It’s Fall, the season of apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes, and of course…college searches and applications. Being so far removed from this process, one might think it’s a distant memory. Yet I still remember starting my college search as a high school junior. Before having casually browsed through the U.S. News & World Report college rankings edition, I had never heard of Lehigh. But as I flipped through the magazine in an effort to decide the rest of my life, I was lucky enough to stumble upon Lehigh University at number 33.
My criteria for a college were neither stringent nor scientific: it had to be in the top 50 colleges in the nation, have a strong business program, and be two hours or less away from my home in New Jersey. Like most other academic overachievers in the country, the higher the rank, the more I wanted to matriculate there. And although Lehigh didn’t rank number one, it met all of my criteria. So I decided to check it out.
Eight years later, the same college ranking report has dropped my school down to a tie for number forty. While it still would be on my college search radar if I were looking now, my past self may have discounted it because it was too close to my self-designated cut-off line. And if I dismissed Lehigh, I would have missed out on more than I could ever know: an amazing education, a scholarship that afforded me the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time, a free fifth year to pursue an additional degree, a rivalry that is fiercer than department store lines at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, and other experiences.
The fact is, it is these experiences that rankings don’t take into consideration. And we’ve all had experiences at Lehigh that have enriched our lives, both personally and professionally. Yet, according to one source, as much as 25% of a college’s score comes from other schools’ assessment of that college. That’s one quarter of the weight given to what others have heard about it.
In my opinion, little says more about a college than the involvement of its students after they have left the university. That’s where we as alumni can step in. We can create a stronger Lehigh alumni network that is willing and eager to reach out to current students to help them succeed at Lehigh and in the “real world.” We can act as ambassadors and mentors to those who may be considering attending Lehigh. Even something as simple as the Lehigh banner hanging in your cubicle can speak volumes to others.
So be proud to be from Lehigh, no matter what others rank it as. Because we know the unmatched opportunities for growth and success which Lehigh gives to its students. We know it, and it’s our job to let others know it, too.
– Submitted by Andi Howard-Rein ’11