Information for Prospective Students

Applying to the Entomology Graduate Group at UC Davis

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the top ranked entomology department in the United States. It is a respected program that prides itself in rigor, interdisciplinary training and a high degree of faculty-student interaction. Our students go on to successful careers in academia, industry, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. As an entomology graduate student, you will make scholarly contributions to the field and after completing the program, be prepared and competitive for the diverse opportunities in a career in entomology, nematology, and agricultural sciences.

Entering into graduate studies is a big commitment financially, socially and emotionally. This website is developed to help students better understand the application process.

Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only; this is not an official guide.

How do I begin?

Entomology is a large and diverse field. Ask yourself, what are my interests? You will need to choose a major professor to be your primary mentor. It is critical that you get to know potential mentoring faculty as part of the application process.

  • Most students have a few areas of interest. Identify potential faculty or affiliated faculty mentors that align with your research interests. Consider active faculty members, not emeritus (retired) professors.
  • Get to know your prospective mentors. Read one or two of their papers. Which of the faculty best fits with your interests and career goals?
  • Think about questions you would ask the faculty that intrigue you. What is their mentoring philosophy? What is the culture of their lab? The possible career options ahead? These are questions you can ask directly once you have interacted with them.
  • Contact the professor. Most professors like to hear from enthusiastic students who are interested in their field of study! Be direct and concise with your communications. Your email should be professional, simple, and honest, and convey your passion and ideas. It should also be pragmatic – what can you contribute to the research program of the faculty member?
  • Introduce yourself. State why you are interested in their lab. Highlight areas of overlap between the science in the faculty member’s lab and research you are conducting or interested in. Mention papers you have read and what you found interesting about them. Conclude by asking if they are currently taking students and by saying that you would like to discuss the possibility of working in their lab by telephone, skype etc. What next? Some Faculty members may take a long time to reply due to multiple commitments. Follow up with another email after a week elapses.
  • Once you have a identified a prospective mentor, we strongly encourage you to use one of these worksheets to establish mutual expectations and goals early in the application process:
  • We also strongly encourage all prospective students to contact current graduate students in our program to get their perspective and advice.

Your application

The deadline for the application is January 5th. The online application form is found at

This is what is needed:

  • Official transcripts.
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Personal History Essay
  • Essay on Strength and Weakness (in the Supplemental Essay section of your application, please describe your strength and weakness and key factor(s) that have contributed to your academic success)
  • TOEFL, or IELTS for international students

Incomplete applications may not be reviewed, so be sure to include all of the required materials!

How are applicants evaluated?

Your application will be evaluated by a committee of faculty. Here are a few things that the Admissions Committee consider when assessing your application:

  • Your fit with a prospective mentoring faculty. It is very important that you have identified a potential major professor and lab with shared interests and expectations.
  • Your Undergraduate and Graduate GPA. Rarely will you be accepted into the program with a GPA of less than 3.0, and the average is higher than this. Good grades in upper division courses and subjects related to the graduate program of interest are more important than those in other subjects. Extenuating circumstances that affected your overall GPA can be outlined in your Personal History.
  • Research experience. Almost all applicants have laboratory experience prior to applying to graduate school. Working independently on a discrete research question is ideal. You should be knowledgeable about the research you conducted, the hypothesis tested and the rationale for the approach taken. This is better than simply being familiar with lab techniques.
  • Recommendations made by your References. Seek individuals who can comment on your research (such as a research supervisor) and academic ability (such as a course professor) for the letter of recommendations (LOR). 
  • Evidence of publication and presentation of your research data.  This would enhance your application but will not be a decisive factor in acceptance. If you are currently in the final year of your undergraduate degree, look for all opportunities to present and publish your work.
  • Your academic and professional goals. This can sometimes indicate if you have the ‘right’ motivation for graduate school, are realistic in what can be accomplished, and if the department is the right fit for you.
  • Evidence of active participation in lab meetings and graduate level seminar courses. This may be highlighted in your statement of purpose, or by your professor in one of the LORs.
  • Your ability to write. Your statement of purpose and personal history may convey this, but comments from your recommender may also be helpful.

Please note: this is not a checklist that determines acceptance. The factors controlling admissibility are complex and do not follow a strict formula.

Good academic grades and solid research experience are important, as they may indicate your scholastic aptitude and potential for scientific research, but the Admissions Committee will consider all the parts of your application in making a decision.

Scores on standardized tests are not definitive: do not obsess over your grades. Your personal statement and the letters of recommendations are extremely important to the Admissions Committee, as they communicate who you are as a potential student, so pay attention to these.

In exceptional cases, lower grades and scores may be offset with extensive research experience especially in an area that a faculty member may value. Still, research experience is not an automatic substitute for poor grades.  The program of study is broad and rigorous. We need evidence that you will be able to thrive in that environment.

For International students, being the recipient of a fellowship or full scholarship from your home country can indicate that you are a good candidate. You will also need to be proficient in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A score of 550 for the paper test and 80 for the internet-based test is required. For the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), a score of 7 or higher is essential.

Letters of recommendation

Seek these out early. Give your letter writer at least 6 week’s notice (no later than mid-October) and follow up 3, 2 and 1 week before the deadline. Your letter writer should be familiar with you academically, and should be able to speak to your ability to complete a Ph.D. Remember to cultivate a relationship with potential referees early in your career.

Aim to have all of your letters written by scientists willing to write strong letters; failing that, at least 2 of them should be. Ask him/her if they need pointers for the letter i.e. for your professors: dates you interacted, quarter and year of the class you took, and your grade. For your internship advisor you may include the specific dates you worked, duties, and accomplishments.

