Lehigh and Stanford: A Rivalry in the Making?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female student thinking of something while using laptop

Lehigh and Stanford: A Rivalry in the Making?

Lehigh and Stanford are two of the most prestigious and highly-respected universities in the country. Both have a long history of excellence. However, while these two universities share many similarities, they also have some notable differences that set them apart from one another. In this comprehensive article, we will take an in-depth look at both universities and compare them across various categories to determine whether there is a rivalry in the making.

A Brief History of Lehigh and Stanford Universities

Lehigh University was founded in 1865 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, by a group of businessmen who wanted to establish a technical school that would provide young people with the education and skills needed to succeed in the rapidly-evolving industrial landscape of the time.

Originally named Lehigh Valley College, the school was renamed Lehigh University in 1895 and has since expanded to offer more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs across four colleges.

Stanford University, on the other hand, was founded in 1885 in Palo Alto, California, by Leland and Jane Stanford as a memorial to their son, who had died of typhoid fever. Stanford’s founders envisioned a university that would combine traditional liberal arts education with practical training in modern industries such as engineering and agriculture. Today, Stanford is one of the leading universities in the world, with over 16,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs across seven schools.

College students walking in the campus.

Despite their different origins, Lehigh and Stanford share a commitment to innovation and research. Lehigh has been recognized for its contributions to fields such as materials science, environmental engineering, and business, while Stanford is known for its groundbreaking work in areas such as computer science, medicine, and artificial intelligence.

Both universities also have strong athletic programs, with Lehigh fielding 25 varsity sports teams and Stanford boasting 36. Lehigh’s Mountain Hawks compete in the Patriot League, while Stanford’s Cardinal are members of the Pac-12 Conference. Both schools have a proud tradition of athletic excellence, with numerous conference championships and national titles to their credit.

Academics: How Do the Curriculums Differ?

Lehigh University is renowned for its strong engineering and business programs. The College of Business and Economics also ranks highly, particularly its undergraduate program which was ranked in the top 20 by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2021.

Stanford University, meanwhile, is known for its academic excellence across a wide range of fields. Stanford’s School of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top five engineering schools in the country, and the university is also home to highly-regarded programs in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Lehigh University offers a unique program called the Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program, which combines the strengths of both the College of Business and Economics and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

This program provides students with a comprehensive education in both business and engineering, preparing them for careers in fields such as technology management, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, Stanford University is known for its interdisciplinary approach to education. The university encourages students to explore a wide range of subjects and offers numerous opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Campus Culture: How Do the Environments Compare?

Lehigh University has a small, close-knit campus with just over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university is located in the historic town of Bethlehem, which offers a charming mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. Campus life at Lehigh is marked by a strong sense of community and school spirit, with many students actively participating in sports teams and other extracurricular activities.

Group of students working together and talking.

Stanford University, on the other hand, has a much larger and more diverse campus with over 16,000 students from all over the world. The university is located in Palo Alto, which is known for its upscale restaurants and high-end shopping. Campus life at Stanford is characterized by a strong focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, with many students engaged in cutting-edge research and startup ventures.

Despite the differences in size and location, both Lehigh and Stanford share a commitment to academic excellence and intellectual curiosity. Students at both universities are encouraged to explore their interests and pursue their passions, whether through research projects, internships, or study abroad programs. Additionally, both campuses offer a wide range of resources and support services to help students succeed, including academic advising, career counseling, and mental health services.

Student Life: What Sets Lehigh and Stanford Apart?

Lehigh University is known for its vibrant social scene, with a wide range of events and activities taking place on campus throughout the year. From Greek life to the Lehigh Outing Club, there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved and make friends. The university also has a strong athletic tradition, with many students participating in varsity and club sports teams.

Stanford University, on the other hand, is known for its work-hard, play-hard culture. While the academic workload can be intense, there are plenty of opportunities for students to unwind and have fun, whether it’s through participating in a club or organization, attending a concert or performance, or simply enjoying the California sunshine.

Another aspect that sets Lehigh and Stanford apart is their approach to research and innovation. Lehigh University is known for its strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with many faculty members collaborating across departments and fields to tackle complex problems.

The university also has a number of research centers and institutes, including the Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Energy. Stanford, on the other hand, is renowned for its cutting-edge research in fields such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and renewable energy. The university has a number of research centers and institutes, including the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Athletics: A Look at the Sports Programs of Both Universities

Lehigh University is a Division I school that competes in the Patriot League, with varsity sports teams in football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, swimming and diving, wrestling, and more. The university has a strong athletic tradition, with a number of notable alumni going on to successful careers in professional sports.

teacher in blue holding a clipboard

Stanford University, meanwhile, is a powerhouse in collegiate sports, with over 100 NCAA championships to its name across a wide range of sports. The university’s varsity sports teams compete in the Pac-12 conference, and student-athletes at Stanford are known for their success both on the field and in the classroom.

Lehigh University’s athletic program has a strong focus on community involvement and service. Student-athletes participate in various community service projects throughout the year, including volunteering at local schools and hospitals. The university also hosts several charity events, such as the annual “Athletes Helping Athletes” fundraiser, which raises money for local youth sports programs.

Stanford University’s athletic program is known for its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. The university has implemented several eco-friendly initiatives, such as using recycled materials in construction projects and installing solar panels in athletic facilities. The university also hosts an annual “Green Game” where student-athletes wear uniforms made from recycled materials and fans are encouraged to participate in environmentally-friendly activities.

Prestige and Rankings: Where Do Lehigh and Stanford Stand?

