Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for Prospective Graduate Students

General Admissions Questions

  • What are my chances of being accepted into the Civil and Environmental Engineering Program?
  • Students are reviewed holistically based on their entire application including their statement of purpose, personal history statement, cumulative grade point average of degrees earned, transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and TOEFL/IELTS scores. Please read these Admissions FAQs to help you determine if you meet the requirements for admission.
  • When are admissions decisions made?
  • Our admission decisions are released on a rolling basis. Typically, the majority of our admissions decisions will be released between March and May.
  • Do I need to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering to apply?
  • No.  A previous degree in engineering is not required for admission, and there are technically not any required courses for admission. If you are admitted without a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in engineering, you would be required to take some background courses to help you prepare for the graduate level work – those courses are in our Degree Requirements.  You can take these background courses prior to or after admission to our program. 

    In this situation, some students will be admitted directly into the program, while others may be admitted on a “Course Work Only” basis initially where you would fulfill an agreement with the department which usually involves a specified level of performance in a list of courses, after which you would transition to be a degree seeking student.  There are limitations to Course Work Only status, primarily related to eligibility for funding and financial aid.

    Depending on your individual background and experience, some students will choose to take the listed prerequisites to our background courses (like lower division calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, statics, and/or physics) prior to admission to (1) prepare for the required background courses and (2) have a strong math foundation on their record which may help indicate an ability to be successful in our graduate program for the holistic admission review process. Some students will also choose to take some of the listed upper division background courses prior to admission to further demonstrate their ability to be successful in our graduate program. Individual course prerequisites can be found in the UC Davis General Catalog.

    Important Notes: the background courses listed in our degree requirements are upper division courses, meaning that equivalent courses will not be offered at California Community Colleges (CCC’s offer the equivalent of lower division courses).  Some students will be able to take the upper division background courses without the listed prerequisite courses, depending in individual instructor approval.  Non-UC Davis students can take courses at UC Davis during summer session or through Open Campus prior to enrolling at UC Davis. Completing the background courses (at UC Davis or elsewhere) does not guarantee admission to our program.

  • As an Undergraduate student, I lack work experience. Will this affect my chances of getting admitted?
  • Work experience is not a minimum qualification for admission. Applications are reviewed holistically by the faculty, and any work experience is one factor that may be considered (other factors might include internships, student leadership, research, competitions, awards, publication, etc.). Lacking work experience alone will not automatically decrease your chance of being admitted into our program.
  • I am applying for the PhD program. How do I find a faculty member who is willing to serve as my PhD Faculty Advisor?
  • Students are welcome to contact a faculty member they are interested in working with, before and/or after they submit their application, to express their interest in working with that faculty member and learn more about the program. We highly encourage students do their research about our faculty prior to reaching out (please view our research pages and faculty directory). Please note that our faculty are very busy, get many inquiries, and may not be able to respond to all students. 

    Students do not need to find a faculty member willing to serve as their PhD advisor prior to applying. We do highly encourage students to be thoughtful in completing the section of the application where they indicate their faculty preference, as our faculty do use this to help find students whose research interests may align with their own. Faculty members typically will wait until they have reviewed a student’s completed application before they confirm their willingness to serve as an advisor.  
  • Do I need a Masters Degree to apply for the PhD?
  • No. You can apply for the PhD directly without a previous Masters. If admitted to the program, you would have the option to add on the Masters degree objective.  You can also apply for the MS, and add the PhD degree after admission if you find a major professor willing to mentor you for the PhD degree.  Adding a PhD degree is by mutual agreement between the student and the faculty. 
  • Can I apply to start in the Winter or Spring quarter?
  • No. We only have one admission cycle each year. If admitted to a Fall term, a student can request to defer to a later term (up to one year).
  • I was admitted to the program. Can I request to defer my admission?
  • Students can request to defer up to one year. Please refer to the FAQ for newly admitted students, and contact the graduate program coordinator for further questions. 
  • How long does it generally take for students to complete the MS or PhD program?
  • The average Time-to-Degree for a Master’s is 1.8 years (although this is generally longer for students pursuing Master’s Plan I, thesis; and shorter for students pursuing the Master's Plan II, project/exam) and the average Time-to-Degree for a Doctorate student is 5.37 years (generally shorter for students coming with a Masters degree completed).

    The MS Plan II (project/exam) can be completed in 1 year (3 quarters). 
  • Should I be in contact with any of the faculty members at this time?
  • We encourage students to reach out to a faculty member they would be interested in working with after submitting their application. Many of our faculty will wait to see a student's full application prior to engaging in a more detailed conversation about admission and our program. Prior to reaching out to a faculty member, please be sure to do some research about which faculty member has research interests that align with your own. You can start the search on the page that corresponds to your general research interests. Please note: Our faculty members do receive a high volume of inquiries from prospective students, and may not be able to respond to all; please be courteous of faculty time. All general inquiries should be directed to the program staff.