If there are weaknesses in your undergraduate preparation or you have concerns about the commitment required for a Ph.D., it may be wise to apply for a Master’s program and use that as a launch pad for a Ph.D. later. If you have questions please contact: Joanna C Chiu ( or Theresa Garcia (

Statement of Purpose and Personal History

Each section of your SOP and personal history should be seamlessly interconnected to form a continuous narrative. Invest a significant amount of time writing each, developing it through several iterations. Ask your professors for feedback on your writing. Some elements of the SOP may overlap with the personal history; for example, both may include obstacles to academic progress e.g. illness, working full-time.

Two important pieces of advice: (i) Be honest: do not try to reinvent yourself or inflate the importance of your accomplishments. (ii) Be specific: avoid platitudes and give examples. Show how you have turned a negative into a positive or how it now becomes a driving force to for you to be a scientist. UC Davis students and alumni can have their personal statements reviewed by the Student Academic Success Centre.

(1) Drafting your Statement of Purpose. This allows you to tell the Admissions Committee directly, why you should be admitted to the program. It should be concise (500-1000 words), informative and well-organized, and present yourself as one competent to successfully complete the graduate program. There are several online resources available to help you, but here are few tips:

  • Be clear on why are you applying. Provide a context for your personal motivation i.e. state how you became interested in a particular topic and why you wish to pursue this question. This should be brief but well thought-through.
  • Describe your past academic and research experiences. State succinctly, the importance of the research question, the specific objective of your project, your general approach and the significance of your results.
  • Discuss your current research interests. Devote most of your essay to this segment. Describe how your classwork and research experience (described above) converge to make you a good candidate. Some students wish to continue in the same research vein, while others, may wish to switch fields, or approaches. Identify multiple faculty members you would like to work with including a clear justification for such. In this segment, the Admissions Committee will be able to assess your depth of understanding of the field.
  • Map out your potential career plan. Where do you see yourself as a researcher in the next 5 – 10 years? There should be a logical flow of your past and current experiences and how the expertise within the department and UC Davis would permit to continue your development.

Give yourself ample time to write your SOP. The Admissions committee can easily spot hurried and poorly thought out writing and this will have a negative effect on your evaluation. Secondly, your statement should be specific to entomology. Generic letters used to apply to multiple institutions where faculty names are simply interchanged can be detected.

(2) Drafting Your Personal History. This should provide the Reader with a clear perspective of the circumstances that shaped you, how it is interconnected with your academic pursuits, and how it prepares you for success. It is a chance for self-introspection: what are the specific driving forces or the single transformative event that propelled you to this point, where pursuing graduate studies in the department is the next logical step in your development.

The personal history section can be used to:

  • Fill-in the gaps about inconsistencies in your application, such as low grades.
  • Highlight how you were able to persevere and excel academically in spite of any economic or social challenges you have faced.
  • Give examples of leadership, service, teaching and tutoring during your academic career.
  • List any successes you achieved and what you learned from them.


Entomology and Nematology Diversity Statement

The Department of Entomology and Nematology promotes an environment that respects people of diverse cultural and social backgrounds. We welcome applications from academically strong individuals from diverse groups, including but not limited to first generation college students, underrepresented minorities, individuals belonging to socially or economically disadvantaged groups, individuals belonging to diverse gender, race and ethnicity, religion, age, country of origin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and special health needs. Students trained through the McNair’s, BUSP, UC LEADS, UC-HBCU Initiatives or similar programs at your undergraduate institute are especially welcomed. We believe that by encouraging multiple perspectives in our coursework and research, we can help prepare our students to participate in an increasingly diverse society and world.

The link below provides a description of the University of California Davis’ Diversity Statement, which the Department of Entomology and Nematology endorses.




Frequently Asked Questions

My GPA is good but not great, should I still apply?

Yes. The minimum GPA is 3.0, but there are exceptions. Applications are reviewed holistically. Your GPA, research experience, academic preparation and training, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose and personal history are all considered in the application. 

Should I email professors that I am interested in working with?

Yes. This is a requirement. You can email various professors in which you are interested in working with in their lab. You can find a list of faculty members here: Entomology Faculty. The Entomology program does not accept any student without a sponsoring faculty mentor.

Do I have to be selected by a major professor for admittance?

Yes. Students are admitted directly into a major professor’s lab. This is a choice made between the two parties. Students do not rotate in labs once they arrive at UC Davis.

Can I pursue a master’s degree in entomology?

Yes. There are two options called Plan I and Plan II. For more information see this link: Student Handbook

Is there financial support in the program?

All accepted students are supported by the graduate group or the faculty mentor. The students will not have any out-of-pocket expenses with regard to tuition and fees, and they will receive a monthly stipend to support living expenses. Student support comes in a variety of ways: internal and external fellowships, research and teaching assistantships. At the time of the application you will be asked to complete a fellowship application. More financial support information can be found here:

When will I know if my application is successful?

Here is a time line of key events during recruitment for Fall admission.


Entomology Recruitment Timeline



Key Events

Online Application

Admissions committee review applications

Candidates selected for open house

Offers of Admittance

Deadline for acceptance of offer




January 5th



Early February 





April 15




International Student Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimum scores for the TOEFL/IELTS? 

  • 550 on the TOEFL paper-based test (PBT), or
  • 80 on the TOEFL internet-based test (iBT)
  • IELTS Score: 7.0 points minimum on a 9.0 point scale

How do I know if I need to take the TOEFL or the IELTS?

If your previous degree was not solely taught in English, you will need to take the exam. You can check out what languages your institution taught in here: If your institution shows English and another language you will need to take either of the two exams. If your institution only shows English you do not need to take the exam.

How do I know if my institution is not accredited?

Look at your institutions website and look for their accreditation. Also look at the unaccredited institution list here:

How can I calculate my GPA when it is not on a four-point scale?

Please use the following website to calculate your GPA:


Helpful Resources: