What Does It Take to Get into UC Davis?

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41% of Applicants to UC Davis Are Admitted. What Does It Take?


This excellent public university is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley. It has a beautiful campus, active Greek life, and world-class professors. However, only 41% of students who apply are admitted.


Looking for help with admissions? Every year, CollegeVine helps hundreds of applicants perfect their applications. 75% of students who work with CollegeVine get into one of their top choice schools. Keep reading to learn our time-tested recommendations for perfecting your UC Davis application.


Applying to UC Davis: A Quick Review


All of the University of California schools accept applications through the UC Application Portal. If you would like to be considered, submit your application by November 30.


To apply, be sure to do the following:


  • Create an account in the UC Application Portal
  • Record your basic demographic information
  • Reply to four of eight Personal Insight Questions
  • Send your transcripts.
  • Send your test scores.
    • Include your scores from the ACT with Writing or the SAT Reasoning Test. If you’re applying for Fall, sit for standardized tests by December.
    • Also, SAT Subject Tests, AP, IB, TOEFL, and IELTS scores are accepted.
  • Share tax and ID information, including:
    • Your family’s annual income for last year and this year
    • Your social security number, if you have one
    • Your citizenship status. Citizens of other countries will need to state immigration status and visa type.
    • For students in California public schools only, supply your California Statewide Student ID
  • Pay $70 application fee


UC Davis Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


UC Davis is fairly selective, with an undergraduate admissions rate of 41%. Of 78,024 applications last year, only 32,179 were accepted. UC Davis ranks between UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz in terms of selectivity.


41% may sound like an intimidating number, yet it is important to remember that the strength of your profile has a lot of influence over whether your personal chances are much higher or lower than 41%. Once you have the grades to gain admission, a well-crafted application is the make-or-break difference.

So, How Does One Get Into UC Davis?


You can break the University of California application into four parts—Academic History, Interests & Activities, Character, and Contribution to Community. Successful applicants will have something great to show for each category.


Academic History. Your grades, the classes you take, and your standardized test scores come together to give the admissions committee an idea of your strength as a student. If you’re applying to UC Davis, it helps to have grades and SAT scores at or above those of last year’s admitted students.


For reference, the weighted GPA for the middle 50% of UC Davis’s most recent admitted students was 3.97-4.25. The middle 50% of SAT scores were 1220-1480, and the middle 50% of ACT scores were 26-33. If your scores fall in that range, chances are that UC Davis would seriously consider your application.


Interests & Activities. Your extracurricular activities and awards, as well as your application essays, give UC Davis a sense of your skills and passions outside the classroom. In these sections, it is important to demonstrate your greatest challenges, successes, and the scope of your influence. In general, successfully leading a club of 500 students will be more impressive than leading a group of 50 students, and so on. Also, this is a great section for showcasing any administrative, leadership, or other skills.


Character. Your essay and letters of recommendation give UC Davis a snapshot of the traits you have demonstrated throughout college, as well as a glimpse of the person you are becoming. Talk to your recommenders to make sure they highlight ways you have matured in high school. It is also a good idea to use your essay as a showcase for the ways you have grown.


Contribution to Community. Your letters of recommendation, list of activities, and even your personal statement come together to paint a picture of how you have influenced your local community. For some students, the biggest impact they have is on campus. For others, their influence extends to their city, regional, state, or national community. Regardless of what your impact is specifically, be sure to emphasize the part you have played in making the world a better place.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


With thousands of qualified applicants each year, it is hard to build a profile that really stands out. As you prepare your application, use these three strategies to make your file appealing to the UC Davis admissions committee.


Highlight your admissions theme. When you look at your classes, grades, and activities, there are bound to be trends that emerge. Perhaps you are someone who loves languages. Maybe you use your math skills to help those who struggle in the subject. Look for a theme in your application, then try to reinforce it using your essay and short answer responses. This will help admissions officers remember you when it comes time to make choices among equally qualified candidates.


Focus on the essays. While your grades are set in stone, the UC essays give you a lot of leverage to change the way you will be perceived. So don’t waste the opportunity! In particular, look for ways you have matured in your thinking or behavior over the past four years. UC Davis is particularly interested in students who can learn from their mistakes and have demonstrated growth in high school.


Craft your extracurricular profile the way you would a resume. A lot of students make the mistake of completing this section quickly. In fact, admissions officers will draw a lot of conclusions based on the few sentences you write here. Instead of speeding through the activities section, review it two or three times, choosing strong action verbs to make your contributions stand out. You can even ask trusted friends or advisers to review your form before submitting and ask for their feedback.


What If You Get Rejected?


Since thousands of students with great profiles are rejected from UC Davis, try not to take the decision personally. You can still go on to a great college, and you are no less likely to live a life that makes you proud.


If you think you might like UC Davis, consider applying to other California public universities as well, including UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Since UC Davis rarely reverses its decisions, we do not recommend petitioning the answer you have received.


You can reapply after taking a gap year, but this path is riskier than simply committing to another school and requesting to take a gap year there. To see if a gap year is right for you, visit our posts, What Are the Pros of Taking a Gap Year? and What You Need To Know When Applying to Colleges After a Gap Year.


For help adjusting to a different dream, read our post, Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.


For more resources on UC Davis and similar schools, visit these other CollegeVine posts:


The University of California Schools: The Complete Guide + Which Should You Choose?

The Ultimate Guide to Applying to the University of California

How to Research Colleges and Choose the Best Fit for You

Why Are Students Getting Rejected from Every College?

You’ve Applied To College — Now What Should You Do?


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Short Bio
Veronica is an alumna of Harvard College, where she earned her A.B. in History and Classics. After graduating, she joined CollegeVine serving as the Curriculum Development Manager. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is writing her debut novel.

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