Information and Tips for IGG Prospective Students

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Your application

The deadline for the application is December 1. The online application form is found at Graduate Studies

Materials needed:

  • Application (online), including (i) Statement of Purpose, (ii) Personal History Statement, (iii) Essay describing Research or Professional Interests
  • University/college/community college transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Optional: Fellowship application (included in online application)
  • As of 2020, the IGG Graduate Group no longer requires GRE scores for admissions
  • Official TOEFL or IELTS for international students

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

Tips for completing your IGG application

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 M.S. or 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. Sending your CV to your referees is also helpful.

Statement of Purpose (SOP) and Personal History & Diversity Statement

Your SOP and Personal history & diversity statement 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 & diversity statement; 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, informative and well-organized, and present yourself as one competent to successfully complete the graduate program. Here are a few tips:

  • Be clear on why you are 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. In order to present a cohesive story (from past to present to future), Briefly mention your current research interest. This doesn’t need to be long since you will describe it in more details in the essay describing “Research or Professional Interests”. Some students wish to continue in the same research vein, while others, may wish to switch fields, or approaches. You might want to elaborate here if you intend to deviate from past research experiences (it is perfectly ok).
  • 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 you will gain in IGG and UC Davis would permit your continued 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 IGG. Generic letters used to apply to multiple institutions and graduate groups where faculty names are simply interchanged can be detected.

(2) Drafting Your Personal History & Diversity statement. 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 & Diversity statement 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 in the face of life challenges and barriers to higher education, e.g. first-generation college student, English as a second language, socioeconomic disadvantages, illness/disability, member of other underrepresented group or faced other barriers).
  • Give examples of leadership, service, teaching and tutoring during your academic career.
  • List any successes you achieved and what you learned from them.
  • List examples of how you can contribute to the diversity of ideas, perspectives, approaches, or study systems in IGG, UC Davis, or the academic community. List examples of how you have contributed to diversity in the past.

(3) Essay describing your “Research or Professional Interest” in the “Plans for Graduate Study” section. 

In the question right before this essay, you were asked to identify multiple areas of research or professional interest (just key words, e.g. Human genetics, Plant population genomics). Use this essay to explain these choices. Focus on your motivation and past experiences in your selection of research/professional interests. What do you see as the scientific and broader significance of these research areas? Finally, identify multiple faculty members you would like to work with including a clear justification for your choices (You will also be asked to list preferences for faculty mentors in the next question). In this segment, the Admissions Committee will be able to assess your depth of understanding of the field.

How are applicants evaluated?

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

  • Your Undergraduate and Graduate GPA. All applicants must meet the University of California minimum GPA requirement (3.0) for admissions. 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. 
  • Evidence of publication and presentation of your research data.  This would enhance your application, but will not be 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 this graduate group is the right fit for you.
  • Your ability to write and articulate your ideas. Your statement of purpose and personal history statement 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. IGG is committed to holistic review. 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.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions

IGG graduate group values Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions, and recognizes that physical and mental wellness is essential for being a productive scientist. We welcome applications from academically strong individuals from diverse groups, including but not limited to first generation college students, historically underrepresented groups, 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 NIH PREP, McNair’s, BUSP, UC LEADS, UC-HBCU Initiatives or similar programs at your undergraduate institute are especially welcomed.

The IGG Graduate Group endorses the University of California Davis’ Diversity Statement.

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 highly recommended. You can email various professors in which you are interested in working with in their lab. It is perfectly acceptable to email multiple professors.

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

No. Within the first year, students do 2-4 laboratory rotations before joining a lab for their thesis work.

Is there financial support in the program?

All accepted students are fully funded by the program for 5 years. 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.

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 this online GPA calculator.