COVID-19 Update

The Office of Admissions has suspended all prospective and admitted student campus visits through 5/1/20. Please find additional information regarding admissions events >

Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

What is Lehigh Launch?

Lehigh Launch is a unique place-based, inquiry-based program that takes you to either Ecuador (including Quito, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon rainforest) or to the American West (including Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico) for the fall semester of your first year at Lehigh. You will live and learn with approximately 14 other students, exploring some of the world’s most exciting regions while taking four courses and earning 16 credit hours toward your degree.

Who is eligible for Lehigh Launch?

Lehigh Launch is a program for first-semester students. Those admitted to Lehigh as Early Decision I candidates, and those applying to Lehigh as Early Decision II and Regular Decision candidates, are eligible to apply. As a program for first-year college students, transfer students are not eligible for Lehigh Launch.

How big is the program?

Each location’s cohort will consist of approximately 14 to 16 students.

How much does Lehigh Launch cost?

The Lehigh Launch program has the same cost as a semester on-campus at Lehigh. 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.

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 partner universities. See each location’s FAQ for additional information.

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

Yes. Both the Semester in Ecuador and the Semester in the American West have orientation programs on site at the start of the program.

Do my grades in Lehigh Launch 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. The lead faculty director for each Lehigh Launch program serves as the first-semester advisor for the students, will help advise you with course selection and will help connect you with additional advising resources on the main campus should you need them.

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.

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

Yes, although it will be important to determine whether participation in the Ecuador program could affect your ability to fulfill your requirements for the U.S. visa that you will need for your spring semester on campus. For this reason, it is important that international students seek the advice of the Office of International Students and Scholars. Students whose home country is Ecuador may participate in the Semester in the American West program, but not the Semester in Ecuador.

Am I eligible to participate in fraternity and sorority recruitment if I participate in Lehigh Launch?

Yes, as long as you meet the standard eligibility requirements, including academic requirements and student conduct expectations. 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. 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.

Can I pursue a major in engineering, or pursue a pre-med curriculum, and participate in Lehigh Launch?

Yes. Lehigh Launch is open to students from all colleges. Because of the careful sequencing of courses for some majors, they will need careful advising to stay on track.In particular, students planning to pursue an engineering curriculum should speak with an advisor from the Rossin College in advance of committing to Lehigh Launch; additional summer coursework may be required for some engineering majors to graduate in four years.

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 be interested to take several prerequisite courses in Lehigh summer sessions, which could accelerate their pre-med track.

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 are welcome to schedule a personal vacation at the end of the program, with their own itineraries and housing.

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

A Lehigh Launch semester may start as much as one week before the start of on-campus classes. There is no final exam period for Lehigh Launch, but there is an on-campus Lehigh Launch component that takes place in January. In the Fall of 2020, students depart from the Semester in the American West just before Thanksgiving, and students depart from the Semester in Ecuador in early December. Both groups are required to come to campus early in January 2021 in order to complete their academic courses and participate in transitional programming.

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

The best way to get past the feeling of being a new person on campus is to get involved! And Lehigh Launch students are particularly well suited to strike out to find the activities that suit them best. The January Summation also provides an opportunity for students to expand their peer group before starting classes.

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.

Does applying to Lehigh Launch help or hurt my chances of being admitted to Lehigh?

No. After the Office of Admissions makes its admissions decisions, then admitted students who have applied to Lehigh Launch will have their applications reviewed for consideration for the Semester in the American West and/or the Semester in Ecuador.

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, 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?

You can apply for the program through your Lehigh Portal.

How should I decide between the Semester in the American West and the Semester in Ecuador? Can I apply to both programs?

Students can indicate that they wish to be considered for one or both programs. You should think about the locations and which would appeal to you most. There are important differences. The Semester in Ecuador is based primarily in a large, cosmopolitan city, with a more limited amount of time in the wilderness areas of the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest. The Semester in the American West has its coursework on two beautiful small campuses that are near small towns known for their outdoor activities.

If I am accepted for Lehigh Launch, am I required to accept my spot?

No. You will have time to consider whether Lehigh Launch is right for you. Your decision is binding once you accept the opportunity and submit your Lehigh Launch deposit.

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.

Semester in Ecuador FAQs

Do I need to speak Spanish?

No, 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.

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

Yes, you will need a passport and a Study Visa for this program. Your passport must remain valid at least six months after January 2021. We will advise students who are selected for the program on how to apply for both documents.

Where will I live?

In Quito, students will live with homestay families. Up to two students may live with each family. Each student will live in a private, furnished room. Homestay families will provide 3 meals per day. Families can accommodate dietary restrictions. Laundry service is provided by the host families. WiFi is available in homestays. In the Galapagos, students will live in hostel-style housing. The local university does not offer dorm-style housing. Students will share rooms. The hostel offers WiFi, air-conditioning, and daily breakfast.

Is Ecuador safe?

The US State Department rates Ecuador as a Level 2 risk, the same risk level as most of Europe. Level 2 means that travellers are advised to take reasonable caution and avoid certain parts of the country. Keep in mind that more than a million tourists visited Ecuador in 2018. In Ecuador, the typical risks include petty crime. Ecuador is also at risk for earthquakes. In preparation for living in Ecuador, we will thoroughly address health and safety risks that you may face. Additionally, our partner IESAbroad is very experienced with supporting the health and safety needs of US students studying abroad in Ecuador.

Semester in the American West FAQs

What faculty and staff members will be with me during the Semester in the American West?

One professor serves as the faculty director and program lead, and is present for all portions of the semester other than the NOLS-led expeditions. A program assistant is another key member of the team, and is also present all Lehigh-led portions of the semester. Other faculty members teach portions of specific courses in either Lander, Wyoming or Taos, New Mexico. Other professional staff members from the Lehigh campus join the group to provide additional programs and services at various points during the semester.

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

If you have never camped, never hiked, and never canoed, you can still enjoy the NOLS expeditions that are a part of the Semester in the American West. NOLS works with participants who have extensive experience outdoors, and those who have never been in the wilderness at all. With three instructors who will be guiding the group, the NOLS components of the semester provide a great opportunity to introduce you to new opportunities and develop your leadership potential.

While NOLS typically works with groups where there is a range of experience and fitness levels, the demands of the expeditions can be challenging. For example, the group will backpack between two and eight miles daily as part of the Wind River Range expedition, and will learn to camp comfortably when nights can be quite cold. You do not need to have special skills or consider yourself an athlete, but you will be better prepared for the wilderness expeditions if you are generally fit, and have familiarized yourself with NOLS programs and expectations.