marital status on hypertension. Also discuss how this resource is related to your professional goals; maybe this student wants to become a marriage counselor and this research will help him better understand the science behind the therapies, and even come up with new ones. 

 

If you’re still stuck, try checking out these “why this college” essay examples. Just remember to make it your own and stay true to yourself!

Prompt 2

A compelling characteristic of Lehigh’s community is that our students want to be actively engaged in their learning, their community, and the world. Our students look to make a difference and have a real-world impact. We expect our community to challenge your viewpoint, your naturalized assumptions, and the way that you see the world around you. In the words of Lehigh’s President, John Simon, “The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has shaken our nation, and brought into harsh relief the life-threatening, systemic racial injustice that affects the lives of so many every day. Members of our community are angry and fearful, and we will support them…We need to make Lehigh University an actively anti-racist institution. By this, we mean actively speaking out and addressing acts of racism, racist comments, racist practices, policies and procedures.” 

 

What would you want to be different in your own country or community to respond to issues of inequality, inequity, or injustice? (300 words)

You may be looking at this prompt and thinking “Wow, that’s intense.” While this prompt may seem overwhelming at first, there are a number of reasons a university would ask for this kind of supplemental essay. Primarily, they want to make sure that your values align with theirs. The admissions committee wants to know that you, like their student body and faculty, are dedicated to racial justice and activism. 

 

Now, why do admissions officers want to know this? If you don’t relate to Lehigh’s values, this may indicate to admissions officers that perhaps there’s another college that is a better fit for you. We know that sounds harsh, but they are taking steps to make sure that every person on their campus, regardless of their background, shares these fundamental values. 

 

Additionally, Lehigh wants to know how you interact with your community and how you think it could be improved. They want to know that you are being active in creating positive change to achieve your vision for the future.

 

So how do you approach a prompt like this? The first step is to identify the scope of your community. “Community” is a pretty broad buzzword and can vary in size from your family or a club you’re in, all the way to your country. When picking a topic, think of something that bugs you so much that you could rant about it for a whole hour. 

 

For instance, maybe you want to dream big and tackle a topic like racism in the federal government. Or, perhaps you want to focus on something closer to home, like the fact that female students in your high school are often sent home for “distracting male teachers and classmates due to dress code violations” in 95 degree weather. Whatever it is, choose something that you are truly passionate about.

 

Something important to note here is that, despite the context for the prompt, the “inequality, inequity, or injustice” that you focus on does not need to be racism. It could be sexism, homophobia, religious discrimination, xenophobia, etc. That said, you do need to tie your topic back to what was said by President Simon, specifically the idea of being actively anti-racist. So, while it’s fine to discuss your frustration with the blatant Islamophobia in your hometown, make sure you connect it to the current movements for racial equality and dismantling systems of oppression. 

 

It’s also worth mentioning that 300 words is a little bit lengthier than the other two prompts. Don’t worry, this is a very good thing, because a topic like this requires more writing to be done well. With 300 words, you can—and should—include a personal anecdote that connects you to whatever inequity you discuss. 

 

For example, let’s say you’re really sick of the fact that your high school will not allow students to bring a date of the same gender to the prom. It’s not enough to just state your frustration. Tell the story of the time your best friend was heartbroken because he couldn’t take his boyfriend to the prom. Tell us about your own feelings in this situation. Were you mad? Upset? Disappointed? Better yet, tell us what you did about it. Did you write a letter to the principal? Speak to the PTA? Ask other students to attend an alternative LGBTQ+ friendly prom, where all people could be included? 

 

Just remember to be specific and choose something you’re truly passionate about. Then, dive in because Lehigh wants to know all about it!

Prompt 3

With the understanding that you are able to change colleges at Lehigh after the first year, please briefly describe why you chose to apply to the first choice college or major above. (200 words)

This prompt is a standard “why this major” essay. Located in the academic questions section of the Common App, this essay asks you to go back to basics and explain your choice of college or major at Lehigh.

 

Think back to the first moment you knew what you wanted to study and try to remember what it was that got you so excited. The beginning of the essay is a good place to share a brief anecdote about why you appreciate this subject. A Neuroscience major might discuss growing up with their father’s addiction, and wanting to study the science behind that to find better treatments. A Spanish Literature, Language, and Culture major might share a story of how they helped an immigrant at the grocery store, and how her face lit up when someone spoke the same language as her.

 

Then, think about your professional goals and the way Lehigh can support them. While you should discuss resources, classes, or professors specific to Lehigh, It’s important that you avoid name dropping. What does that mean? There’s a difference between mentioning the name of a resource just to get credit for researching and providing a specific detail and actually demonstrating why that resource applies to you and your interests. 

 

For example, instead of just saying “I’m excited to be part of the Computer Science and Business joint degree program,” also share your background and how the program can help you meet your goals. Maybe this student has taken some app development courses and wants to create an online marketplace or local businesses to compete with Amazon. The joint degree would allow them to develop the technical and business skills to make their vision happen.

 

An essential tip for writing this essay is to make it as specific as possible to Lehigh. We know that many schools you apply to will have a similar major and you’ll have to write many versions of this essay. Still, you shouldn’t try to reuse the same essay for multiple schools. While you may be able to keep the general structure or a few sentences of a similar essay you’ve written, most of your word count should be filled with anecdotes and information crafted to be specific to the school you’re applying to. 

 

This probably goes without saying, but if you do copy-paste anything from a different essay, make sure you change the name of the school. Very little will get your application thrown out faster than submitting an essay to Lehigh that talks about how “you can’t wait to be a mechanical engineering major at Binghamton.”  

 

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