Priority Deadline – December 15th   
Fellowship Deadline – December 15th  
Space Available Deadline – March 1st

Recruitment dates: February 23-24 (by invitation only)

To be considered for a university fellowship or departmental funding, you will need to complete the application by our December 15th priority deadline. Applications received between December 16th and March 1st will be considered for admission only and on a space available basis.

Diversity Statement
Alumni Information
Preparation and Prerequisites
Financial Aid
Application Materials
Application Process
Contact Us



Welcome to the Human Development Graduate Group (HDGG) at the University of California, Davis. We look forward to receiving your application. 

Our unique graduate group system takes an interdisciplinary approach thus allowing students to study development across:

The Lifespan: Infancy & Early Childhood, Middle Childhood & Adolescence, Adulthood and Aging
Multiple Domains: Biological, Cognitive, Social-emotional
Diverse Settings: Family, School, Community, Culture, and Society

The primary goal of the doctoral program in Human Development is to educate students in the theories, methods, and research that provide the basis for expanding knowledge and understanding of human development from an interdisciplinary perspective. Consistent with this goal, the program has a tripartite emphasis:

  1. It incorporates study in three domains of human development: biological, social-emotional, and cognitive;
  2. It organizes the study of human development across the lifespan from conception to death; and
  3. It emphasizes the context within which human development takes place, including cultural institutions such as families, schools, and hospitals; the environmental conditions related to nutrition, health, and disease; and the social and legal policies that affect development.

The core program is intended to be comprehensive in scope with students' individual programs of study becoming more specialized as they advance beyond required coursework and begin to focus on their own independent research. The degree prepares students for university teaching, research, administration of programs, consultation, program development, etc., in a variety of settings including those in education, medicine, mental health, public health, social services, government, etc.

The Human Development Graduate Group is affiliated with several Designated Emphasis programs that allow students to receive and be credited for additional training in the designated area of specialty on their diploma for the Ph.D. in Human Development. PhD students may pursue a Designated Emphasis in the following areas:

International and Community Nutrition

Translational Research

Computational Social Science

The benefits of the graduate group are that students can take coursework from various departments, work with faculty in other areas on and off campus, and focus on child development issues from a variety of perspectives. Faculty members with whom our students work include but are not limited to: Departments of Human Ecology, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Nutrition, the School of Education, the Center for Mind and Brain (CMB), the UCD Medical Center (UCDMC), and the Medical Investigation of Neurological Disorders Institute (MIND).

Within the general HDGG graduate program, students elect to follow one of five focal programs that provide additional academic preparation within an area of specialization by focusing on specific aspects of developmental research: biological; cognitive; social-emotional; family, culture, and society; and research methodology.

Biological Focal Program

This focal program track is intended to broaden opportunities for students to study development of the biological substrates of human behavior. Possible emphases of this track include brain development and cognition and/or social behavior, or the effects of nutrition on cognition.

Cognitive Focal Program

This focal program track is intended to broaden opportunities for students to study human cognitive development. Possible emphases of this track include the development of long-term memory, discourse processing, problem-solving strategies, or social cognition.

Methodology Focal Program

Students in this focal program will advance and apply sophisticated methodology to address developmental questions. Possible emphases of this track include optimization of research designs, measurement of complex developmental constructs, methods for modeling change, and methods for modeling interdependent data (e.g., parent-child, siblings, couples).

Social-Emotional Focal Program

This focal program track is intended to broaden opportunities for students to study social-emotional development. Possible emphases of this track include the development of individual differences in temperament or the effects of siblings on the development of self.

Family, Culture, and Society Focal Program

This focal program track is intended to broaden opportunities for students to study development in familial, cultural, and societal contexts from an interdisciplinary perspective. While the other domains emphasize individual-level investigation of development, this track involves more molar and systemic levels of inquiry. Possible emphases of this track include developmental issues around family, government policy and programs, the school/educational system, race/ethnicity, and/or gender/sexuality.

Diversity Statement

Guided by the UCD Principles of Community and the UC Regent’s statement on diversity, the Human Development Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis, is committed to an inclusive environment where all students, faculty, and staff are respected and appreciated. HDGG faculty and students seek to advance understanding of human development across contexts. We believe that a broad range of perspectives strengthens our efforts toward this aim. HDGG strives for a diverse faculty, staff and student membership and encourages applications from all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, geographic region, or socioeconomic status.



An undergraduate major in either biological or social sciences is appropriate. Students with prior work in genetics, human development, psychology, or physiology are particularly suited to this program. The structure and content of the program presumes some prior knowledge in the processes of human development.

Completion of courses in mammalian biology or physiology, child or human development, research methodology and statistics is strongly recommended. Prior work in at least two other areas including personality, cognition, social psychology, culture and personality, genetics, or learning is also useful. If necessary, students will be asked to complete deficits in identified areas during their first year of coursework.

Financial Aid

To be considered for university and/or departmental funding, you will need to complete the application by our December 15th priority deadline. Incomplete applications are not reviewed for admission or funding. Applications received between December 16th and March 1st will be considered for admission only and on a space available basis.

