UC Davis – Acceptance Rate, GPA, Requirements, and More

UC Davis is one of ten campuses in the University of California system. As a public research university, the school is home to over 35,000 students. Even with the large size, UC Davis maintains a small community feeling with a 20:1 student to faculty ratio.

Undergraduates at UC Davis have access to dozens of top five programs, including the #1 degrees in the nation for agriculture and veterinary medicine. 

As a result, UC Berkeley is ranked as the #11 best public university in the United States. Although the school is not part of the prestigious Ivy League, it is sometimes recognized as a Public Ivy.

The world-renowned faculty at UC Berkeley helps students thrive by creating innovative learning opportunities. This prestigious group includes members of the National Academy of Sciences, Pulitzer Prize winners, and MacArthur Fellows. 

UC Davis is recognized as an R1: Doctoral University – very high research activity by the Carnegie classification. Undergraduates collaborate with experts to solve the world’s biggest challenges, from cancer to environmental research. In 2019, the university spent over $900 million in research expenditures.

Through UC Davis Health, the university serves the public by providing world-class health care and community partnerships. In addition, students have the opportunity to learn at one of the country’s best medical schools. The facilities include a nationally-ranked teaching hospital with over 600 beds.

Outside of academics, students have plenty of student events and over 800 organizations to help find their community. The undergraduate student government, ASUCD, provides each student with the services they need to succeed at UC Davis. The group has an annual budget of $11 million, one of the largest in the US.

UC Davis is a global leader in sustainability. The campus houses an arboretum, farms, greenhouses, and laboratories dedicated to developing solutions to climate change problems. UC Davis students and faculty actively work to address all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

UC Davis Acceptance Rate

UC Davis
Venprof, Animal Science Building, UC Davis, CC BY-SA 4.0

UC Davis admissions are considered “most selective,” with an acceptance rate of 39%

This means that over half of applicants are denied each year. In the most recent year, UC Davis received 78,000 applicants from across the United States and beyond.

Each year, UC Davis makes admission decisions based on the qualifications of the applicant pool and the number of available spaces. The colleges of agricultural and environmental sciences, biological sciences, and letters each admit by the college. 

On the other hand, the college of engineering admits by the department.

This means that the acceptance rate will vary based on what program you are interested in. It is important to apply based on your professional interests instead of which college you have the best chance of getting into.


In order to be considered, California residents must have a GPA above 3.0. Otherwise, applicants must have a 3.4 or higher to be considered. In general, you should strive to achieve the highest GPA possible to remain competitive.

For the Class of 2021, the middle 50% of students had a weighted GPA between 4.0 and 4.2 and an unweighted GPA between 3.7 and 4.0. 

In other words, undergraduates earned almost entirely A’s in high school. In addition, they took difficult courses to boost their weighted GPA.

The admissions team will look for how many academic courses you take beyond the requirements and how you do in them. They look for UC-certified honors courses, such as AP, IB, and college credits. 

Along with the overall result, the admissions team looks for outstanding performance in specific subject areas based on what major you are applying for.

UC Davis looks beyond the numbers to consider students as more than a set of numbers. They will view academic performance with the lens of your life experiences, including low income, employment, disadvantaged educational environment, or difficult personal circumstances. In addition, the admissions team is looking for an improvement in academic performance over time.

Whether or not your GPA falls in the average range is not a guarantee that you will be accepted or denied. The admissions team will make a decision based on all aspects of your application.

SAT & ACT Requirements

Along with the other University of California schools, UC Davis is suspending the standardized test requirements until Fall 2024. This means the admissions team will not consider SAT or ACT scores when making decisions or awarding scholarships. Students can still choose to submit their scores for course placement after enrolling.

Standardized testing scores are a general guideline to selectivity and do not predict each applicant’s chance of admission. The middle 50% of applicants score between 1170 and 1410 on the SAT. On the other hand, most students score from 24 to 32 on the ACT.

Along with the optional SAT and ACT scores, students can submit SAT subject tests. These are also not required but can be used to fulfill certain subject requirements. UC Davis students must complete a certain number of years of core classes.

Requirements & Admission Tips

UC Davis
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

At UC Davis, the applicant’s academic record is the core of the application. Students must accurately and completely report their coursework. It is important to highlight honors courses as that will improve their calculated GPA.

Along with academic record, the admissions team evaluates whether the applicant is in the top 9% of their high school class. The admissions team recognizes that college fit is about more than their GPA and class rank. As a result, the admissions process reflects that.

UC Davis is also committed to looking beyond the numbers to figure out who you are. They perform a comprehensive review of every freshman application according to 13 specified criteria ranging from academics to life experiences. However, the admissions team will not review letters of recommendation, awards, transcripts, or samples of creative work.

The admissions team will evaluate each applicant based on their coursework and personal insight questions. They look for special talents, achievements, interests, and leadership abilities. Well-rounded students who are prepared for university life are well-suited to UC Davis.


At UC Davis, the personal insight questions show who you are through life experiences and accomplishments. Students choose four out of eight options to reply to and are limited to 350 words. Applicants should choose which questions mean the most to them because they are all given equal consideration in the review process.

The questions cover a variety of topics including leadership experience, creativity, greatest talent, overcoming challenges, taking advantage of educational opportunities, an academic subject that inspires you, community service, and what makes you stand out. There is also an additional comments field for unusual circumstances not addressed elsewhere in the education.

There is no right or wrong way to answer the questions, as long as you show your unique personality, background, and voice. Students should aim to elaborate on their individual insights and goals and how they’ve been influenced. The responses are a great way to provide specific examples of experiences or accomplishments not shown in your coursework.

After writing your responses, be sure to revise it for awkward wording or any rambling. Don’t just list your accomplishments, try to tell a story with a clear message. These responses can only add value to the application and decisions will not be made based on essays alone

Notable Alumni

UC Davis has over 285,000 living alumni making a difference in California and across the world. This list includes CEOs, government officials, actors, scientists, and even astronauts. In addition, the school has dozens of alumni networks for students.

Charles Rice is a virologist who earned his BS in zoology from UC Davis. Through his discovery and culturing of the Hepatitis C virus, he has enabled researchers to create new medicines to cure the disease. He won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work and continues to inspire students with his research and dedication.

Anna Escobedo Cabral was the 42nd US Treasurer and currently acts as the Unit Chief for Strategic Communications in the Inter-American Development Bank. She received her degree in political science from UC Davis while balancing family and schoolwork.

As the CEO and chairman of Chevron from 2010 to 2018, John Watson used his agricultural economics knowledge from UC Davis. He is recognized as a business leader and inspires students to this day. Currently, he chairs the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors.

Is UC Davis Right for You?

UC Davis recognizes that the world is constantly evolving and wants to prepare students to keep up with it. The right fit for the university will take advantage of the many opportunities. As a college town instead of a large city, students should be committed to contributing to their community.

The right students for UC Davis will be excited by the opportunity to face challenges head-on. The university is consistently pushing boundaries in research and potential applicants should share that drive. Thinking outside of the box and the ability to overcome challenges are important qualities for any UC Davis student.