Davidson, NC has the character of a classic liberal arts college town, but it retains its strong Southern heritage. Were Norman Rockwell to have lived in the south, he would have lived in Davidson. Safe, cozy this small town is a throw back in time. The Southern accents are long drawls and refined—not the close-cropped talk of the deeper South. Davidson is retains loose ties to its Presbyterian heritage, yet it welcomes students of many religious persuasions. The board recently voted to allow 25 % of board members to be non-Christian, 80% of the faculty must be Christian, and the President must be Presbyterian. Davidson is struggling with religious diversity, but the conversation is being thoughtfully had. As a whole, the student body and the faculty support lifting these religious restrictions. There’s not terribly a lot going on in the town of Davidson. There are a couple of nicer looking strip malls, one with a big grocery store chain and one with a natural, organic grocery motif. There are people walking on the streets and a lively hustle and bustle on Main Street. The campus, which Main Street dissects, looks alive and inviting. Right across from the main quad, on Main Street, are a few cute little restaurants, some crafty stores, and other storefronts. The breakfast/lunch place recommended by and in walking distance from the admissions office isn’t set up for wireless, but the people couldn’t be friendlier.
In the local restaurant the people, on a weekday morning, are Southern for sure. Not a North Face jacket, a ski cap, or yoga pants in site. On the menu, all eggs have all their yolks and there are biscuits and grits instead of oatmeal. They do have bagels and lox, which is a surprise in this Southern enclave. There is not much ethnic diversity apparent to the casual observer. The townspeople are noticeably wearing make up and hairspray, and it’s only 10am!
The intimacy of Davidson is undeniable. The classes are small. Relationships between students and professors are treasured and tightly knit. In the science department, the students benefit from the interaction between professors of different disciplines. The professors have open offices. It’s not unusual for students to drop by on a weekly basis to get help and to have further academic discussion.
There are several programs or institutes set up to facilitate different values on the campus. For instance there’s the Chidsey Center for Leadership Development for about 50 students who are selected before freshmen year. These students have special programming throughout their years at Davidson to cultivate leadership strengths. There is the Dean Rusk Center for International Study program. This institute encourages students to study abroad and further promotes international awareness and interdisciplinary study on the campus. The Vann Center for Ethics supports discussion and attention to the ethical growth of students.
The social scene at Davidson is defined by the school’s small size of 1800 students and the also by the small size of the town itself. There’s a movie theater in town that shows already released movies. Students sometimes venture into Charlotte if they have a car. The student union is considering sponsoring transportation on weekend nights to get students to and from nearby (20 minutes) Charlotte, NC which is a good-sized city with professional sports teams and many restaurants and bars. The social opportunities at Davidson revolve around shared learning and friendship. On campus, there are fraternity parties. All the fraternities have cottage like houses that circle a big common yard. They often have parties that are open to everyone. Instead of sororities there are 4 all women Eating Clubs that are open to any girl who wants to join. There is one all black sorority.
There is guaranteed housing for all four years at Davidson. I love this feature as it ensures that students are a part of a close community. There are a few themed hallways in dorms to provide living communities with more cohesiveness. I didn’t get the sense that they were thriving or very popular living options.
One student said that her least favorite thing about the campus was the lack of ethnic and cultural diversity in the professors. I wonder how truly integrated the campus is, as it seems that different racial groups self-segregate. I wonder why the university, which has a non-selective Eating Club system instead of sororities in order to promote a more inclusive atmosphere, allowed the formation of one sorority which is all African American. A student answered me that it provides a level of comfort for minority students. This same student, who is African American, lives with 3 other girls, all African American. Davidson has a reportedly good balance between liberal and conservative views. The tour guide said that the school values having many different viewpoints represented. While the campus leans a little more left than its North Carolina environs, there are equally active Democrat and Republican groups that enjoy equally strong campus presences.
The student union is the hubbub of the campus. The dining facilities don’t look new or particularly innovative, but they are by no means a drawback to the school.
Davidson is an excellent and well-respected school with a fine liberal arts tradition. There’s a commitment to teach the students to be critical thinkers. The Honor Code is an integral part of the school. Students respect and abide by it. A student rarely walks to class without seeing at least several other students that she knows. The class sizes, as a rule, are very small. Davidson is a close-knit school where most students know each other and live on campus for four years. Davidson is only for students who are engaged in their academics, who want to be thinkers, and who desire a well-rounded, liberal arts curriculum. The happy Davidson student is comfortable in a small setting in a small town, which, while idyllically lovely, does not offer much in the way of culture or entertainment or ethnic diversity. It’s for the student who is enriched from the books that she reads, the classes that she takes, the relationships with her professors, the cozy almost family feel that develops around the campus community, and the speakers who come to lecture.
Davidson offers need blind admissions and meets the full demonstrated need of students – as they calculate it.
Only 4757 students applied to Davidson last year, however, their yield rate is high with 41% of admitted students enrolling. 43% of the Early Decision candidates were admitted. 25.4% of the entire applicant pool was accepted. About 23% of regular decision candidates were accepted. The mid-range scores of accepted students were as follows:
SAT r 640-740
SAT m 650-740
SAT w 640-730
ACT comp 29-33
85% of accepted students were in the top 10% of their graduating class.
Around 10% of the accepted class are awarded merit awards.
39% of the students are from the Southeastern US. Over 6% are international students.
There is a 96% freshman retention rate.
4-year graduation rate: 87.1%
5-year graduation rate: 91.1 %
6-year graduation rate: 91.5 %