How to Write the Lehigh University Supplement Essays 2017-2018
Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University is an American private research university founded in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer. A strong university in a variety of areas, Lehigh offers studies in an array of disciplines and boasts a strong engineering program.
In terms of population size, the institution has a total undergraduate enrollment of about 5,000 students, and its approximately 2,358 acres of campus are integrated in a city setting. Yet, despite its proximity to major cities like New York and Philadelphia, Lehigh’s main campus is situated on the wooded slope of South Mountain, and half of the campus is preserved as open space.
A selective university, Lehigh accepted 25.5% of applicants in 2016 and ranked #44 in the 2017 edition of Best National Universities.
For NCAA Division 1 Athletics, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks are members of the Patriot League, and the school’s most notable, historic athletic rivalry is with Lafayette College, located less than 20 miles away. In particular, the football game between Lehigh and Lafayette, also known as “The Rivalry,” is the most played rivalry game in American history, having been played 152 consecutive times since 1884. From a social-life standpoint, Greek Life is prominent at the university, with a third of the student body actively involved in fraternities and sororities.
Lehigh students are often characterized by their spirit, collaboration, and curiosity. One of school’s annual traditions, the “Bed Races,” allows students to construct their own bed-frame race cars, which teams proceed to race down the hill of South Mountain to glory. Teams have to design and build their own bed-frame racers, fostering a personalized inventiveness inherent in the tradition.
How to Write the Lehigh Application Essays
For the Lehigh supplemental essay, you are expected to choose 1 out of 3 essay prompts (250-300 words).
Option 1: Intellectual Curiosity
What about Lehigh piques your intellectual curiosity? (250-300 words)
As with most college essay responses, you must answer the question while also conveying more information about your personality and interests. Here, Lehigh wants to know what exactly about the university, academics, and/or student body really gets you excited and passionate from an intellectual standpoint.
When selecting a topic, you must align your topic with offerings at the university; after all, it wouldn’t make sense if you wrote an essay about researching marine biology when Lehigh doesn’t have extensive offerings in that area. Try researching more into the school’s opportunities to find something that gels with your interests. Lehigh’s page of activities, clubs, and organizations is an excellent place to start.
At the same time, we advise you to be as specific as possible; instead of choosing a generic topic like “physics,” be more acute and develop a topic like “how the jaggedness of South Mountain motivated the architecture of Lehigh’s buildings, from a physics standpoint.”
Here are a few strategies that can be used to execute a response:
- Parallel Anecdote – To convey your curiosity and interest in a certain subject, you can use florid description and storytelling. For example, if you were an avid reader growing up, you could describe how you used to read through stacks of books from the library and how you were whisked away on adventure after adventure with each book. Perhaps you preferred to take the book outside to a special spot where you could have calming peace and quiet. Then, to tie in your love of reading to Lehigh, you could describe your amazement when you first entered the school’s Linderman Library (assuming you visit!), how its countless shelves and stacks line a massive spiraling interior. Maybe the library even reminds you of a setting you’ve read about in a book. You could go on to explain how an intellectual environment, such as the Linderman Library, is the perfect place for you to be in your element as a reader and learner at Lehigh.
- Explain a Concept – Alternatively, you can express your interest in an initiative or concept at Lehigh. According to the university’s informational overview, it is a unique university in that it actively prepares students for successful careers by focusing on learning beyond the classroom. You could explain how active, hands-on learning has always piqued your intellectual curiosity. Using past experiences like mechanical design, lab work, or service would be a great way to demonstrate how you have learned through experience and how continuing such an approach to learning at the school would be an excellent way to explore your interests. You can be creative in selecting an initiative or prominent idea at Lehigh, so long as you can back it up clearly.
Option 2: Family (Community)
What does the idea of the ‘Lehigh Family’ mean to you?
Fitting for Lehigh, this essay revolves around the ideas of “family” and “community.” As previously discussed, the university has a very spirited campus community, characterized by individuals passionate about their university. This spirit feeds into the energy of the Lafayette rivalry, as well as academic endeavors.
It is important, when approaching this essay, to use evidence and support that is specific to the school. After all, many universities have strong communities that feel like family, but you need to differentiate and explain why you think the Lehigh Family is exceptional and fitting for you.
