Newly Admitted Graduate Students Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for Newly Admitted Graduate Students

One great source of information is our NEW STUDENT WELCOME PACKET. 


Additional Frequently Asked Questions are below:

General Questions

  • When do I need to submit my SIR by?
  • We ask you SIR as soon as possible (whether you are attending UC Davis or not) so that we can plan accordingly and you can complete all the steps to start here in the fall in a timely manner, and receive all the important emails throughout the summer. 
    Please submit your SIR by June 1.  If you need more time, please contact Lauren Worrell (
    To submit your SIR: Please click on the link in the email you received from the Office of Graduate Studies informing you about your formal admission offer.  If you lost this email, or if the link takes you to an error page, please let me know and I’ll request the system re-send the email to you. 
  • I’ve submitted my SIR – now what?
  • First you will want to complete all the steps in your checklist (you will see this after submitting your SIR). In early July, the program will send out (via email) the New Student Information Packet. This packet contains important information such as: orientations, dates and deadlines, tips on enrolling in classes, funding, and TA and reader appointments. Please be patient to wait for this packet to come out.

  • Is there an option to defer my admission?
  • If you are interested in deferring your admission, please submit your SIR as a "yes", but DO NOT enroll in fall courses yet. Requests can be submitted until August 1, 2021 by emailing the Graduate Program Coordinator with the following information:
    Email Subject: Deferral Request: [your name]
    Email Body:
    - Your full name

    - Your SID (found on your admission letter)
    - Requested deferment term (example: Fall 2022):
    - The name of your major professor if you have already been in contact with a faculty member. Note: some MS students may or may not have a major professor yet. 
    - A short statement as to the reason for your deferral request.

    NOTE: Deferral requests can be for one, two or up to three quarters (one full year maximum). Our department generally only approves one deferral request, so please be sure of the term you would like to attend prior to making the request.  You will not need to submit a new application.  Approval of deferred admission does not automatically approve a deferral of any financial offer you might have received.

  • Is there an Orientation?
  • Yes!  There are actually several orientations, some of which are mandatory, and some optional.

    1. The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Orientation: This is a mandatory orientation, and a day-long event, held the day before the first day of instruction.  In 2020, it will be on Tuesday, September 29, 2020.
    2. Teaching Assistant Orientation All students who are hired as Teaching Assistants (TAs) for the 2020-21 year will be required to attend the Campus TA Orientation in Fall. All students are highly encouraged to attend the TA orientation now in case they become a TA later in the year (it is only offered once a year). For 2020, CEE Students will attend the orientation on Monday, September 28.
    3. Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS), International Graduate Student Orientation (IGSO): Mandatory orientation program for incoming international graduate students studying at UC Davis on an F-1 or J-1 visa
    4. Graduate Student Orientation (GSO): Optional for all graduate students at UC Davis
    5. Holistic UOptional to engage students committed to diversity by focusing on a holistic approach to, one’s graduate experience for themselves (You), one’s communities (Us) and the University environment applied to equity, inclusion and diversity.
  • Are there funding opportunities?
  • There are several ways to be funded at UC Davis, although many students will not receive a financial offer prior to starting.  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.  Most of our incoming students will find full or (more likely) partial funding opportunities after they arrive, especially our MS students.  More information can be found on our Student Funding website.  Funding for graduate students usually comes in the form of:

    External fellowships: You are strongly encouraged to apply for external fellowships on your own – information can be found on the Graduate Studies Website, including great search engines.  

    Internal fellowships and departmental fellowships: all new students are considered for these automatically with your application (you must apply by the priority deadline to be considered for the campus level fellowships).  A few select students will be nominated by the department for Campus fellowships, which are extremely competitive.  Then students may also receive departmental fellowships, which are decided on by our faculty in each research area.  These may be partial or full support.

    Academic appointments:
    - Graduate Student Researcher (GSR): You might be hired by a particular faculty member (your major adviser) to engage in research.  GSR positions pay a salary, and also provide tuition and fee remission (in-state and NRST).
    - Teaching Assistant (TA) and Reader: You can be hired by our department, or apply with other departments for these positions.  For CEE, you can submit an application to be a TA or Reader on the Teaching Assistants and Readers website (I will announce when the application opens each quarter through our student listserv email).  Your major professor can also be an advocate for you in finding these positions. TA and Reader positions pay a salary, and also provide partial in-state fee remission. Non-Resident Supplement Tuition (NRST) is not a benefit of TA/Reader employment. 

