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My Davidson

What to Expect Your First Month at Davidson

Starting college can be overwhelming. With so many uncertainties and new faces, your first semester can be stressful, so I want to ease some of your anxieties by letting you know what you can expect during your first month at Davidson. I will cover course selection, orientation, how to navigate social life during your first few weeks, and everything in between!

Group of students posing in outdoor amphitheater

The Summer Before You Arrive

Common Read
After enrolling at Davidson, you will be sent a welcome package containing your common read book. Every student will read the same book and discuss it once they arrive on campus. The class of 2025 read Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and during orientation we actually had the chance to talk with her and discuss her book. Some classes will hold discussions about the common read during the first few weeks, so make sure to read it. This year’s common read is How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith ’10.

Course Selection
Incoming first-years will complete course selection in June, and they will receive their schedule in July. We use a program called Webtree for our course selection, and it allows you to create many variations of potential schedules, and then an algorithm places students into classes. Webtree can be confusing at first, but once you figure out how to use it, it isn’t too bad. There is also an explanation page on the website that breaks down Webtree and explains the process.

Housing Selection
Around the time you complete Webtree, you will fill out your housing preference forms. You will complete two forms. The first is a typical housing preference form where you’ll describe your living style: what time you go to sleep, what time you wake up, how clean you like your room to be, etc. Be as descriptive as possible and make sure to write down anything you think your roommate should know. The second form you will fill out is a Myers-Briggs personality test. The Residence Life Office (RLO) will use both your Myers-Briggs type and housing preferences to pair you with your roommate. Residence and roommate information becomes available in July. I recommend reaching out and introducing yourself to your roommate before you arrive on campus (this will make it a little less awkward when you meet in August).

Pre-Orientation Programs
If you are doing a pre-orientation trip during the summer (which I definitely recommend), here is what you can expect for each program:

  • Outdoor Odyssey: There are three Outdoor Odyssey sessions each summer, and each week consists of slightly different activities. In all of the sessions, you can expect to be camping at night, but daily activities will vary. The first two sessions will be eight days long, and you will be hiking and whitewater paddling. The last session is three days long and is based at our Lake Campus.
  • Service Odyssey: There are also three Service Odyssey sessions each summer. During these sessions, you will be engaging in the communities surrounding Davidson. You will partner with service organizations in the Charlotte area and gain some experience with the Center for Civic Engagement.
  • Sapere Aude (Humes Pre-Orientation): If you are taking the freshman Humanities course, “Humes,” you will attend Sapere Aude the week leading up to orientation. During this week, all students enrolled in the course will take buses to the Holston Conference Center in Banner Elk, North Carolina. During this week, you will get to meet your professors, and get an introduction to each of their course materials that you will dive into later in the year. You will also meet your classmates and sophomore Fellows, who will guide you through your year in Humes. This is the pre-orientation trip that I did, and it was honestly one of my favorite weeks of my freshman year!
  • STRIDE: All incoming students of color are welcome to attend the STRIDE program, which takes place the days leading up to orientation. This program encourages inclusive dialogue and relationships between students, staff and faculty. You will be placed in a cohort of students with an upperclassmen mentor and together, you will engage in various activities that introduce Davidson and promote diversity.
  • International Student Pre-Orientation: This program is intended to help new international students with the transition into college, learn about life in North Carolina, and prepare for the academic year. You will be able to meet other international students, as well as the staff of International Student Programs.
  • Bonner Scholars: The Bonner Scholars program is a scholarship program encouraging service and engagement in the community. All Bonner Scholars will participate in the pre-orientation program that takes place the Wednesday before orientation. During this program, you will get to meet the other scholars and set expectations for your four years as a Bonner Scholar.
  • Matthews Center Exploration Academy: Davidson’s Matthews Center for Career Development hosts a pre-orientation program that helps students navigate the career exploration process. In this program, you will meet virtually with mentors from the Matthews Center and learn to use some of the tools they offer.
  • Matthews Center Resume Workshop: The Matthews Center also hosts several resume workshops for students, in which they will teach you how to transform your high school resume to a professional one.

Pre-Orientation is a great way to get to know your peers before Orientation even starts.

Students on beach at Lake Campus

Once You Arrive On Campus

Move-In
When you first arrive, you will check in and receive your room key and CatCard (your Davidson student ID). With the help of some upperclassmen orientation leaders, you can begin moving into your room.

Once you are settled, your hall counselor will host a hall meeting. Here, you will be able to meet your hallmates for the first time and set expectations for your hall.

Move-in Tip: If you live out of state, or won’t be driving your things to campus, you can ship items to the warehouse at this address:
209 Ridge Road
Davidson, NC 28035

Orientation
The four days following move-in and before the start of classes will be jam-packed with orientation activities. I will walk you through some of what each day might consist of and what you can expect.

Day 1:

  • OTM Chat: You will be split into groups of around 10 students and an orientation leader, who will act as a mentor for your first few weeks at Davidson. During this meeting, your Orientation Team Mentor (OTM) will introduce themselves and you will meet the rest of your orientation group.
  • Information session about Davidson resources: With your orientation group, you will learn about some of the different resources that Davidson has to offer, such as Campus Police, The Center for Student Health and Well-Being, the Chaplains’ Office, and the Matthews Center for Career Development.
  • Union Board Social: Union Board will throw a social event, where you can meet fellow new students over games, ice cream and a movie.

