Guilford College is guided by a strong Quaker heritage, focused on creating risk takers, independent thinkers and empowered intellectuals driven by a strong moral compass. Guilford opened in 1837 as an institution to serve the children of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the area. It became a liberal arts college in 1888.

Over the years, Guilford has sustained core values of community, diversity, equality, excellence, integrity, justice and stewardship based on Quaker testimonies of integrity, simplicity, equality, peace and direct and immediate access to God/Truth. The Quaker ethos is incorporated into the curriculum.

A member of the Pulitzer Center's Campus Consortium since 2012, Guilford is among select colleges in the nation participating in the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation's Bonner Scholars Program. The program's mission is to transform the lives of students and their campuses and communities through community service. The Bonner Foundation is also a partner with the Pulitzer Center.

Among other distinctions of the College and its students:
• The Guilfordian, Guilford's weekly student newspaper, was named "Most Outstanding College Newspaper for 2013-2014" in the American Scholastic Press Association's annual best newspaper contest.
• Guilford is among only 40 members of Colleges That Change Lives, a non-profit organization promoting a student-centered college search process and based on the book of the same name by former New York
Education Editor Loren Pope.
• Additionally, Guilford is recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's top "green" colleges for its various sustainability initiatives.