Here are a few strategies to write a response to the “family” prompt:
- Use an Image to Explain an Idea – Instead of using a boring opening like “To me, Lehigh Family means…”, actually show what family means to you by depicting a poignant and resonant image. For example, you could explain that Lehigh’s Family is “far-reaching” in how graduates and alumni will often greet each other excitedly if they notice the brown and white letters out in public (even at an airport). In this way, you can describe how graduates are still super-passionate about giving back to the school, meeting for reunions, and attending homecoming football games. The trick is to actually describe the energy and camaraderie on campus and abroad in order to differentiate the extent to which Lehigh’s Family reaches outside of campus. Then, you can fold in why you would want to be a part of such a family, as well as what you could contribute to it.
- Incorporate Your Own Community Values – If you are a part of a community — a sports team, volunteering organization, or school club — you can compare the values of that community to Lehigh’s own community values. For example, if your robotics club in high school was characterized by innovation and collaboration, highlighted by a team project of building a “smart” robot, you could leverage those values and apply them to the school. Explaining how Lehigh’s engineering community fosters innovation and entrepreneurship would be a great way to show how your own values coincide with that of the university. For this particular example, you would be demonstrating how you, a person who values innovation, also fit into Lehigh’s innovative community. Similar to the previous strategy, you can use a variety of examples, but you just need to make sure you support the comparison with realistic evidence.
Option 3: Inclusive Leadership
Lehigh values inclusive leadership, where students make decisions, take action, and contribute positively to their communities in ways that are purposeful, socially just, and built on integrity. What does this mean to you?
Right away, it is evident that this prompt focuses on leadership. Immediately, you may think about service work, positions you’ve held, or pioneering a project, but be careful. The point of this essay isn’t simply to discuss what leadership activities you’ve participated in; you have to take a stance on what inclusive leadership means to you, based on your experiences. Luckily, this prompt leaves flexibility for an array of responses.
Here are potential approaches to crafting a response:
- Explain How a Certain Leadership Style Fosters Inclusivity – Perhaps you have witnessed leadership that is unbiased and empowering. For example, if you have been a part of a project team, you may have noticed that the best leaders delegate fitting roles to the people that are best equipped to accomplish them. At the same time, inclusive leaders listen to their teammates and allow them to be creative in how they solve problems. If you were a leader on student council, you could explain how you had to adapt as a leader to communicate better with others. If you needed to switch to a new leadership style, you could show that the end result was a more inclusive environment with fluid communication. In order to execute such a strategy, be prepared to explain why you made certain changes as you take the reader closely through your thought process as a leader.
- Discuss Macro and Micro Leadership – Consider leadership on an individual level, in which specific actions are taken and decisions are considered on a case-by-case basis. You could explain how inclusive leadership fosters integrity on a person-by-person basis, yet this small-level example often sends ripples throughout society. Essentially, the more socially just and aware individual leaders are on a small-scale, the more communities benefit on a macro scale. In this way, you could discuss how your leadership, specifically, can help foster a more inclusive community at Lehigh, and how, in turn, a more inclusive community at Lehigh will have the opportunity to create a positive impact on a larger scale.
- Go with Your Gut – there is no set-in-stone way to write a response to this prompt, so if neither of the two strategies previously mentioned make sense with your experiences, feel free to answer in your own way. Just be sure to be direct, detailed, and clear about what exactly inclusive leadership means to you and why you believe it is important.
The Bottom Line
Read through your essays and question critically if they convey what you want them to about yourself. Be your own skeptic. If you get stuck, we at CollegeVine recommend that you review the previously mentioned strategies and examples in this guide in order to reaffirm what Lehigh is looking for.
As you work on your Lehigh supplemental essays, remember to consider how they work in tandem with your entire application to reflect your identity. In particular, make sure your responses compliment your Common Application essay. Strategies to write the Common App essay can be found in CollegeVine’s Common App Guide 2017-2018.
Be creative, expressive, confident, and authentic! Don’t be afraid to challenge perceptions and explain your ideas.
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Best of luck and happy writing!