Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

What is Lehigh Launch?

Lehigh Launch is a unique place-based, academic program that takes you to some of the world's most exciting areas for the fall semester of your first year at Lehigh. Lehigh Launch students participate in either the Semester in the American West, set in western Wyoming and Santa Fe, New Mexico, with additional study in Colorado, or the Semester in Chile, set in Santiago with additional study throughout Chile. You will live and learn with approximately 12 to 14 other students while taking academic courses that earn 16 credit hours toward your degree.

Does Lehigh Launch start and end at the same time as the regular Lehigh semester?

The start dates for Lehigh Launch vary by location. Students in the Semester in the American West typically travel to Wyoming one week before the start of on-campus classes, with one week of remote learning prior to traveling west. Students return home just before Thanksgiving.

The Semester in Santiago, Chile dates align closely with the start and end of fall classes on campus.

Who is eligible for Lehigh Launch?

Lehigh Launch is a program for first-semester college students, and all first-year applicants to Lehigh are eligible to apply. Lehigh Launch draws students from all four of Lehigh’s undergraduate colleges as well as from Lehigh’s intercollegiate interdisciplinary programs. Transfer students are eligible for Lehigh Launch if the coursework is compatible with progress toward their degree.

How big is the program?

The Fall 2023 cohorts will consist of approximately 12 to 14 students.

How much does Lehigh Launch cost?

The program tuition is the same as on-campus tuition, and the program fees and other expenses total the same amount as room and board, fees and other expenses for on-campus first-year students. Students are responsible for their travel to and from the program location at the beginning and end of the semester; Semester in the American West students are responsible for some clothing costs for their backpacking course. Financial aid applies to Lehigh Launch as it would a regular semester, and students may apply for additional scholarship support for travel and equipment costs.

How should I decide between the Semester in the American West and the Semester in Santiago, Chile?

You should think about the locations and program content, and which would appeal to you most. There are important differences.

The Semester in Santiago, Chile is based primarily in a large, cosmopolitan city. Students will be living in a Spanish-speaking country and taking a Spanish course as their humanities course. While in Chile, students will be staying with families in home stays.

The Semester in the American West spends half the semester on the edges of the Wyoming Wind River Range, away from major population centers. The group spends several days traveling through Colorado, visiting national labs near Denver, connecting with Lehigh alums, and visiting smaller cities, before transitioning to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. Students and Lehigh faculty live at a common location. A three-week wilderness backpacking expedition in Wyoming’s renowned Rocky Mountains, led by the National Outdoor Leadership School, is a highlight of the program.

About the Academic Program

What courses will I take?

Each student in the program takes a regular course load of 16 credit hours that are designed specifically for Lehigh Launch. These include the Lehigh Launch core course, four credits of humanities coursework, four credits of social science coursework, and four credits of natural science coursework. These courses fulfill typical general education requirements that nearly all Lehigh students must fulfill as a part of graduation requirements. Specific course offerings may change each year; the program administrators can provide more information about the upcoming year’s courses.

Who will teach my courses?

At least two of your four Lehigh Launch courses will be taught by Lehigh faculty members. Your other courses may be taught by Lehigh faculty or by faculty affiliated with our program partners.

Will there be an orientation program at the start of Lehigh Launch?

Yes, there will be an orientation program on site at the start of the program.

Do my Lehigh Launch grades count toward my Lehigh GPA?

All Lehigh Launch courses are Lehigh courses, and as such, they apply to your GPA just as on-campus courses do.

Will I be able to register for spring classes at the same time as my peers on campus?

Yes, you will register online, in the same way and at the same time as your on-campus peers. Your Lehigh Launch faculty and your first-semester advisors on campus will help advise you with course selection and will help connect you with additional advising resources on the main campus should you need them.

Who Can Participate?

Lehigh Launch is open to students pursuing any major in any of Lehigh’s colleges. There are particular considerations that can vary by college or program, however.

I’m applying to the Rossin College of Engineering – can I participate in Lehigh Launch?