Both Lehigh University and Stanford University are highly-regarded institutions with strong reputations for academic excellence. One area where Lehigh excels is in its engineering programs. The university’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science is consistently ranked among the top 50 engineering programs in the country. Lehigh is also known for its strong business programs, with the College of Business and Economics being ranked in the top 50 undergraduate business programs by U.S. News & World Report.

Stanford, on the other hand, is known for its cutting-edge research and innovation. The university has produced numerous Nobel laureates and is home to many groundbreaking research centers, including the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research. Additionally, Stanford has a highly selective admissions process, with an acceptance rate of just 4.3% for the class of 2024.

Admissions: How Do the Acceptance Rates Compare?

Given their high standing in the academic world, it’s no surprise that both Lehigh and Stanford are highly competitive when it comes to admissions. For the class of 2025, Lehigh University had an acceptance rate of 23.6%, while Stanford University had an acceptance rate of just 4.3%.

Close up of students smiling at the camera.

However, it’s important to note that the acceptance rates can vary depending on the program or major that a student is applying to. For example, Stanford’s computer science program is notoriously difficult to get into, with an acceptance rate of only 1.8% in 2020.

Additionally, both universities have holistic admissions processes, meaning that they consider factors beyond just grades and test scores. Lehigh, for example, takes into account a student’s extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation. Stanford also considers a student’s personal background, experiences, and achievements outside of the classroom.

Alumni Success Stories: A Comparison of Notable Graduates

Both Lehigh University and Stanford University can boast an impressive list of notable alumni who have gone on to achieve great success in their chosen fields. Lehigh alumni include business magnate Lee Iacocca, NFL quarterback Nick Foles, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Stanford alumni, meanwhile, include tech leaders such as Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman, as well as political figures such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

However, there are some notable differences in the types of success stories that emerge from these two universities. Lehigh University has a strong tradition of producing successful business leaders, with many of its alumni going on to become CEOs and executives in major corporations.

On the other hand, Stanford University has a reputation for producing tech innovators and entrepreneurs, with many of its alumni founding successful startups and leading the way in the tech industry.

Cost of Attendance: Analyzing Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid Options

As with all private universities in the U.S., attending Lehigh or Stanford is a significant financial investment. For the 2021-2022 academic year, tuition and fees at Lehigh University total $55,075, while tuition and fees at Stanford University total $59,440. However, both universities offer generous financial aid packages to help make their education accessible to students from all backgrounds.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance goes beyond just tuition and fees. Students must also consider the cost of textbooks, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses. At Lehigh University, the estimated cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 academic year is $76,000, while at Stanford University, it is $78,218. It is crucial for students and their families to carefully budget and plan for these additional expenses to ensure they can afford the full cost of attendance.

Career Services: How Do Both Universities Support Graduates’ Career Goals?

Both Lehigh and Stanford are committed to helping their graduates achieve career success, with robust career services departments that offer a range of resources, including job search assistance, networking events, and career counseling.

At Lehigh, the Center for Career and Professional Development offers a wide range of services for students and alumni, including career fairs, workshops, and job postings. At Stanford, the Career Development Center offers similar services, as well as a robust alumni network spread across the globe.

Lehigh’s Center for Career and Professional Development also offers specialized services for students interested in pursuing careers in specific industries, such as finance, healthcare, and technology. The center partners with industry leaders to provide students with access to internships, job shadowing opportunities, and mentorship programs.

Similarly, Stanford’s Career Development Center offers a variety of specialized programs, including the Stanford Alumni Mentoring Program, which connects students with alumni mentors in their desired fields. The center also hosts industry-specific career fairs and workshops and provides resources for students interested in entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Which University Has a More Inclusive Environment?

Ensuring a diverse and inclusive campus environment is an important priority for all universities, and both Lehigh and Stanford have taken steps to promote equity and inclusion. At Lehigh, initiatives include promoting diversity in hiring and recruitment, offering programs and resources for underrepresented students, and hosting events that celebrate diversity and cultural awareness.

Students smiling at the camera together.

At Stanford, initiatives include promoting diversity in admissions, offering resources and support for LGBTQ+ students, and hosting events and programs that promote cultural awareness and understanding.

However, there are some differences in the approaches taken by these universities. Lehigh has implemented a mandatory diversity training program for all faculty and staff, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of different cultures and identities. On the other hand, Stanford has established a center for diversity and inclusion, which serves as a hub for research, education, and advocacy on issues related to diversity and inclusion.

Future Prospects for Lehigh and Stanford: Predictions Based on Current Trends

Looking to the future, both Lehigh and Stanford have bright prospects ahead. Both universities are committed to continuing their tradition of academic excellence, research innovation, and career success.

While there are challenges facing higher education as a whole, including shifting demographics and economic uncertainty, both Lehigh and Stanford are well-positioned to continue to thrive and make a significant impact in the years to come.

One area where both Lehigh and Stanford are making significant strides is in the field of sustainability. Both universities have implemented ambitious plans to reduce their carbon footprint and promote environmentally-friendly practices.

Lehigh has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, while Stanford has set a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These efforts not only benefit the environment but also provide opportunities for students to engage in research and innovation in the field of sustainability.


In conclusion, while both Lehigh University and Stanford University have much in common, including a commitment to academic excellence and a strong tradition of success, they also have their own unique strengths and features that set them apart from one another.

As such, while we cannot say for certain whether a rivalry is in the making, what we can say is that both universities are deserving of their top rankings and are well worth considering for any student seeking a top-tier academic experience.

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