Application Fee

  • How much is the Application Fee?
  • Up-to-date fee information can be found on the Graduate Studies website: Admissions Process Overview
  • Graduate Preparation Programs Fee Waiver
  • Administered by Graduate Studies at UC Davis:
    Applicants who are affiliated with one or more of the Graduate Preparation programs listed on the Graduate Studies website are eligible for graduate application fee waivers.
    Please visit the Graduate Preparation Programs Eligible for Fee Waivers website to learn more. 
  • COE Equity Program Fee Waiver Eligibility
  • Administered by the College of Engineering at UC Davis:
    ​​​​Applicants must seek Fall 2023 admission to a PhD program administered by the College of Engineering. Applicants for MS programs are not eligible for a fee waiver through this program.
    Only US citizens or current permanent residents are eligible to receive a fee waiver through this program.
    Applicants who have participated in other Graduate Preparation Programs listed here already qualify for a fee waiver through that program.
    Details About the Request Form
    Please visit the COE Equity Program webpage to access the fee waiver request form
    * Applicants will need to provide brief contact/demographic information, as well as provide short responses to two questions.
    * Those who qualify for a fee waiver will receive an email with directions on how to use the waiver. (NOTE: waivers will be sent daily Monday-Friday only)
  • California State University Application Fee Fellowship Program
  • The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will provide Graduate Application Fee Fellowships based on the following criteria:
    - Applicant has (or will) earn a degree from a California State University.
    - Applicant has a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) from their Bachelor’s degree granting institution.
    - Applicant has submitted a complete* application as a MS student to the Department of Civil and Environmental
    Engineering at UC Davis by the general deadline (PhD students should refer first to the COE Equity Program).
    - Applicant has submitted the supplemental CSU Graduate Application Fee Fellowship Program application.
    - Applicant does not qualify for the Graduate Preparation Program Fee Waiver or the COE Equity Program Fee Waiver (see above).
    *To be considered complete, the application must have all transcripts uploaded, and all three letters of recommendation submitted, in addition to the complete online application.

    For the Fall 2023 application cycle, the department will award up to 30 applications; awarded in order of submission to applicants who meet all the eligibility criteria.

    To receive this fellowship:
    1. Complete the online application form, and click “submit”
    2. Do NOT pay the application fee (we cannot offer refunds)
    3. Make sure all your transcripts are uploaded, and your letters of recommendation have been submitted
    4. Complete the short supplemental application form
    5. If your application is showing as paid within 3 business days, please email
  • Are there other application fee waivers/fellowships available?
  • Unfortunately, we are unable to provide admission fee waivers or fellowships to all interested applicants at this time. We hope to expand things in the future, but at this point there is no option for students not covered by one of the above programs.

Application Deadlines

  • When are applications due?
  • December 15: Priority Deadline. February 1: General Deadline. June 1: If space remains available, we will consider applications until this deadline.  We do not consider incomplete applications for admission.
  • I submitted my application by 11:59 p.m. on the day of the deadline but the website is saying it is a day late. Will my application still be considered for the deadline?
  • Yes. The application system is based on East Coast time and therefore is three hours ahead. As long as you submit your application by 3:00am on the day after the specified deadline, your application will be considered on-time.
  • What if I turn in my application by the deadline, but my letters of recommendation or test scores arrive late?
  • Our Department cannot mark your application as complete until we have all your application materials, including letters of recommendation, transcripts and test scores.  Our internal process includes the department staff preparing each application for faculty review before the faculty complete their holistic review.  Since this process takes time, there is a small grace period to make sure all your application materials are in. 

    Your application will be considered as soon as it is marked complete – if this is after the deadline, other applicants may be considered and admitted before your application is reviewed. If your application is not complete with all materials submitted by Jan. 5th, you will not be considered for any of the UC Davis campus wide fellowships.

    If you application remains incomplete through the final deadline of June 1, 2022 you will be denied admission based on an incomplete application.
  • What are the deadlines for Winter and Spring admission?
  • We only accept applications for Fall quarter admission. If you wish to begin during Winter or Spring quarter, you must apply for Fall admission. If accepted you can request to begin early or defer your admission for up to one year. Such requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Application Materials

  • How much does it cost to submit an application?
  • The cost is $120 for domestic applicants and $140 for international applicants. See the application for payment details.
  • Can I apply for a fee waiver?
  • The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has no way to provide a fee wavier or pay the application fee on behalf of the student. 

