- Learn what it means to be a “well-rounded student,” how holistic college application reviews work, and when you should apply for FAFSA or the CA Dream Act.
Thanksgiving has come and gone. You’ve been rushing through the fall semester to get all your college applications in while still juggling your hectic senior year activities. You finally clicked that “submit” button. Now what?
If only it was as easy as “just sit back and relax,” but we all know that waiting for admission decisions can be stressful. Well, our first step (for both you and me) is to take a deep breath. Okay, better? Let's back up a bit and go over some UC Davis admissions basics.
Behind the Scenes
As an admissions advisor, there’s a lot that happens after students celebrate being done with applications. Mainly, we train, train and train. And THEN read, read, read. With seven years of experience, each year is a different experience. Every year, we undergo rigorous training to challenge biases, learn more about the general student experience, and streamline the process. We know you spend a lot of time and effort on these applications, so we also spend a lot of time and effort to understand them. We take our jobs very seriously.
Our applications go up every year which means we get to hear more stories, but it also means that seeing a number like 90,000+ can be daunting. I personally read 1,200-1,500 applications each year! Luckily we have a large dedicated team to help.
What’s the Secret to the Application Review Process?
Each application is reviewed twice using our Holistic Review process, which includes 13 holistic review factors. These factors aren’t a checklist, but rather, a way to give us context. Who you are, where you’re coming from, and why you have the dreams that you have is really what we’re trying to understand. You’ll be providing this information throughout the application, so there’s no need to send any letters of recommendation or additional materials after you submit your application. Seriously, please don’t send them, we already get a lot of mail! There are also no interviews. Each application is also reviewed independently, meaning we are not reading applications side-by-side.
One of the most common questions Admissions get asked is “What do you look for in an application?” My answer? I know you’re looking for the secret formula to getting in but there’s no formula. And while I could answer with “well-rounded students” just to be ominous, I know that’s not helpful. Which brings us to our next commonly asked question: “What does a ‘well-rounded’ student look like?”
“Well-rounded” means different things to different people in different contexts. It doesn’t mean you have to do everything, all the time. As an extreme introvert in high school, I could never be the valedictorian who led community service efforts through student government. The point of being “well-rounded” is to showcase your passions in the context of your personality and environment. So if that looks like being the introvert who’s an art protege who tried her hand at speech club but hated it, then so be it. Own it.
Because of the Holistic Review, we don’t have any baseline expectations of what a student should look like. Extracurriculars can include everything from the traditional school sports and clubs to part-time jobs, family responsibilities and self-taught hobbies. Consistency and leadership are factors that can boost an application but are not limited to traditional aspects either. For example, I’ve read applications where students show leadership by starting their own graphic shoe design business. It also means we’re not even using GPA cutoffs to review applications.
So where does that leave us? Well I would recommend answering these questions: out of the opportunities available to you, what were you able to achieve? How were you able to make the experience truly yours?
We have your applications, we have our factors, what now? We read! We hit the ground running in December: wrapping up our training process and getting to reading. We read through January before going into the selection process in February. Freshman decisions come out in mid-March and transfer decisions come out in mid-April to late-April. Then you let us know if you’re coming to campus by May 1 or June 1, depending on if you’re a first-year or transfer admit.
Now that you know what I do behind the scenes, let’s talk about what comes next for you.
Playing the Waiting Game
While we’re sipping hot chocolate and reading your applications, you should be enjoying the holidays! Make sure you get an application confirmation from each school in December, FYI. Then enjoy the break. But after the New Year’s, make sure you are checking your emails again. If we need additional information, we’ll reach out via email. So that’s the first tip!
Some other next steps:
- Also in December: set up your MyAdmissions account. Along with your application confirmation, you’ll receive your UC Davis student ID and login instruction to your applicant portal. Your account will have important dates/deadlines and relevant information. If that’s not enough to convince you to set it up, your portal is also how you will receive your admission decision. Just don’t go hitting refresh every day in March.
- Pass all your classes! You’ll need to report your fall grades and spring schedule updates in January. Don’t worry, we’ll send you an email with instructions on how to do that.
- Don’t forget financial aid! There’s nothing worse than filling out college applications except filling out financial aid applications (sorry, FAFSA). And yes I can say this because I’m also a graduate student who still has to fill out FAFSA. Though you have until March 2 to submit the FAFSA or CA Dream Act Application, don’t procrastinate.
We all know that after the rush of completing an assignment comes down, the “what ifs” start to creep in. So here are some questions you may have:
- I made a mistake on the application. How do I fix it?
If you applied to multiple UCs, here’s a good list on how to make updates.
- I failed a course! What should I do?
Don’t fret, your life is not over. However, you do need to report it ASAP. Being upfront about your situation can save you a lot of headaches and panic down the road.
- I looked over the majors again and I don’t like what I chose. Can I change my major on the application?
While we can’t change your major during the review process, students who enroll at UC Davis are allowed to change majors after their first quarter.
Lastly, what should you do while you wait? Hang in there! Remember, patience is a virtue! And don’t let the anxiety rob you of your senior year moments. Enjoy the moment. And check your email, always.