Yes—and many engineering students are particularly interested in Lehigh Launch as the program provides a study-away experience prior to advanced coursework within the major. Due to the sequencing of engineering courses, however, engineering students will need careful advising to stay on track, and summer coursework may be required for some engineering majors to graduate in four years. If engineering students arrive with exam credit (e.g., AP, IB, A-Level) or transfer credit in at least two of the typical first-year courses for engineering students (i.e., calculus, chemistry, English composition, or physics), they are in a good position to stay on track without summer coursework. Calculus is particularly critical for first-year engineering students; Lehigh Launch students who take first semester calculus (i.e., Math 21) in their spring semester will very likely need to take second-semester calculus (i.e., Math 22) during the summer after their first year in order to stay on track to graduate in four years.

Can pre-med and other pre-health students participate in Lehigh Launch?

Yes. Students planning to apply to medical school will be able to complete the recommended coursework to be prepared for the MCAT (which includes the courses required by medical schools) by the end of their senior year. That will allow them to take the MCAT in the spring of their senior year or the summer after. (If accepted to medical school, these students would have a "gap" or "glide" year between graduating from Lehigh and matriculating to medical school---a typical scenario for Lehigh applicants and applicants nationally.) Some pre-med students may prefer to take several prerequisite courses in Lehigh summer sessions, which could accelerate their pre-med track.

I am a varsity athlete -- can I participate in Lehigh Launch?

Varsity athletics requires a significant amount of time, and participation rules vary by sport. We encourage athletes to talk to their coaches before committing to Lehigh Launch. We also ask that you let the Lehigh Launch program know that you are a varsity athlete, so that we can properly advise you on both academic and non-academic issues related to Lehigh Launch.

Can I participate in LUSSI if I participate in Lehigh Launch?

Due to the schedules of both programs, students may not participate in both LUSSI and Lehigh Launch.

Can I participate in PreLUsion if I participate in Lehigh Launch?

Due to timing of Launch orientation and travel during PreLUsion week, students will not be able to participate in PreLUsion.

I am an international student – can I participate in Lehigh Launch?

International students may participate in Lehigh Launch. Applicants to the Semester in Chile program should see that location’s FAQs for passport and visa information; they do not need to have a passport and visa in hand at the time they apply to Lehigh Launch.

Can I participate in Lehigh Launch if I wish to participate in fraternity or sorority recruitment?

Yes. First-year students at Lehigh cannot join a fraternity or sorority until their second semester. Panhellenic recruitment and IFC fraternity recruitment both take place in the spring semester. Cultural Greek Council chapters do not have specific periods for accepting new members. So as long as you meet the standard eligibility requirements, including academic requirements and student conduct expectations, Lehigh Launch students can participate in fraternity and sorority recruitment upon the start of the spring semester. Women who participate in the Panhellenic recruitment process will need to miss certain portions of the Lehigh Launch transition programming in order to rush, but they will be required to complete all other Lehigh Launch programming in January.

Spring Semester on Campus

Will I have a hard time making friends when I start my spring semester on Lehigh’s campus?

Lehigh Launch students typically say that they have good transitions to campus, and appreciate arriving on campus with a cohort of friends. The January Summation and on-campus orientation provide an opportunity for students to expand their peer group before starting classes, and Lehigh Launch students are particularly well suited to strike out to join clubs and find the activities that suit them best.

Where will I live on campus when I return for the spring semester?

Lehigh Launch guarantees on-campus housing for program participants, and works to place participants in housing with other first- and second-year students.

Admissions FAQs

What does Lehigh consider when selecting Lehigh Launch applicants?

We are looking for students who are curious about themselves and the world around them, who have an independent spirit, and who have outstanding leadership potential. Students should be willing to challenge themselves, be self-reliant, and have the maturity to thrive in a program that will stretch them personally as well as academically.

What should I consider when deciding whether to apply?

