Getting To Know: Davidson College (NC)
Davidson College was the last school that I visited on my North Carolina college tour. Located about 20 minutes from Charlotte, Davidson is a selective liberal arts college much like Amherst or Williams, only larger, and with much less snow. But it offers an astounding selection of majors, minors and interdisciplinary options those schools don’t.
Eighty percent of Davidson College students and over two-thirds of alumni registered in LinkedIn.com are based outside of North Carolina. Davidson also has a strong alumni base in and around New York City. I dropped some photos of Davidson onto Pinterest. I also did an interview with Davidson College alumnus, Aislinn Whelan, during the pandemic. Aislinn was a great guide to tell you more, so please listen in.
Davidson College is quite selective.
Only 17 precent of all students who applied to be in the Class of 2026 were accepted. But the acceptance rate for those who applied Early Decision was 43 percent. They included athletes as well as students from first-generation and low income backgrounds who applied through partnerships with QuestBridge and the Posse Foundation. Most interesting: approximately half of all accepted students decided to enroll, exceptional for any college, public or private, of any size.
Davidson College, like most other schools, shifted to test optional admissions.
However, excellent grades in a rigorous academic program are still expected. Davidson also places high importance on recommendations, character and volunteer work. I can understand character being a consideration, because the college has an Honor Code (see below). In addition, aside from athletics, students really run the student activities at Davidson, including concerts and plays. So I can understand why leadership experience helps.
Only a third of the recent freshman class submitted SAT scores; only 30 percent submitted ACT scores. The middle 50 percent who submitted from the SAT scored between 1350 and 1500 and those who submitted the ACT had a composite between 31 and 33.
Don’t be afraid to apply Early Decision if you like Davidson.
The college really tries to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need. The average need based scholarship for freshman who arrived this fall was nearly $53,000, approximately 76 percent of the estimated total cost of attendance! That includes tuition and fees, room and board and incidentals such as books and transportation.
The average student loan debt for 2021 graduates who had to borrow was less than $24,000. The maximum amount that a student may borrow over four years from the Federal Student Loan program is $27,000. Davidson is as good a value as many public colleges, including UNC-Chapel Hill.
The aid definitely helps. Davidson has retained no less than 93 percent of every freshman class that has enrolled since 2017. No less than 86 percent of every class that entered from 2012 to 2016 graduated in four years.
Davidson’s general education requirements leave ample room to double major or carry a major and multiple minors.
They also leave ample opportunity to do research with the faculty. These experiences not only provide enrichment; they also help students to be well prepared for advanced degrees and future employment. Davidson is also a member of the national Liberal Arts Career Network. It’s member schools share job and internship opportunities.
Like other liberal arts colleges, Davidson is very residential.
Nearly everyone lives on campus. Greek life engages nearly 30 percent of the men and half of the women. However, the Greek life is organized more like the “eating house” system at Princeton. While fraternity and sorority members dine together, they do not live together. In this sense Greek social life does not dominate campus life as it does at schools such as Colgate or Lafayette. Parties are not closed as they are at other schools with significant Greek life.
I dropped a photo of the college’s student center below. Visually, it’s one of the more interesting buildings on this campus.
I previously knew about Davidson through the exploits of Stephen Curry.
Twice named Southern Conference Player of the Year, Curry led Davidson into the NCAA’s Elite Eight as a sophomore. After the Wildcats were eliminated by Kansas, Conan O’Brien asked Curry if he would go pro. His father, Dell, had a 13-year career in the NBA. and was one of the original members of the Charlotte Hornets. But Stephan told O’Brien that he would not. Drafted seventh by the Golden State Warriors after his junior year, Curry is one of the best players in NBA history, a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer. He earned his degree last year, was inducted in the college’s sports hall of fame and had his number 30 retired. Interestingly enough, Stephen was raised by his parents in Charlotte, but was lightly recruited out of high school. His choices came down to Davidson and his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech.
Curry helped the Wildcats get to the second round of the NIT in his junior year. The Wildcats have made five appearances in the NCAA tournament since Curry turned pro. But they have not advanced past the second round.
Davidson has changed sports conferences since Stephen Curry left campus.
Davidson is one of a rare number of small selective liberal arts colleges that play all sports at the D-1 (scholarship) level. Others that quickly come to mind that I have visited: Colgate, Lafayette and Holy Cross, all of which have more students than Davidson. Among those that I have not visited, Furman and Wofford maintain D-1 programs. Davidson considers Colgate and Furman to be among their peers.
The college is the second-smallest school in the Atlantic 10 (after St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York) for all sports excluding football, where the Wildcats play in the Pioneer Football Conference, This conference has a truly national mix of schools. Stetson and Presbyterian are their only Southern rivals. I have also learned that a member of the college’s swimming and diving team recently filed a hazing complaint .
Stephen Curry is not the only basketball star from Davidson.
Davidson was also the first stop in coaching for Charles ‘Lefty’ Driscell, He coached for 41 years, led four teams, including Maryland, into the NCAA Elite Eight, and retired fourth in wins among NCAA D-1 coaches. Terry Holland, a former player, succeeded him. As a senior in 1964 he led Davidson to the #10 ranking in the country. He would become head coach at the University of Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to two trips to the NCAA Final Four and an NIT title.
Davidson has other very notable alumni.
I’m into history and politics and knew that Davidson is the undergraduate alma mater of former President Woodrow Wilson and Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. A Rhodes Scholar at Davidson, Rusk went on to Oxford and Boult Hall, UC-Berkeley’s law school. Rusk Eating House, the first women’s eating house on campus, is named for him. Other notable Davidson alumni are journalist Tony Snow and novelist Patricia Cornwell.
Douglas Hicks, the college’s current president, is also an alumnus. The sixth alumnus to lead the college, Dr. Hicks earned his degree in Economics from Davidson in 1986. He went on to earn a Masters degree in Divinity from Duke and masters and doctoral degrees in Religion from Harvard. Hicks was formerly a co-founder of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond and served as the Dean of Oxford College at Emory University. An advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, Dr. Hicks’ hiring comes at a time when North Carolina’s politics are trending in a conservative direction. But I can believe from his biography that he will be a leading voice to help a diverse student body to think for themselves.
I did not attend a liberal arts school for my undergraduate education, but I became a real fan of Davidson College. Davidson has a nice balance of campus life with an opportunity to take advantage of city life, provided that you can get rides into Charlotte, one of the fastest growing cities in America. The depth of the academics is impressive for a small school. Davidson also tries harder than most private colleges to be accessible and affordable to exceptionally bright students who show promise, even if they don’t have ultra-high test scores or considerable wealth. A winning basketball tradition compared to other liberal arts colleges that are also D-1 also makes on-campus life interesting for sports fans.
Report Card: Davison College
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
Want to know more about me?
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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