Frequently Asked Questions
Lehigh Launch is a unique place-based, inquiry-based 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 (including Wyoming and New Mexico) or the Semester in Ecuador and the Galapagos. You will live and learn with approximately 12 to 18 other students while taking academic courses and earning 15-16 credit hours toward your degree.
For Fall 2021 only, students will return to campus in late October and move in with the roommate that they selected or were assigned during the regular housing assignment process, and continue their Lehigh Launch coursework on campus until the end of the term.
The start date for Lehigh Launch may vary by location. A Lehigh Launch semester may start as much as three weeks before the start of on-campus classes—as early as the start of August. Students return to their homes from their Lehigh Launch locations just before Thanksgiving. Students are required to come to Lehigh’s campus early in January 2022 in order to complete their academic courses and participate in transitional programming.
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 inter-college programs (e.g., IDEAS). Transfer students are not eligible for Lehigh Launch.
Each cohort will consist of approximately 12 to 16 students.
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.
You should think about the locations and program content, and which would appeal to you most. There are important differences. The Semester in Ecuador is based primarily in a large, cosmopolitan city, with three weeks in the wilderness areas of the Galapagos Islands. In addition, students will be living in a Spanish-speaking country and taking a Spanish course as their humanities course. The Semester in the American West spends half the semester in the Mountain West away from major population centers, and then transitions to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. A three-week backpacking expedition in Wyoming’s renowned Wind River Range, led by the National Outdoor Leadership School, is a highlight of the program.
About the Academic Program
Each student in the program takes a regular course load of 15 to 16 credit hours of courses that are designed specifically for Lehigh Launch. These include the Lehigh Launch core seminar; 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.
Lehigh Launch-Semester in the American West courses in Fall 2021 were:
- Lehigh Launch Core Seminar
- Literature of the American West
- Earth and Environment of the American West
- Political Culture and Values of the American West
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.
Yes, there will be an orientation program on site at the start of the program.
All Lehigh Launch courses are Lehigh courses, and as such, they apply to your GPA just as on-campus courses do.
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.
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.
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 have AP credit (with scores of 4 or better) in 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.
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.
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.
Due to the schedules of both programs, students may not participate in both LUSSI and Lehigh Launch.
Lehigh Launch will be underway during PreLUsion week, so students will not be able to participate in PreLUsion.
International students may participate in Lehigh Launch. Applicants to the Semester in Ecuador program should see that location’s FAQs for passport and visa information.
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
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.
Lehigh Launch guarantees on-campus housing for program participants, and works to place participants in housing with other first- and second-year students.
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.
- 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.
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 Ecuador). The Common Application will also link to the Lehigh Launch supplemental application that you must complete.
No. Lehigh Launch looks for students who are intellectually curious and well suited to the program, but students who are not selected for Lehigh Launch remain in the admissions pool for general admission to Lehigh.
Lehigh Launch students may apply to Lehigh via Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision plans.
Students have their Lehigh Launch interviews after they are selected as a finalist for Lehigh Launch, and before their admission to Lehigh University. You will have about a week following your Lehigh Launch interview to decide whether you wish to begin your Lehigh experience through Lehigh Launch, or whether you wish to withdraw from the Lehigh Launch selection process and return to your admission pool for an on-campus fall semester. If you decide to remain in the Lehigh Launch applicant pool, and you are accepted to Lehigh Launch, then Lehigh Launch becomes your path of matriculation – 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.
Lehigh Launch will consider late applications on a space-available basis.
Yes, your financial aid applies to the cost of a Lehigh Launch semester exactly the same as an on-campus semester.
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.
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. References will not be called until after a student interviews for Lehigh Launch.
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 FAQs
Even if you have never camped or backpacked, never hiked, and never canoed, you can still enjoy the NOLS programming that is 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 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 designed to be physically challenging. You do not need to have special skills or consider yourself an athlete, and there will be a range of experience and fitness levels among your classmates, but it is important that all students commit to a regular 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 40 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.
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.
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.
Semester in Ecuador FAQs
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.
Students will be placed in centrally-located homestays, vetted and overseen by our partner IES Abroad in both Quito and the Galapagos. Students will have private, furnished rooms. Families will provide three meals per day, bottled or boiled water, laundry service, linens, pillows, towels, and WiFi. All members of the homestay families will be required to be vaccinated. Language level and other student needs will be considered when assigning students to a homestay.
Yes, you will need a passport and a Study Visa for this program. Your passport must remain valid at least six months after January 2022. We will advise students who are selected for the program on how to apply for both documents.