Day 2:

  • Overview of academic life: You will get to hear about what academics look like at Davidson, and how to navigate classes and coursework.
  • Meet with your Holistic Adviser: Your holistic advisor is a faculty member who will help guide you through your first two years at Davidson. You and your advising group will meet your adviser together, and then you will have the opportunity to meet your adviser individually.
  • Farewell Picnic: You and your family are invited to a picnic on Chambers Lawn before they go home.
  • Student Panel on Academic Life: You have the opportunity to talk to current students about their experiences with academics at Davidson. This is a great time to ask any questions you may have about academic life.

Day 3:

  • Introduction to Civic Engagement: You and your OTM group will do a service project that will help support our community. You will also learn more about community projects you can get involved with and other ways to be involved with service at Davidson.
  • Orientation Party: Celebrate making it through three days of orientation with games, food and music!

Day 4:

  • Common Read Discussion with Author: During this time, students will be able to have a discussion with the author of the common read book.
  • Honor Code Ceremony: You get to hear from representatives of the Honor Council and sign your commitment to the Honor Code.
Student signing paper on clipboard

Start of Classes
The first week of classes will be where you can meet your professors and learn about the expectations for your courses. The first two weeks are an add/drop period, so you are able to change your schedule if necessary. This is a great time to attend office hours and introduce yourself to your professors. They are people too, so they want to get to know you as a person, not just as a student.

Social Events
The first month at Davidson is full of fun events! Here are some fun things to do during your first few weeks:

  • Cake Race: The Cake Race is a Davidson tradition where freshmen run a 1.7 mile lap around campus, and the top runners win cakes donated by community members. It’s a lot of fun, even if you aren’t a runner. I was 123rd and I still got a cake!
  • Union Board Welcome Back Party: Union Board, our largest student programming club, will throw a party for freshmen with music, games and food. Get ready to boogie!
  • Fall Fling: Fall Fling is another Union Board event with a live band, dance floor and food. This is a great time to dress up with your friends and have a fun night!
  • Union Board Trivia: Every Wednesday night, Union Board hosts a themed trivia night at Nummit (the on-campus Summit Coffee outpost). Get there early because it is always busy, and it can be hard to find a table.
  • Club and Activities Fair: This is the best opportunity to learn about the clubs that Davidson has to offer. Go with friends and see what clubs you are interested in joining.
  • Summit Coffee Live Music/Open Mic Nights: Summit Coffee on Main St. has events almost every night, and it was definitely a favorite spot of my friends and I. On the calendar, you can see what bands are playing and what events are going on throughout the month.
  • Lampus (Lake Campus): Davidson owns property on Lake Norman, and you have access from sun-up to sun-down. You can swim, paddleboard, or kayak, and a lot of people bring spikeball or play volleyball on the beach. It is definitely one of my favorite spots to go and hang out with friends.
  • Sports Events: Even if you aren’t a “sporty” person, the games are always fun to attend. Going to games is a great way to feel connected to the student body. Plus, you will probably have friends who are athletes, so it is always fun to support them!

The fall semester is filled with fun events, from live music at Summit to Union Board trivia!

Four students singing on outdoor stage
Three students pose with trivia wheel

General Tips

  • Do a pre-orientation program. I did Sapere Aude, and it was a great experience. I couldn’t recommend doing one of these programs enough. By the time I arrived on campus, I already knew friendly faces. It is a great way to make the first few weeks of college feel less overwhelming.
  • Be proactive about meeting people. As someone who tends to be more introverted, it can be scary to introduce myself to new people. Let me tell you, though, the easiest time to do it is at the beginning of the year. The longer you wait, the harder and more awkward it will be to meet new people. If you do this during the first few weeks, it will make the social aspect of college much easier.
  • Sit with new people at meals. This relates to my last point about meeting new people early in the year, but it is so much easier to go up to a new group and sit with them in the dining hall within the first few weeks of school. Not to say that things won’t change later on, but as more time passes, it can become harder to sit with different people. Trying things out at the beginning of the year is much better than waiting until later.
  • Go to hall events/hang-outs. Your hallmates will probably be some of the first people you will meet, so definitely try to befriend them. Even if they don’t become your best friends, it is always nice to know familiar faces.
  • Talk to your professors. Don’t be afraid of going to office hours! They are there for your benefit. Your professors want to know you, so even if you don’t have questions about the class yet, you are encouraged to introduce yourself to your professors. This will make asking for help later in the year much easier.
  • Talk to people in your classes. If you like to study with a group, try to make friends in your classes. Especially in the beginning of the semester, having a friend to study with or ask questions of is extremely helpful. Plus, it makes class feel less lonely if you have someone to talk to.
  • Say yes to everything (within reason). The best way to make new friends and have fun is to be willing to try new things. Being open to new experiences makes you seem approachable and friendly, even if you don’t feel it on the inside. Whether it’s going to a club meeting, getting lunch with a classmate, or going to a new social event, it can’t hurt to try.
Selfie of students holding three different types of cake
Students pose with wildcat mascot

I hope this gave you some insight into what you can expect from the summer before you arrive on campus and your first month at Davidson. Everyone’s experience will be different, but these are just a few of the things I learned and think incoming first year students should know. The beginning of college can definitely be a little intimidating, but more than anything it should be exciting!

Semiformal students pose together in outdoor event tent
Campbell Walker

About the author: Campbell Walker ’25 is an intended neuroscience major from Dallas, Texas. She is spending summer 2022 as a Summer Admission Intern.
Get to know the other Summer Admission Interns.

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Davidson College is a highly selective independent liberal arts college committed to access and equal opportunity.