The Admission Process

The Admission Process

Applying to the GGE

Apply to the Graduate Group in Ecology using the convenient online UC Davis Graduate Studies admissions application system

You may apply to multiple graduate programs during a single admissions period. You must file a complete application for each program, including a new online application and application fee. This includes if you are applying to the GGE and our sister program, the Joint Degree Program in Ecology at San Diego State University. 

For information on fee waivers, please visit this link and see the "Application Fee Questions" section.


The deadline for all ecology programs is December 1st.

Holistic Review 

As of Summer 2020, the GRE is not required or considered for admission to the GGE

The Graduate Group in Ecology (GGE) evaluates applicants using holistic review, which is an evidence-based approach to identify people that are likely to be successful in ecology research regardless of what ecology research opportunities may have been available to them prior to their application. Criteria considered when reviewing individual applications for admission into the GGE include:

  • Creativity and innovation. Applicant proposes and/or demonstrates a history of creativity and innovation in approaching science and/or problem-solving.
  • Long-term goals and commitment. Applicant demonstrates ability and willingness to work hard and steadily towards long-term goals.
  • Contributions to diversity. Applicant has the potential to contribute to diversity in higher education/ecology as evidenced by life experiences, educational background (e.g. non-traditional paths) and/or ability to articulate the barriers facing underrepresented communities in higher education/science (Wording for ‘Contributions to Diversity’ trait is adapted from UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program).
  • Outreach and inclusion. Applicant shows commitment and/or motivation to making science accessible and inclusive of communities both within and outside the University.
  • Academic preparedness. Applicant demonstrates academic preparation and “toolbox” that equips them well for graduate coursework and research
  • Resilience and adaptability. Applicant demonstrates ability to push past obstacles and/or to take in new information/events and adjust accordingly. Has clear understanding of uncertainty in a way that will equip them to weather the ups and downs of research and graduate school (Wording for ‘Resilience and Adaptability’ trait is adapted from Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program). 
  • Research experience. Applicant has taken advantage of relevant research opportunities available to them, given socio-economic background and previous schools attended. Has a realistic perspective on how to conduct and/or complete research projects; strong ability to work independently and problem solve.
  • Leadership and work experience. Applicant demonstrates maturity through clear communication, ability to work collaboratively and as part of a team, strong organizational skills, and/or ability to juggle multiple tasks at once.

To read more about some of the research behind holistic review, please see Strassun et al. (2010)Stassun et al. (2011)Powell (2013)Victoroff and Boyatzis (2013)Miller and Stassun (2014).

Major Professor

It is very important you find a major professor who is a faculty member of the Graduate Group in Ecology, who is willing to support your application, and would be willing to accept you into their lab. You are not required to have the commitment of a major professor to submit an application for admission, however, you can only be admitted into the program if you are accepted into the lab of one of our faculty members. Therefore, we recommend contacting them early and keeping up consistent communication with faculty you are interested in throughout the application process.

English Language Exam Scores

All international students not having English as a first language, or who have not studied at an institution where English is the language of instruction, must submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 550 (paper based test) or 80 (internet based test). The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 7.0. If admitted, an international student may also be required by the university to complete an English proficiency examination upon arrival at the university and, depending upon the result of this exam, may be required to take English language courses.


UC Davis requires academic records (i.e. transcripts including a GPA) from each college-level institution you have attended, and are used as one metric of academic merit within the holistic review. You are also encouraged to use your other application materials to frame your grades in a context that best reflects you. For instance, working full time to support yourself or your family may have lowered your grades, but it also demonstrates work ethic, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of life challenges so would be a welcome topic in your statement of purpose or your letters of recommendation. You will be instructed to upload scanned copies of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application.  For more details visit

Letters of Recommendation

Writers of recommendation letters may reflect a mix of backgrounds (academic or employment). Three letters of recommendation are required, but you should seek to include at least two who are qualified to evaluate the quality of your scholastic achievements and academic training as well as your ability to carry out independent research. This is especially important if you have previous research experience. One character or personal recommendation is permissible. It is helpful to tell your references to address those characteristics that are important to your admission (e.g., the traits outlined above that are considered in our holistic review).

Personal History & Diversity Statement

This is one of the most important components of your application and is the key to helping you and your prospective major professor decide whether the Graduate Group in Ecology is a good fit. Your statement should reflect your experience and interests in the program, it should be well-organized and concise, and most of all it should identify your own research interests.

Statement of Purpose

For this essay you want to describe your research interests. For more experienced students, the statement should also contain specific reference to your research experience and results.


The GGE is committed to the university's mission of diversity and equality in higher education and will evaluate each applicant's potential to contribute to diversity in our program and field. Applicants can reflect their leadership in diversity in the Personal History/Diversity Statement portion of the application.