    Masters students tend to seek funding quarter by quarter, which I understand is very hard to plan for.  Unfortunately we cannot fund all of our MS students. Let me know if you have questions about any of these, but for now I would highly recommend you start reaching out to faculty members you think you might be interested in working with once you are here, and you can discuss what funding opportunities they may have available. 
  • How can I learn more about being a UC Davis Graduate Student?
  • We have an amazing team of CEE Graduate Admissions Ambassadors who would love to talk to you about their experience being a Graduate Student at UC Davis.  Please visit their website and feel free to join one of their webinars or to reach out individually.  

Courses, Major Professors, and General Academics

  • What courses should I take?
  • 1.  Read through the core courses/courses required for your degree.
    2. Review the courses offered by the department and course matrix showing the planned quarter they will be taught in. 
    - Course selection should be made in consultation with your major professor. The courses you select will depend on your desired time to graduation and the number of units required by your degree track. Additionally, check the course matrix- courses are typically offered once a year or every other year, consider how you will reach the unit requirement (especially the core courses) in your target timeline.
    - Courses taught by other departments can be found in the UC Davis course catalog (along with the descriptions and prerequisites from Civil Engineering courses).

  • What about course prerequisites? (I went to a different school, I never took that pre-reqs, etc.)
  • The listed prerequisites are designed to help a student be successful in the course. Often, students with degrees from other Universities have taken course similar to the listed prerequisite course and likely have the background to be successful in the course. However, all students missing the listed prerequisite should discuss their specific situation with the course instructor of record to verify that they are well positioned for success. 

  • I don't have an engineering degree, do I need to take extra courses? 
  • CEE students come from a variety of educational backgrounds. For students without an engineering degree there are additional preparatory course required during the first academic year. These are listed in the CEE Degree Requirements.
  • How do I register for undergraduate courses?
  • Occasionally, CEE graduate students choose to take an undergraduate course (e.g. to meet prerequisite requirements). Sometimes students will be able to directly enroll in these courses, or enroll after completing the online Prerequisite Petition on Schedule Builder. Often, the students will need to request an PTA (Permission To Add) number from the instructor of record for the course. Once a PTA is acquired, registration is completed through the Schedule Builder Tool by entering the number using the “Add with PTA” option.  Please reach out to the Graduate Program Coordinator for more information about obtaining a PTA.

  • How do I register for courses?
  • All course registration takes place through the Schedule Builder System. While the system is fairly intuitive, guidance of how to register can be found at the grad studies website as well as the university registrar’s website. Graduate students are not assigned a pass one/pass two appointment time, and can register at any time (except during the campus registration freeze, right before the start of classes).

    Pay attention to the registration deadlines and please note that there are extra steps (and sometimes additional fees) for late course registrations: Late Actions | UCD Registrar

  • Which degree tracks can I choose from (MS)? 
  • In the MS program, there are 2 plans, Plan I: Thesis or Plan II: Project/Exam.

    The two tracks have different coursework requirements and evaluation requirements. Additionally, the different research groups require different core courses. The time to completion can also depend on the track chosen. These differences are outlined in the CEE Degree Requirements (Note: written exams are not offered by all research groups).

    It is important to discuss your chosen track with your Major Advisor or the area advisor for your research group. Your faculty advisor can provide insights into how the different tracks can fit in with your area of studies and your academic goals. (You can find Area Advisors listed here: Current Students | UCD CEE).

