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What to Expect Your First Year

Selecting a Major

If you’re already certain what field(s) you would like to study in college, congratulations. If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. Students begin their first year at P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences without formally declaring a major. While some schools require an upfront selection, we have long embraced a more flexible approach — giving you the time and exposure you need to make an informed and fulfilling choice.

All engineering students take the same courses* in their first year. During that time, you can get to know your fellow students, participate in engineering- and non-engineering-related activities, and become more familiar with your academic and vocational choices.

In addition to having a formal academic advisor, you’ll also benefit from peer mentoring and support. Lehigh creates “pods” of 15 to 18 first-year students, each guided by upper-class students. In the fall, returning students present a seminar on registering for classes, giving you important advice for selecting and enrolling in second semester classes. Then, in the spring, juniors and seniors host a career fair to further highlight your options. By the end of your first year, you’ll have a good sense for how things work — and what you’d like to pursue.

Academics in the First Year

All engineering majors* share a common first-year curriculum. The standard first-year program requires nine courses (four in one semester, five in the other):

MATH Calculus I, Calculus II
SCIENCE Chemistry, Physics I
ENGINEERING Applied Engineering Computer Methods Intro to Engineering Practice
WRITING Composition and Literature I, Composition and Literature II
ELECTIVE You’ll choose an elective based on your academic record and personal interests.

Other Opportunities in the First Year (and beyond)

Since the 1920s, Lehigh has maintained a university-wide policy that avoids required undergrad courses between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. It remains a "sacred" time — giving all students a common window to participate in theater, chorus, orchestra, intramural sports, or a host of other extracurricular activities. We're pleased and proud that a very high percentage of Lehigh engineering students do, indeed, take advantage of these opportunities for growth, enrichment, and fun.

Additional opportunities to keep in mind include:

  • You can study abroad. Lehigh encourages engineering students to take advantage of study abroad programs. Your advisor can help you identify programs that may be a good fit.
  • You can choose a minor. Lehigh encourages all students to pursue a broader, more cross-disciplinary approach. (Read more about minors here.)
  • You can do research. At Lehigh, you don't need to be a grad student to participate in — and benefit from — research projects. You can begin working in our facilities and alongside our world-renowned faculty very early in your career.
  • You can intern or co-op. Lehigh has long maintained close ties to industry — giving you ample opportunities to get hands-on, real world experience through optional internships or co-ops, most of them as paid positions. Unlike many co-op programs, Lehigh’s program structure allows qualifying students to gain work experience and still graduate in four years.

*Other than Bioengineering, CSB, IBE and IDEAS.