Accessibility Navigation:

Goals for Student Achievement

As a liberal arts college, Davidson prepares students for myriad opportunities upon graduation. A student's decision to pursue graduate or professional education, to join the workforce, to volunteer, or to take time to further explore options through travel or reflection is unique to that student.

In accordance with accreditation standards, Davidson does provide documentation of its general student outcomes. This documentation includes only those outcomes that are intended to reflect campus-wide priorities in the context of Davidson's Statement of Purpose rather than those specific to academic departments, co-curricular activities, or student residential life.

Graduation Rate

Graduation rate is a critical measure for Davidson. It provides evidence of the thoughtful recruitment of each entering class, the appropriateness of both academic challenge and academic support, and the fit between all aspects of students' lives-in the classroom, the residence hall, the athletic field, student activity offices-while at Davidson. As such, even though Davidson has an exceptional graduation rate that has remained steady in the face of changing demographics, academic offerings, and economic conditions, it is never taken for granted. It is monitored carefully and data are collected and analyzed annually on the small number of students who withdraw, transfer, or do not graduate with their incoming class. Those numbers are too small for statistical trends, but each case contributes to a better understanding of the ways students experience the college.

Davidson sets targets for three graduation rate statistics: Six-year graduation rate for all students, graduation rate at six years compared to graduation rate at four years, and six-year graduation rate for athletes.

Six-Year Graduation Rate for all Students

Davidson's target is to remain within two percent of the five-year average for our peer group's six-year graduation rate (currently 91.4%). Davidson has met that target for each of the past six years. 

Six-Year Rate Compared to Four-Year Rate

We focus on the six-year graduation rate as the norm, as do most colleges. There are myriad and legitimate reasons a student may take an extra semester or two to complete a degree. We note that most Davidson students do, in fact, graduate at four years and virtually all who graduate will do so within five years. Still, we are mindful of that four-year rate and have set a target for it to remain within 5% of the six-year rate. We have met that target for each of the past six years as well.

The table below presents data on the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rate for the last six years.

Graduation Rates for First-Year Students Entering Fall 2001-2006

Entering Fall Semester 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
4-year graduation rate 90% 92% 89% 89% 88% 89%
5-year graduation rate 92% 94% 91% 91% 91% 92%
6-year graduation rate 93% 94% 91% 91% 92% 93%

Student Athletes

Davidson is unique among its peers in playing at the Division I level. We expect the graduation rate of student athletes to mirror the graduation rate of their non-athlete classmates; our target is parity with the six-year graduation rate for all students. That target was met for five of the past six years. The table below presents data on the six-year graduation rate for all students and for student athletes for the past six years.

Six-Year Graduation Rates for First-Year Students & Student Athletes Entering Fall 2001-2006

Entering Fall Semester 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
All first-year students 93% 94% 91% 91% 92% 93%
First-year student athletes 98% 98% 93% 91% 92% 89%

Medical school

Davidson has a long history of successful preparation for medical school and this success is reflected in the high proportion of entering students who indicate an interest in medical fields. Therefore, we include acceptance rates to medical school among our measures of student achievement.

Between 2002 and 2012, the Davidson median acceptance rate was 64%. The national average during that same period was 45%. Our target for achievement here is our current median.

As demonstrated below, Davidson's medical school acceptance rate was above target for three of the past six years (and within one percentage point for another)  and above target for the most recent two years.

Acceptance Rates to Medical Schools 2007-2012

Acceptance Rate 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Davidson 66% 63% 50% 59% 74% 68%
n=89 n=65 n=72 n=63 n=72 n=69
National 45% 46% 46% 46% 46% 45%

Baccalaureate Origin for Ph.D.

Many academic departments at Davidson include preparing students for graduate programs, especially those offering the Ph.D., among their goals. Further, the college's student research initiatives enable students to pursue research interests with faculty and in collaboration with other students, providing valuable experience that serves as a solid foundation on which to begin their doctoral studies. As with medical school interest, Davidson has a high proportion of entering students who indicate an interest in obtaining a Ph.D. Therefore, we include earned doctorates among our measures of student achievement.

Davidson targets placement in the top 10% of private liberal arts colleges, weighted by enrollment, as per the Baccalaureate Origins report issued by the National Science Foundation each year, a target we have met each year since we began formally measuring this indicator in 2000.

Employment in Career-Related Fields & Continuing Education

Davidson considers preparation for life beyond graduation to be a significant part of its mission, and the form that life most often takes is related to the careers its graduates pursue. Therefore, we include employment within six months of graduation, or further preparation for it as evidenced by the pursuit of graduate degrees, among our measures of student achievement.

Given the nature of a liberal arts college, and Davidson's mission to prepare students for a wide range of options after graduation, we do not set separate targets for employment, education, fellowships, or service to the community. Each one of these is a viable option for the recent graduate and their distribution may reasonably vary from year to year. Rather, we look at the aggregate percentage across them with a target of 90% (based on the most recent 10-year average) of respondents who are employed in career-related fields, participating in a fellowship or other forms of research or career exploration, or continuing their education.  In the table below, the most recent five years of survey results indicate that Davidson has met that target for all but one year, even in years when college graduates faced a difficult and competitive job market.

Post-Davidson Activity Within Seven Months of Graduation Class of 2008-2012

Class of 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Employed in career-related field 66% 62% 64% 69% 69%
Pursuing education 25% 26% 27% 24% 26%
Total employed/pursuing education 91% 88% 91% 93% 95%
Other (e.g., planned time off, applying to graduate school) 3% 4% 3% 2% 2%
Still seeking 6% 9% 6% 5% 3%

For the class of 2012, 43% had found full-time career-related employment six months after graduation; 8% had an internship or a temporary position in a career-related field. There were 21% in graduate or professional school, 3% were applying, and another 4% were continuing their education in a non-degree program or coursework. There were 17% with post-baccalaureate fellowships. That so many graduates were engaged in relevant and rewarding enterprises reflects well on their Davidson preparation. That such a diversity of opportunities was available to them reflects well on the liberal arts. The class of 2012 can be found working in industries ranging from business to the arts, pursing a wide range of graduate degrees, and living around the country and around the world. 


The mission of a liberal arts college doesn't lend itself to some of the more straightforward metrics such as job placement or licensing in a one-to-one fashion; major does not necessarily equal a particular form of employment.  Nevertheless, we must know that we are discharging our responsibility to our students consistent with that mission and we must develop metrics that assess our success.  Together with the learning outcomes that are part of the evaluation of individual academic programs, the targets we assign to broader measures of student achievement help keep us on track.  In all cases, we have set targets that are ambitious but reachable, and our success rate is excellent.