    Graduate Studies Fee Waivers: There are circumstances in which applicants are eligible to apply for a fee waiver for participation in specific graduate preparation programs. You should view the information available on the Graduate Studies website for more information regarding a fee waiver. 

    Also, the College of Engineering Dean's Office is offering an fee waiver for domestic PhD applicants. See details below:  
    COE Equity Program Fee Waiver Eligibility
     ​​​​Applicants must seek Fall 2021 admission to a PhD program administered by the College of Engineering. Applicants for MS programs are not eligible for a fee waiver through this program.
    Only US citizens or current permanent residents are eligible to receive a fee waiver through this program.
    Applicants who have participated in other Graduate Preparation Programs listed here already qualify for a fee waiver through that program.

    Details About the Request Form

    Please visit this webpage to access the fee waiver request form:
    * Applicants will need to provide brief contact information, as well as provide short responses to two questions.
    * Those who qualify for a fee waiver will receive an email with directions on how to use the waiver. (NOTE: waivers will be sent daily Monday-Friday only)
  • What should I include in my Statement of Purpose and Personal History and Diversity statement?
  • Please see the Office of Graduate Studies website for detailed descriptions of these two essays.
  • What happens if I exceed the 4000-character limit?
  • The online system will only accept 4000-characters, so your application reviewers will not see anything beyond the 4000th character.
  • Do I need to submit transcripts from all the schools I attended?
  • UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended.  You will be instructed to upload scanned copies (unofficial version) of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application.  For more details visit


  • What is the minimum GPA required for admission?
  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (out of 4.0) is required to be admitted to our program.
  • What is the average GPA of admitted CEE students?
  • The average undergraduate GPA of admitted CEE students vary each year. In 2018, the average undergraduate GPA for admitted M.S. students was 3.51 (out of 4.0). The average undergraduate GPA for admitted Ph.D. students was 3.53 (out of 4.0) and the average graduate GPA was 3.51 (out of 4.0).
  • Will I still be considered if my undergraduate GPA is below 3.0?
  • The 3.0 undergraduate GPA is actually a requirement of UC Davis. As our faculty complete a holistic review of our applications, there are rare cases where the faculty will recommend admission for an exceptional candidate with below a 3.0 GPA. These cases will be reviewed by the Office of Graduate Studies, who make the final admissions decision. So while this is rare, it is possible.


  • Is the GRE required?
  • As of June 2022, the Civil and Environmental Engineering program no longer requires the GRE for admission.  GRE scores will not be required, accepted, or reviewed.


  • What are the minimum scores required on the TOEFL/IELTS?
  • The minimum TOELF/IELTS scores can be viewed on the Graduate Studies application page.  While our program accepts scores at or above the minimum, a score of ~100 on the TOELF and of ~7.5 on the IELTS is typically considered competitive. Students who have below the Graduate Studies minimum will not be admitted. 

    Please note that English language courses taken while in attendance at UC Davis are required per policy unless you satisfy one of the following three conditions: 1) your undergraduate or graduate degree is from an approved English-medium institution, as confirmed by the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies; 2) your TOEFL (iBT) score is 105 or higher or IELTS score is 7.5 or higher; 3) you scored 24 or higher on the TOEFL (iBT) writing and 23 or higher on the TOEFL (iBT) speaking portion of the test. Courses taken in satisfaction of this requirement do not count towards your degree requirements. More information is HERE.

    Also note that an English Language Proficiency is required per policy to be hired as a Teaching Assistant unless you satisfy one of the following conditions: 1) your undergraduate degree is from an approved English-medium institution (graduate degree in English is not accepted for this requirement), as confirmed by the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies; 2) you scored 26 or higher on the Speaking Subset of the TOEFL (iBT), 3) you scored a 8 or higher on the Speaking Subset of the IELTS, 4) Achieving a "Pass" on the TOEP - offered at UC Davis after admission.  More information about the TOEP is HERE

  • I attended an English speaking institution -- do I need to submit TOEFL scores?
  • If you received a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an accredited school in which the only language of instruction was English, then you do not need to submit a TOEFL score. Please see the Graduate Studies website for more information.
  • What are the average TOEFL/IELTS scores for admitted students?
  • We do not keep statistics on TOEFL/IELTS scores. Higher TOEFL/IELTS scores can influence admission, however applications are reviewed holistically and this is only one component. Depending on your TOEFL or IELTS scores, you may be required to take an English course requirement after admission, and/or pass additional English tests to become eligible to be a Teaching Assistant.


  • Where do I submit transcripts?
  • UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended.  You will be instructed to upload scanned copies (unofficial version) of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application.  For more details visit Upon admission, you will be required to submit official copies of all your transcripts.
  • Do I need to submit transcripts from institutions in which I did not receive a degree?
  • Yes. UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended.
  • What if my transcripts are missing my final grades?
  • It is okay to submit an incomplete transcript if you are still completing a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (or other coursework).  If you are admitted you will be required to submit a final degree transcript.

