Saturday, June 2nd, 18 high school students from New York City participated in a daylong CFES College Explore event at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As part of the program, students toured the Lehigh campus, attended faculty presentations, and engaged in conversations with college students. For many Scholars, this was their first time visiting a college campus.

Lehigh’s Associate Director of Admissions, Krista Evans, started the day by giving students an overview of admissions requirements, financial aid, academics, and student life. As she spoke, students actively listened and took notes on key details. Lehigh University is one of the largest private campuses in the country with nearly 7,000 students and four colleges. It has the atmosphere of a small college while giving students access to an internationally recognized research university.

On their campus tour, Scholars were able to ask the student tour guides questions about their college experience and campus life as they visited academic classrooms, libraries, the student center, and residence halls. The tour at Broadhead House Dining Hall, where students met with Dr. George White, Managing Director, Student Access and Success at Lehigh.

Scholars then met with a panel of five faculty members in different fields to learn about special programs at Lehigh, including Rapidly Accelerated Research Experience (RARE), a focused science immersion program for students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields. Faculty members all expressed that Lehigh encourages students to take intellectual risks, ask big questions, and solve big problems both in and out of the classroom.

In the final session of the day, Scholars met with a panel of Lehigh students who identify as first-generation, speakers of English as a second language, or from low-income communities. The students discussed challenges they face on campus, and available supports offered by Lehigh, including Lehigh F1RST, the on-campus organization for first generation college students and The Lehigh University Student Scholars Institute (LUSSI), a program that helps first generation and low-income students throughout their four years on campus. When asked about their favorite part of the day, Scholars replied being able to have honest conversations with Lehigh students about the college experience.

On the bus back home to New York City, students reflected on the day’s events. One Scholar shared how the day transformed her attitude towards college. Initially, she was hesitant during the campus tour because she feared she didn’t have the qualifications for admissions at Lehigh. By the end of the day, however, she realized she has the power to take control of her future. “I really like Lehigh and I want to go here,” she said. “I’m excited to go back to school and work hard on improving my grades. I’m going to be a sophomore, so I still have time.”