School Profile: Academics, Athletics, and Eating Houses at Davidson College

Davidson College, a private liberal arts college, is located in Davidson, North Carolina about 20 miles north of Charlotte. Ranked #36 among Veritas Prep Elite CollegeRankings, Davidson is part of the 24-school Charlotte Area Education Consortium. The college was founded in 1837 by the Presbyterian Church on the property of Revolutionary War General William Lee Davidson, after whom it was named. The 665-acre campus sits in the center of Davidson and is home to under 2,000 undergraduate students.

Davidson College is consistently ranked among the top ten liberal arts schools in the nation, and has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars. In keeping with the philosophy of interdisciplinary learning, it offers 25 majors, which may be combined with 17 minors or 17 concentrations. The campus is currently undergoing a physical transformation to create an academic neighborhood of learning spaces that will foster a new model for liberal arts education. Davidson also offers students self-instruction in five languages, 17 off-campus programs, and both domestic and international summer internships.

The school’s reputation for academic rigor combined with an uncompromising grading system attracts competent, confident, and competitive students. Talented professors are both approachable and reasonable; if the pressures become too great, expect them to work with you. Small class sizes encourage both personalized attention and relationship building. Over half the Davidson students opt for a semester of learning abroad. The school’s Honor Code allows for student-scheduled exams that are not proctored.

Campus social life at Davidson centers around the Alvarez College Union, which overlooks the Wildcat football stadium. Most student activities and events happen there. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus in above average student dorms and apartments; students can petition to live off campus, but few choose this option. There are over 200 student organizations to participate in on campus, including those that support racial and gender diversity. Over 50% of Davidson students receive financial aid supported by a generous Davidson Trust; it is one of the first colleges to eliminate student loans as part of financial aid. The campus drug policy is strictly enforced, and violations often result in suspension or expulsion. Wednesday nights and weekends are popular party times for students who drink alcohol. Greek life is expressed primarily in eating houses and two sororities for women and eight fraternities for men; a high percentage of female students are associated with either sororities or eating houses.

Davidson is a community with close ties to the college. Many residents either run small businesses, where chains are largely panned, or are employed by the college. Don’t expect a Starbucks or McDonalds, although on Wednesdays there are shuttles from campus to Walmart. During breaks students can also catch campus shuttles to the airport. The small town atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the community embraces Davidson students. They are also quick to offer jobs and internships to students. Everything is within walking distance of campus. Davidson offers a temperate climate most of the year, the exception being the summer and early fall when it is hot and humid. Charlotte is the closest city for a weekend getaway.

The NCAA Division I Wildcats compete on 10 men’s teams and nine women’s teams. Nearly a quarter of the students participate in one of these competitive sports. The Wildcats football and wrestling teams are part of the Southern Conference, but all other sports are part of the Atlantic Ten Conference. The school boasts amazing athletic success for their size. Davidson teams have accumulated 27 conference championships, been to eight NCAA tournaments, and have unbeaten conference records in football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s basketball. Over 61 professional athletes have come out of Davidson College. The brand new state-of-the-art $15 million Vance Athletic Center has been designed and approved; construction will begin at the end of the fundraising phase. The center, attached to Baker Sports Complex, will provide increased access to practice, training, and wellness activities for all students.

Tradition at Davidson is an important part of the college culture. The Honor Code, signed by each incoming freshman, is its centerpiece. The written pledge to not “lie, cheat, steal or commit any unethical act” is a celebrated tradition that joins new students with the college community. The annual Freshman Cake Race has been a tradition since 1934 to encourage fitness. The winner gets an entire cake to himself/herself, baked by Davidson community members. Midnight Scream is held at midnight the night before finals when students open their dorm windows and scream at the top of their lungs to release the stress of all that studying. Flickerball, a variation of football, and Spring Frolics, a campus music and party affair are also now among Davidson traditions. This college is suitable for the liberal arts student looking for an academic challenge and a warm embrace.

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By Colleen Hill

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