  • I heard there is an MS plan I (thesis) and MS plan II (project/exam); what is the difference?
  • Please review the Guidance Manual for Graduate Students and their Advisors, specifically around pages 11-14, found on our Current Students, Degree Requirements website.
  • I was admitted to the MS program - who is my faculty advisor?
  • The initial faculty advisor for our MS students is the Area Advisor based on the research area you applied to and were admitted to.  The Area Advisors are listed here.  If you choose to pursue the MS Plan II with the capstone course or exam, this faculty member will serve as your faculty advisor for the duration of program.  Once you start the program here, you can talk to a faculty member about doing an individual MS plan II project or MS plan I thesis with them, at which point you would change your faculty advisor based on mutual agreement. More information about the MS options can be found on pages 11-14 of the Guidance Manual, found on this page

Housing & Transport Around Davis

  • Should I start looking for housing soon?
  • Yes! Look for housing as soon as you can! Here are some websites to help you get started: 

    -  You can start with some of the UC Davis official information and UC Davis affiliated apartments here:
    -  I would also highly recommend you check out our Davis wiki about rental housing: and about apartments: Note, some students have reported this information is slightly out of date. 
    -  If you want to rent a room in a house with other housemates, this is a good listing:
    -  There is also a Facebook group just for UC Davis housing you can join… you might need to have your email set up for this group.  I’ve heard from our current students that several of them used this group to find housing: 
    -  Most leases will be for the academic year, and I always recommend looking early in Davis, as places will fill up throughout the summer. 

  • Where can I find housing options?
  • Some suggestions for finding housing are*
    UC Davis Student Housing: Graduate and Professional Student Housing | UC Davis Student Housing and Dining Services
    Home (*
    Tri Cooperatives | Sustainable Living and Learning Communities (*
    Various Facebook groups for shared housing (examples: Grad and Professional Group, UC Davis Housing, UC Davis Free and For Sale) and are often used to find housing ( email may be required to join) *

    *Please note that listings at these sites are not verified or reviewed by the university.

  • Where should I live?
  • Students live all over Davis, both on campus and off. Most people use bicycles to get around Davis, get to campus, and run errands. It may be useful to look at the distance of prospective housing from Campus and from other necessities, such as grocery stores, and consider your desired mode of transportation.

    Some students also live outside of Davis such as in Woodland or Sacramento (often near the medical campus and the Sacramento-Davis Bus Service - Causeway Connection Electric Bus Service – Sacramento Regional Transit District ( It is possible to drive to campus, however; commuter routes between the cities are usually congested during peak times and the cost of a parking permit should be considered (Parking Permits | Transportation Services (

  • How do I get around Davis? To other Cities?
  • Biking  - is a dominant mode of transportation. Davis and the UC Davis campus is a very bike-friendly area with lots of bike-friendly infrastructure. Please wear your helmet!

    The Bus Service (Unitrans) - in Davis and UC Davis and is run by ASUCD (Undergraduate Student Government). Compared to other cities of a similar size, it is a very good bus system with regular routes that start and stop on campus with stops at groceries and other stores. Busses are not free for Graduate students, but passes and one-ride fares are inexpensive (schedules and costs: Unitrans ( Unitrans also runs special routes to the airport during the end of the quarter.

    Cars – some students use cars to get around. Usually, a paid permit is required to park on campus (Parking Permits | Transportation Services ( Additionally, some housing situations my also require a permit for parking or limit the number of spot available to tenants (this varies greatly across the city and depends on the landlord. It is encouraged that you ask about when pursuing a lease)

    Car Share – For personal use, Zip Car has cars stationed around Campus and the City and can be used by UC Davis Affiliates / Zip Car member (special membership pricing is sometimes offered for campus affiliates and is worth looking for on Zip Car’s website) for an hourly or daily rental rate (University of California, Davis | Zipcar)

    Regional Transport – In addition to Unitrans in Davis there is also the Causeway connections (Causeway Connection Electric Bus Service – Sacramento Regional Transit District ( linking the Davis and Sacramento Campuses, The Berkeley-Davis Shuttle (Davis Berkeley Shuttle ( connecting UC Berkeley and UC Davis, and Yolo-Bus (Yolobus - Welcome) which provides regional transport in Yolo County (Davis is in Yolo County) and to the Sacramento Airport

    Airports and Train Stations – Downtown Davis has an Amtrack Station to travel by train or bus (like grayhound) to other places. The nearest airport is the Sacramento International Airport (SMF). Yolobus, SacRT and others provide service from the Airport to Davis and other surrounding cities.

Insurance and Health Services

*If this is an emergency, Dial: 911 – This FAQ only provides information on non-emergency services

Still have questions? Contact one of our Admissions Ambassadors about being a UC Davis Graduate Student, or our staff at at