  • Are you comfortable exploring new places and cultures? Lehigh Launch students will be in environments that will offer cultural and personal challenges every day.
  • Can I thrive without some of the support programs offered at Lehigh’s home campus? Though Lehigh Launch faculty and staff are experienced teachers and mentors who will support their students, Lehigh Launch cannot provide the same level of programming that offices such as Academic Transitions, the Center for Academic Success, Disability Support Services, and the Writing Center provide to first-year students.
  • Do I have ongoing physical or mental health concerns that could be exacerbated by the stress of the program, or that could make it difficult for me to thrive? In either program, there is help for students who become sick or need medical assistance, and there are many medical resources in the cities and towns where students will live. But Lehigh Launch students will not have access to an on-campus health center or an on-campus counseling center. In addition, students participating in the Semester in the American West will spend three weeks in remote locations that are several hours from health care clinics.

How do I apply for Lehigh Launch?

The Common Application allows you to indicate that you wish to apply for Lehigh Launch, and asks you to select your program (American West or Chile). The Common Application will also link to the Lehigh Launch supplemental application that you must complete.

Since Lehigh Launch is a special program, does applying to Lehigh Launch help or hurt my chances of being admitted to Lehigh?

Lehigh Launch is not a “conditional admit” program for students who would not otherwise be admitted to Lehigh. At the same time, it certainly does not hurt your chances of being admitted to Lehigh. Lehigh Launch looks for students who are intellectually curious and well suited to the program. As a special program, it has a competitive selection process, but your high school grades are likely not the most important part of your application.

What is the timing of Lehigh Launch interviews, and if I am accepted to Lehigh Launch, when must I decide to commit to the program?

Lehigh Launch students may apply to Lehigh via Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision plans. All Lehigh Launch finalists must complete a finalist interview via Zoom.

Early Decision applicants will have about a week following their Lehigh Launch interview to decide whether they wish to begin their Lehigh experience through Lehigh Launch, or whether to withdraw from the Lehigh Launch selection process and return to the admission pool for an on-campus fall semester. If Early Decision applicants decide to remain in the Lehigh Launch applicant pool, and are accepted to Lehigh Launch, then that acceptance is a binding admission that routes you to a Fall semester in Lehigh Launch and a spring semester on Lehigh’s Bethlehem campus. Students accepted to Lehigh via Early Decision, and who did not apply to Lehigh Launch as a part of their Lehigh application, may still apply to the program for later consideration for the program, with the Regular Decision applicants.

Regular Decision applicants to Lehigh who are selected as finalists for Lehigh Launch are interviewed on a rolling basis beginning in March. Those who are accepted to Lehigh Launch have their space held in the program for approximately ten days; deposits submitted after that period are accepted on a space-available basis.

Will Lehigh Launch consider applications to the program after Lehigh’s May 1 deposit deadline?

Lehigh Launch will consider late applications on a space-available basis.

Can I use my financial aid for Lehigh Launch?

Yes, your financial aid applies to the cost of a Lehigh Launch semester exactly the same as an on-campus semester.

What is the deposit fee for Lehigh Launch?

Lehigh Launch requires a $1,000 deposit fee that is separate from the $500 deposit toward your admission to Lehigh. Both deposits are credited toward your Lehigh tuition, and both deposit requirements can be waived in cases of financial need. Both deposit fees are not refundable. Once you submit your Lehigh Launch deposit fee, you will not be able to change your plans to spend the fall semester on Lehigh’s campus.

What should I include in my Lehigh Launch application?

We encourage you to think specifically about your program location of choice, and explain why you wish to pursue this academic living-and-learning program. The review team will be able to read your Lehigh University application, so we discourage writing a Lehigh Launch essay that overlaps with your Lehigh University application essay.

Does Lehigh Launch require additional letters of recommendation or references?

Your Lehigh Launch application does not require additional letters of recommendation, but applicants will need to provide the name, title, email address and phone number of a teacher or guidance counselor who knows them well and is able to speak by phone about a Lehigh Launch finalist’s maturity, independence, and social and academic preparation for the program. The reference you list for Lehigh Launch may be someone who submitted one of your letters of recommendation, or it may be someone else. We will not call your references until after your Lehigh Launch interview.

Can I withdraw from Lehigh Launch and switch to an on-campus semester after I have committed to Lehigh Launch?

In most cases, students who withdraw from Lehigh Launch will have their admission moved to the spring semester. Students may withdraw from Lehigh Launch and matriculate on campus in the fall semester only under very particular circumstances such as a serious medical situation; in this case, the student must submit a petition and documentation requesting the withdrawal. The circumstances warranting withdrawal must be determined to be exceptional and unforeseen in order for a student to receive a deposit refund and switch to Lehigh on-campus classes for the fall semester.