Letters of Recommendation

  • How do I submit letters of recommendation?
  • Letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically through the online application.
  • Can I submit hard copies of letters of recommendation?
  • No. Hard copies of letters of recommendation are not accepted by the CEE Department. Letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically by the referee through the online application.
  • How will the recommender be notified about the letter of recommendation?
  • The online application system will automatically notify the referee and provide instructions on how to submit the letter.
  • How many letters of recommendation can I submit?
  • Three letters of recommendation are required to complete your application. We are unable to accept more than three letters of recommendation, and less than three letters will result in an incomplete application.

Support for Your Graduate Studies

  • Do I need to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
  • All applicants who are US citizens, permanent residents or immigrants should submit a completed FAFSA as early as possible. The FAFSA is used to assess your eligibility for financial assistance from federal sources. Failure to file a FAFSA by the deadline of March 2nd automatically disqualifies students from receiving any federal aid.
  • Do students receive funding from the CEE Department?
  • The department recognizes that providing financial aid is necessary in recruiting the best students. Thus, top admitted students (generally PhD students) will often be offered financial aid packages prior to starting their academic program.  In order to be considered for UC Davis Campus Fellowships, make sure to submit a completed admission application and fellowship application by December 15th.

    The offer of admission and any offer of financial support are separate processes.  If you do not receive an initial financial offer that does not mean that you won’t have funding while here. 
  • How many students receive funding from the department?
  • The amount of students who receive funding from the department vary each year. On average, approximately 90% of MS students are partially funded at some point in their academic career and about 60% of MS students secure funding in any given quarter. Many of our MS students will not receive a initial funding offer at time of recruitment, but find funding opportunities throughout their degree program. For PhD students, approximately 92% are fully or partially funded in some way (internal and external sources). About 75% of our PhD students are fully funded. Partial funding might include some quarter of full funding and other quarters with no funding, or a funding level below that of what the Office of Graduate Studies considers “full support.”
  • What type of funding is available to new students?
  • First-year graduate students may receive financial support from Department and Internal Campus Fellowships, Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions, Teaching Assistantships (TA), and Readerships.

    Detailed information about funding availability and types is on our Current Graduate Student Funding page.
  • What is a department fellowship?
  • Students who demonstrate scholarship and the promise of outstanding academic and professional achievement may be awarded departmental fellowships.  These fellowships are competitive and vary regarding the type (stipend and/or tuition support) and amount of support they offer. Consideration for department fellowships is automatic upon completion and submission of the admission application by February 1st. No separate application is necessary.
  • What is a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) position?
  • GSR positions are arranged with individual faculty members and are based on research grant funding. Applicants who are interested in a GSR position should contact individual faculty members in their areas of interest to discuss possible research funding opportunities. GSR appointments of at least 25% provide full remission of fees and Non-Resident tuition.
  • What is a Teaching Assistantship (TA)? 
  • TA responsibilities include running discussion sections, supervising laboratory experiments, grading, etc. These positions are typically 25% appointments which include remission of in-state fees.
  • What is a Readership?
  • Readers grade homework, labs, exams, etc. These positions are typically 25% appointments which include remission of in-state fees.
  • I'm an international student. Am I eligible for Internal Campus Fellowships?
  • Yes. Please review each Fellowships eligibility criteria on the Graduate Studies website. Only United States Citizens and Permanent Residents are eligible for Fellowships to Support Campus Diversity.
  • I qualify for AB 540, DACA or am an undocumented student. Am I eligible for funding?
  • Yes. Depending on your individual situation, there may be funding you are eligible to receive. Please look at this website for more information and additional resources

Tuition for Graduate Studies

  • What is the cost of attendance?
  • This depends on whether you are a resident of California or not, and whether you hold an academic appointment (e.g. GSR, TA or reader). There is a supplemental tuition for non-residents. Current tuition rates for graduate students can be found here, and estimated cost of living in addition to tuition is listed here. (See the rows “Tuition and Fees” and “Nonresident Supplemental Tuition (NRST).” Please note that when you are hired as a TA or reader, the majority of in-state tuition and fees are covered as part of the appointment. When you are hired as a GSR, both the in-state tuition and fees and NRST are covered as part of the appointment (called fee remission). 

  • Is there any Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition? 
  • No. There is no professional degree supplemental tuition, unlike some other Civil & Environmental Engineering programs.

Still have questions?
- Contact staff at
- Ask our current CEE Student Grad Admissions Ambassadors listed here: