Feb. 28, 2024

When I visited Davidson College in North Carolina with my HECA colleagues, our tour guide stopped to proudly point out her signature on the Honor Code wall. The Honor Code is a foundation for trust among Davidson students that goes beyond academics. They say they can leave a computer unattended and know that it will be there when they return.

The 2,000 undergrads at Davidson are part of only 16% accepted in admissions, putting it in league with U.C. Berkeley and Boston College. It boasts high graduation rates and a 97% retention rate. Students feel that professors want to invest in them, in their personal as well as academic lives, and the liberal arts curriculum exposes students to a broad range of disciplines. 

A close town-gown relationship starts off with the Cake Race, a 1.7-mile run around the campus for first-years. Each participant gets to choose a cake or pie baked by a family in town or a faculty member. When you pick out your cake, the baker’s family gets your information and reaches out to welcome you to the town of Davidson as well as the college. 

Finding balance

One-third of the credits for graduation will be in your major, declared sophomore year, A significant portion of credit will be in “Ways of Knowing,” through historical thought; literary studies, creative writing and rhetoric; mathematical and quantitative thought; natural science; philosophical and religious perspectives; social-scientific thought; and visual and performing arts. The requirement explores a fundamental question: How do I know what I know? 

Davidson students are ambitious and driven, but as one student panelist said, they are encouraged to “slow down,” to find balance and “know yourself.” Students, faculty, and staff can relax at nearby Lake Norman, where Davidson owns 150 acres on the water.

Freshmen and sophomores meet with “holistic advisers” who help them with all aspects of Davidson life, including finding and declaring a major. Once you declare a major, you get a major adviser.


More than 80% of Davidson students play sports at some level; one-fourth compete in 21 Division I sports. “Athletics done right” at Davidson means competing at the highest level without compromising academics. Athletics supports the institutional mission of developing “humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.”


What’s important to admissions at Davidson?

  1. Academic rigor in the context of what’s available to you
  2. Performance in classes
  3. Writing and letters of recommendation (Davidson requests a peer letter of recommendation in addition to counselor and teacher LORs.)
  4. Extracurricular activities
  5. SAT/ACT scores if provided (About 50% apply without submitting test scores.)
  6. Demonstrated interest

Financial Aid

  1. Davidson is need-blind for domestic applicants, need-aware for internationals.
  2. They meet 100% of demonstrated need through grants and employment only.

Davidson felt to me like it leaned liberal, but our tour guide pointed out that this year’s annual debate between Republican and Democrat students on the lawn by the wishing well will be lively. Of the nine schools HECA counselors visited at the end of February, only the Davidson tour took us past a vending machine carrying contraceptives and pregnancy tests with an adjacent poster giving information about the closest abortion clinic. Posters and pinwheels advertised eating disorder and body image events in February. 

Eating houses

Except for some traditional Black sororities, Davidson only has fraternities and “eating houses.” You belong to an eating house as you would a sorority, but the selection process is less cutthroat and no one ends up left out. The eating houses are literally places to eat and socialize with friends. 
Davidson has the charm of a Southern classical campus. If you’re interested in Davidson and want to talk to a current student, you can reach out to Chat with a Wildcat (Ask a Wildcat | Davidson).

Davidson College nurtures whole person