Matt Soeherman walks through the throngs of incoming first-years bustling about the Quad on Decision Day, the largest recruitment event of the year. He is one of many prospective students accompanied by a parent, carrying a map and overwhelmed by the UC Davis campus. By day’s end, he will log in to his computer, pull up a Statement of Intent to Register and take his first step to officially becoming an Aggie.
With rumors floating around that UC Davis has begun to reject applicants with GPAs of 4.3, students are wondering what it takes to become an Aggie these days.
The average admission GPA is slowly creeping up. While the average GPA of a first-year in 2010 was 4.1, the average GPA of a first-year in 2012 was 4.2. The 2013 average is expected to be even higher, and that statistic will be released in early May. However, GPA is only a small part of the admissions picture.
When it comes to choosing incoming first-years and transfer students, the admissions panel uses 14 criteria, which all UC campuses adhere to, as well as a holistic review. In holistic review, the panel reads every application cover to cover with an eye toward academics as well as personality, said Walter Robinson, executive director of UC Davis Admissions.
“There are some students who don’t have stellar GPAs or stellar test scores, but they have amazing stories — life has dealt them a real difficult hand, like the girl who was 14 [years old] and was raising her daughter while still being the student body president,” Robinson said. “We admit stories — quite frankly, stories of outstanding students.”
Soeherman, a prospective UC Davis first-year, played four years of varsity tennis, is a frequent blood donor and an active leader in his church, and has a 4.3 GPA. He was accepted into the College of Biological sciences and expects to major in biology, and he hopes to get involved in the tennis club team.
Soeherman considers himself lucky, though, because many of his friends had a similar combination but were not admitted.
“Not too many of my friends that probably should have gotten into Davis got in,” Soeherman said. “Davis is pretty underrated in high school because we don’t know how competitive it’s getting.”
Robinson cited the lower level of competition as one of the core reasons he took a job at UC Davis after leaving his position as assistant vice chancellor and director of admissions at UC Berkeley.
“Davis became very attractive to me [because] it had — and still continues to have — a higher admit rate. I’m very attracted to greater access because that means you can promote diversity,” Robinson said.
Diversity also extends to transfer students and non-California residents. Robinson denied rumors that the University is admitting more out-of-state students instead of California residents because they pay higher tuition — $36,755 instead of $13,877.
“This year we had an 11 percent increase in applications from California applicants, and we’re really proud of that because we don’t want Californians to feel they’re being neglected,” Robinson said.
The Transfer Admission Guaranteed, or TAG program, accounts for roughly a fourth of all transfer admissions. Robinson stated Davis was preparing to increase their emphasis on TAG admissions.
Other UC campuses, such as UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, have recently terminated their promise that transfer students can be guaranteed admission after two years at a community college. The UC system did recently create, however, a policy that allows students to choose only one TAG agreement instead of many.
Students can apply to multiple UCs, but they can only have guaranteed admission to one, choosing which one they want the most. About 25 percent of all transfer admits at UC Davis are from the TAG program.
Students are rated on how well they performed with the resources that were available to them, ensuring that those who performed well in a poorly-financed school, for example, are treated as fairly as those who excelled in a well-funded school.
“Part of what we’re looking for is to be an engine of socio-mobility for all stratas of our socioeconomic bands,” Robinson said.
Soeherman felt immediately attracted to the Davis campus, more so than other sister schools.
“I think the campus and the environment and the whole atmosphere is honestly a lot better than Berkeley, which is not that great physically,” Soeherman said. “At Davis the dorms are really nice, the whole campus is open, the college-town is really cool.”
Lanette Bingaman, UC Davis Visitor Services Manager, says that surveys have proven that campus visits heavily influence the ultimate decision for prospective students.
“Something about physically being here, seeing the beauty of our campus, feeling the friendliness of our community and campus environment and factoring in our academic excellence really does it for many of our future applicants,” Bingaman said.
ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.