How to Get Into UC Davis: Admissions Data and Strategies

March 30, 2022

Now considered one of the top 10 public universities in the nation, UC Davis has begun to approach the level of acclaim more traditionally reserved for its fellow University of California campuses like UC Berkeley and UCLA. With strong programs in engineering, and computer science, and biology, UC Davis is a magnet for highly-qualified STEM majors—in fact 55% of current undergrads are pursuing a STEM degree.

Given the desirability of receiving a top-notch undergraduate education at a ridiculously low price (by today’s market standards), UC Davis receives more applications, and rejects more applicants than at any previous point in its history. Therefore, it is vital for aspiring Aggies to know:

  • UC Davis’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
  • SAT/ACT policy and GPAs of admitted applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2025
  • The demographics of current UC Davis undergraduates
  • UC Davis’s yield rate
  • How Davis admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to UC Davis
  • How to approach the UC Personal Insight essays
  • How to assess whether applying to UC Davis is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to UC Davis may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent University of California – Davis admissions data.

UC Davis: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

There were 87,141 freshman applicants for the Class of 2025 and 42,726 were admitted—this translates to a 49% acceptance rate which was actually higher than a 46% and 39% figures seen the previous two cycles.

UC Davis Admissions – SAT/ACT Policy, class rank, and GPA.

As a test-blind institution, UC Davis does not consider standardized test scores. That moves GPA to center stage, and those admitted into the Class of 2025 possessed a mid-50% GPA of 3.95-4.25.

Looking back to Class of 2024 data, 100% of attending students were in the top decile of their graduating high school class. Back when standardized tests were still considered, the median ACT score was 28.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • The most significant note is that all University of California schools have adopted a test-blind policy.
  • 38% of students beginning at UC Davis in fall 2021 were first-generation students.
  • 31% of students entering UC Davis in the 2021-22 school year were Pell Grant recipients.
  • Freshman applications increased 8.7% from the previous year.
  • Davis has enrolled the highest number of California resident undergrads of any UC campus since 2010.

Who Gets In?

Let’s look at the demographics of UC Davis undergraduates:

Most students hailed from the Golden State and paid in-state tuition. The total geographic breakdown of the Class of 2025 is as follows:

  • Percent California (residents): 81%
  • Other U.S. States (non-residents): 5%
  • Other countries (non-resident, international): 14%

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the Class of 2025 is as follows:

  • Asian: 34%
  • Hispanic: 22%
  • African American: 4%
  • White: 21%

International students came in the greatest numbers from the following countries:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. South Korea
  4. Taiwan
  5. Japan

The breakdown by gender of the entire Aggie student body shows far more women than men:

  • Male: 40%
  • Female: 57%

Yield Rate

UC Davis’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 25%. To compare this school to other UC schools, UC-Berkeley has a 40% yield, UCLA is 44%, and UC San Diego comes in at 17%.

How UC Davis Rates Applicants

There are only three factors that UC Davis ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, and application essays. Factors viewed as “important” are: talent/ability, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, and character/personal qualities.

Davis, along with all other University of California campuses, dropped all standardized testing requirements starting with the Class of 2025. This makes the traditionally holistic review process at UC Davis even more pronounced.

In the words of the admissions office:

  • “UC Davis uses a holistic review process in which every application is reviewed according to 14 faculty-approved criteria designed to select applicants who have an excellent prospect of success, are likely to thrive on the campus, and will enhance UC Davis’ intellectual and cultural diversity.”
  • They will look at the: “Quality of your senior-year program as measured by the type and number of academic courses in progress or planned.”
  • Davis also considers: “Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, such as visual and performing arts, communication or athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government…”

Tips for Applying to UC Davis

If you plan on joining the 87,000+ Anteater hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • While a holistic process, this school does not offer interviews.
  • UC Davis does not consider “demonstrated interest” in the admissions process.’
  • Davis does evaluate the number of UC-approved honors courses, AP courses, IB courses, or dual enrollment courses a student has taken.
  • Learn more about A-G Subject Requirements here.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UC Davis. In the 2021-22 cycle, there were eight total prompts, of which applicants are instructed to choose four to respond to. Each response in limited to maximum of 350 words.

1) Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

2) Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

3) What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

4) Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5) Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6) Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

7) What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

8) Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

The best approach here is to select the four prompts that are the best fit for you and elicit the most compelling and personal responses. For detailed advice, visit our blog entitled How to Master the UC Personal Insight Prompts.

Should I Apply to UC Davis?

If you are in the top 10% of your high school class, you are a viable candidate to gain admission into this university. Without standardized test scores entering the equation, your essays will also be extremely important to your admissions prospects.

With very few students able to consider UC Davis as a “safety” these days, all students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “reach”, “target”, and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in collaboration with an admissions professional who is aware of the latest trends and strategies associated with your prospective colleges.