When it was time for Thera Hibbler ’22 to apply to college, she had one place and one place only on her mind: Lehigh University. 

Hibbler, a resident in the Lehigh Valley, always wanted to be a chemical engineer, and thought Lehigh would be the perfect place to pursue her college career. However, Hibbler experienced many hiccups along her journey to applying to Lehigh. Not only did Hibbler’s parents not go to college, but her brother went and never finished. She explained her experience as almost finding her way through the dark because she never had a real person to guide her but herself. 

Despite the challenges, Hibbler managed to get the paperwork together to apply for financial aid grants and fill out the FAFSA forms, and applied Early Decision 1 to Lehigh and was accepted. 

Once Hibbler was here, the challenges didn’t exactly go away, but she says she’s happy with how these experiences shaped her. 

Not only was Hibbler still having trouble with financial aid forms, she also became very sick and was diagnosed with Lupus, an auto-immune disease.    

“Ever since then, I have taken on a new identity of who I am and who I want to be,” said Hibbler. “Going from high school to college is already such an adjustment,  but I’m happy with how my experiences have shaped me.”

Now in her senior year, Hibbler says that dealing with financial aid has gotten easier and easier each year as she got used to the process. She also said how, thanks to Lehigh’s accommodations and generosity, her financial aid package is the highest it’s ever been this year and that she wouldn’t have to take out a penny in loans if she didn’t want to.  

Surrounded by many diverse people, Hibbler has loved her experience at Lehigh and is thankful for the perspective it’s given her. 

“I had to realize that everyone here was going to be so different and that you really don’t know everyone’s backstory,” said Hibbler. “Coming into a whole new environment with so many different types of people and just being open minded about accepting everyone.”

Hibbler wants young students to know, as she wished someone told her when she was their age, that college isn’t just for kids who can afford it without financial aid. 

“I want kids to know that there is a place in college for everyone,” said Hibbler. “I know that college isn’t for everyone in general and I respect that, but they shouldn’t feel like they shouldn’t come to college just because they can’t afford it.