My Davidson | A Student Blog Get to Know Davidson (Or Any Other College) Without Visiting Campus
Davis Varnado ’25 shares his advice on getting to know colleges and universities from afar and virtually, including Davidson College.
About the Author
Davis Varnado ’25 is an intended Political Science and Theatre double major from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
“I first found Davidson through its Theatre Department in my junior year of high school. I traveled to a theatre conference where I had the chance to audition in front of over 120 different collegiate theatre programs across the country. Out of all of the programs I learned about there, Davidson had my favorite theatre department. I loved how all students had the opportunity to engage with the arts even if they do not plan to pursue an arts major, as I was still unsure of my major at the time. After exploring the theatre department, I explored the rest of the school. I learned that everyone at Davidson is so friendly and willing to help and the community here is incredibly collaborative.”
College tours seem to be essential when applying to colleges. They typically follow the same standard: arrive on campus for a short information session and then tour around the school for an hour or so, learning so much more information than you could have ever wanted. However, for many students, visiting campuses can be incredibly tricky; many students live too far away or simply do not have enough time to visit all of the schools that interest them. These students often worry that this makes it impossible to really get to know if a particular school is the right fit for them. I am here to say that, despite all of these potential challenges, it is definitely still possible to get an adequate feel for a school without going on a tour; you just need to use the right resources.
I am living, breathing proof that it is possible to select and fall in love with a school without going on an official college tour. When I was applying to colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic, none of the schools I was interested in were offering on-campus tours. I was able to tour a few colleges before the pandemic during my sophomore and junior years. However, this meant that out of all of the colleges I eventually applied to, I had only toured one. Even after acceptance season in the spring of my senior year, many colleges, including Davidson, still were not holding in-person tours. My first and only visit to Davidson before officially enrolling was a quick walk around the campus with my father. I had no in-person tour or information session to learn from, so I mainly had to base my decision on the information provided on the internet. So, how was I able to make one of the most important decisions of my life based solely on what I saw and learned through my computer screen? Let me tell you.
Before I begin, there are two things that I want to mention. First, this kind of search is possible for any college that interests you. However, I will be focusing specifically on Davidson College and the wealth of resources that it has to offer for prospective students. Second, the college search process is completely different from person to person; what worked for me may not work for you, and that is ok! Use these resources as a starting point.
The College Website
The first stop on your college search should be the college website. College websites provide a lot of general information on pretty much anything you can think of relating to the college. You can find a list of all of the majors, all of the residence halls, the college’s history, and so much more. The website also provides links to other expansive websites such as the college library and athletics pages. The sheer mass of information presented on the website makes it quite daunting. However, one effective way to navigate through this information is to take a glance at the highlighted pages; these pages reflect the college’s values and allow you to find what looks interesting or important to you. Some important highlights include the International Student Experience page, the Research page, and the Careers & Outcomes page.
Virtual Tours and Information Sessions
While the college website can be incredibly helpful in providing a general overview of the school, hearing about the Davidson experience from current students and staff through a tour or information session allows for a deeper understanding both of what the college is looking for in a student and the different facets of student life on campus. Obviously, this can be very difficult to do if you can’t visit campus, so there are a number of virtual options designed to help students get a pretty accurate feel of campus life without physically being there. On the Davidson College website, you can actually schedule virtual tours and information sessions that function almost identically to in-person visits. On Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, you can join a virtual information session led by an Admission Officer and a current Davidson student. Here, you can learn more about Davidson’s location, academics, student life, and admission and financial aid processes, as well as ask any questions you may have about the college. On Wednesdays from 7–8 p.m. Eastern Time, you can take part in a virtual tour led by two Davidson students. The tour will give you an inside look on all of Davidson’s academic and student life facilities and you will also have the opportunity to ask questions. If you are unable to attend one of these sessions, Davidson also offers a standard virtual tour that allows you to tour the campus on your own time.
Ask a Wildcat
In my opinion, the single best way to learn about a college is to talk to current students, faculty, and staff in a more informal setting. This applies to any student, whether or not they have gone on a tour. College tours and information sessions, while helpful, try to present the college in the best light possible. While this allows students to learn more about the school’s attractive features and resources, it is very difficult to get a grasp on everyday student life. If you know a friend, or a friend of a friend, or any acquaintance of any kind who goes to Davidson, talk to them! If you can’t contact any Davidson students that way, that is no problem. Davidson has a site called Ask a Wildcat where you are able to connect with current students. On the page, each student lists their academic interests and on-campus interests, so you can reach out to students who have similar interests and hobbies as you. During the school year, Davidson also offers an Ask an International Wildcat page where you can reach out to Davidson students from all over the world to ask questions, including about the international student experience at the college.
What are some good questions to ask these Wildcats? It is important to ask questions that can’t be answered on a tour or found online. One good starting place is to ask about the community. Each school’s community works a little differently, and you should ask how the community affects students’ daily lives. Another effective group of questions to ask relates to what social life is like and how students balance school and the rest of their lives. Also ask the students what they do on campus during their free time. You should walk away from these talks with an understanding of the culture surrounding academics and free time from a student’s perspective, as that is something you will definitely be dealing with when you get to college. You should also ask questions that are personal to you–this is your time to hear about the college from a personal perspective.
One other Wildcat you should reach out to is your admission counselor. They all love hearing from prospective students and answering questions, especially those regarding the admission and financial aid process. They might also give your information to other current students so you can have another point of contact at the college.
Another way of keeping in touch with events and student life on campus is through social media. Davidson has a very active presence on social media, especially Instagram. Some accounts that I recommend following are @davidsoncollege (the college’s main Instagram page), @davidsonwildcat (Davidson’s athletics Instagram), @artsatdavidson (Davidson’s arts Instagram), and the @thedavidsondaily (Davidson’s instagram account dedicated to student life). Davidson also has Instagram accounts for pretty much every student club, social organization, sports team, and so much more, so I recommend checking all of those out, especially the ones that you are interested in joining. YouTube is another great way to learn about student life at Davidson. Just look up “Day in the Life Davidson College” and you can see videos posted by many different Davidson students throughout the years covering so many different topics, including classes, clubs, and social events.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that deciding where to go to college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life. Wherever you end up, you need to be actively involved in the community in order to make that place feel like a home, so you need to be relatively aware of what the campus has to offer for you before you arrive there. While taking a campus tour can be one option for this, there are so many steps you can take to learn more about a school without even having to step on campus. I promise you once again, it is possible to find the right school without visiting. So, happy searching!
- August 2, 2022