Semester in the American West students who have a health situation that prohibits them from participating in the co-curricular backpacking expedition at the start of the program will join their cohort in Wyoming when the backpacking component has concluded.

Can parents visit during the Lehigh Launch program?

Because of the nature of the program, there is no time for family visits during the Lehigh Launch semester. Families may visit their children at the end of the study-away component (end of November), and arrange for their own travel and accommodations.

American West-specific FAQs

Can you tell me more about the courses in the Semester in the American West?

In addition to the four-credit integrative core course, which fulfills the first-year seminar requirement for CAS and IDEAS students, students will take several two-credit courses. These courses let us take advantage of specific opportunities in Wyoming (first half) and Colorado and New Mexico (second half). The two credit-courses in Fall 2023 are:

  • Conservation Biology and Ecology in the West (natural science with lab)
  • History of the American West (social science)
  • Shamanistic Rituals and Sacred Survival in the West (humanities)
  • Water in the 21st Century West (natural science with lab)
  • Politics and Identity in the American West (social science)
  • Policy Challenges of the American West (social science)


Tell me more about the outdoors component of the Semester in the American West. Do I need to be an athlete to participate?

Our program partner, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), works with participants who have extensive experience outdoors, as well as those who have never been in the wilderness at all. With experienced instructors guiding the group, the NOLS components of the semester provide a great opportunity to introduce you to new opportunities and develop your leadership potential.

And you should know that the NOLS expedition is very challenging. There will be a range of experience and fitness levels among your classmates, but it is important that all students commit to a regular, rigorous fitness routine in the summer to prepare for the Semester in the American West. Your group will backpack between two and eight miles daily as part of the Rocky Mountains hiking expedition, wearing backpacks typically weighing 45 pounds and will learn to camp comfortably when nights can be very cold. You will be better prepared for the wilderness expeditions if you are generally fit, and have familiarized yourself with NOLS programs and expectations.

Are there specific physical and other requirements for the NOLS backpacking component?

Yes. NOLS has essential eligibility criteria that are a requirement of its program. These criteria are essential because they protect the health and safety of both individual participants and the group.

I’m an international student. Am I a good fit for the Semester in the American West?

The Semester in the American West is a great way to get to learn about the United States and form friendships with American students. Because there are not supplemental courses for non-native English speakers, participants should be very comfortable with their English reading, listening, and speaking skills to thrive in the program.

What should I know about the NOLS requirements regarding COVID-19 vaccinations?

Lehigh requires students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated and boosted, with the exception of approved medical or religious exemptions. You can read more about Lehigh’s vaccination requirements here. While Lehigh has a process for religious and medical exemptions from the vaccination requirement, NOLS requires participants to be fully vaccinated, and NOLS does not have an exemption process; all participants must be fully vaccinated.

Santiago, Chile-specific FAQs

Do I need to speak Spanish?

No prior knowledge of the Spanish language is required to participate in this program, but an understanding of some Spanish will be helpful for cultural and practical reasons. All classes, with the exception of your Spanish class, are conducted in English. You will be placed in a Spanish class that fits your ability – from complete novice to Spanish proficiency.

Where will I live?

Students will be placed in centrally-located homestays, vetted and overseen by our partner IES Abroad in Santiago. Students will have private, furnished rooms. Families will provide three meals per day, laundry service, linens, pillows, towels and WiFi. Language level and other student needs will be considered when assigning students to a homestay.

I don’t have a passport – will I need one for the Semester in Santiago, Chile? What about a visa?

Yes, you will need a passport for this program. Your passport must remain valid at least six months after the end date of the program. Lehigh and IES will support students in applying for passports and visas as needed.

Can you tell me more about the courses in the Semester in Santiago, Chile?

Students will earn 16 credit hours through classroom-based and experiential learning, while fulfilling distribution requirements in natural science, social science and the humanities, as well as the first-year seminar requirement. Details on courses will be announced in late 2023.