Application Materials

The following items must be received by the appropriate deadline in order to be considered for admission. Information regarding deadlines can be found on this Application Deadlines page. Incomplete and/or late applications will not be reviewed.

  • Application, including fee. Information about fee waivers is at the Graduate Studies website.
  • Curriculum Vitae or Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE is NOT required
  • English Language Examinations required of applicants whose native language or language of instruction at university was not English only
  • UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended. You will be instructed to upload scanned copies of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application. For more details visit
  • Writing sample of up to 25,000 words (e.g. scholarly paper)
  • Personal History
  • Statement of Purpose
  • OPTIONAL supplementary essay:  We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals in a variety of ways.  If you believe that the pandemic negatively impacted your academic performance or opportunities, please describe in 150 words or less.

We receive many more applications than we are able to admit.  When you apply to a graduate program at UC Davis, you are able to apply to up to five programs in a single admissions cycle.  If you plan to apply to our PhD program in Human Development, we encourage you to consider also applying to our M.S. program in Child Development. Many of the required first year courses are the same for both programs and students from the M.S. program often obtain admission to the Ph.D. program.

Note also that your application to the M.S. program will not reduce your chances of being admitted into the PhD program.

A separate application and fee must be submitted for every degree program applied to, including our M.S. Child Development.

Application Process

The admission application is online.

Please see Grad Studies Application Process page for information on fees and waivers. The fee may be paid by credit card only. The fee must be paid before the application will be considered as complete. A fee must be paid for each application submitted.

Application tips:

  • The three letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically through the online application and be received by the application deadline. You should not have recommenders send letters in hard copy, but rather submit all recommendations online and before the application deadline. At this time, UC Davis is unable to accept letters of recommendation from a letter writing service.
  • GRE is NOT required
  • English Language Examinations should be taken and submitted per Grad Studies Test Score Requirements. Scores should be sent to UC Davis per instructions for each exam and must be received by the application deadline. Any waivers from English-only institutions should be requested in a timely manner.
  • Transcripts can be submitted as soon as the online application website is available.
  • Only one transcript for each university or college need be submitted.
  • Unofficial transcripts can be uploaded to the application. Only admitted applicants will be required to submit official, hard-copy transcripts.
  • Upload the required writing sample and curriculum vitae or resume via the online application website.
    • The writing sample for the Human Development PhD application is used to evaluate the applicant’s capability to engage in scientific thinking and writing. Ideally, the writing sample will reflect the applicant’s experience engaging in independent research (e.g., honors thesis, masters thesis, etc.). Research proposals for independent research that illustrate an in-progress project are also good options for a writing sample.  In the absence of this, a review paper or a class paper relevant to the study of Human Development would be acceptable (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, Education, Nutrition).  Note that a class paper can be revised from the final product turned in for course credit. 

      Brief abstracts are generally discouraged.  A co-authored paper in which the applicant is not lead author is also generally discouraged as it is difficult to assess the applicant’s contribution to writing. 

  • In the application, you will see this writing prompt for the 4000 character Statement of Purpose:
  • Please highlight your academic preparation and motivation; interests, specializations and career goals; and fit for pursuing graduate study at UC Davis.
    • preparation and motivation may include your academic and research experiences that prepare you for this graduate program (for example: coursework, employment, exhibitions, fieldwork, foreign language proficiency, independent study, internships, laboratory activities, presentations, publications, studio projects, teaching, and travel or study abroad) and motivation or passion for graduate study.
    • interests, specializations, and career goals may include your research interests, disciplinary subfields, area/s of specialization, and professional objectives.
    • fit may include how your preparation, experiences, and interests match the specific resources and characteristics of your graduate program at UC Davis. Please identify specific faculty within your desired graduate program with whom you would like to work and how their interests match your own.
  • In the application, you will see this writing prompt for the 4000 character Personal History:
    • The purpose of this essay is to get know you as an individual and potential graduate student. Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. You may include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, community service, outreach activities, residency and citizenship, first-generation college status, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field; or how you might serve educationally underrepresented and underserved segments of society with your graduate education. This essay should complement but not duplicate the content in the Statement of Purpose.

Holistic Review:

The admissions committee uses a holistic review based on the guiding rubric found here. Based on the criteria in the guiding rubric, the admissions committee first considers the alignment between the applicant’s training goals and the program, as well as the applicant's scholarly potential/relevant research experience. Perseverance, academic preparation, and self-appraisal are also considered to offer a holistic assessment of the applicant's alignment with the program and scholarly potential/relevant research experience. Unique strengths and weaknesses related to the applicant's scholarly potential based on this review are noted and used by the committee to make admissions decisions.

Only complete applications received by December 15th for the priority deadline or March 1st for the space available deadline will be reviewed.

Information regarding deadlines can be found on this Application Deadlines page.

Alumni information

Alumni information, including dissertation title and current position, is available here

Contact us

For additional information regarding admissions, contact Graduate Program Coordinator, Kim Berardi, or Chair of Admissions for HDGG, Adrienne Nishina.

For general information about admission to graduate study at UC Davis, refer to the Office of Graduate Studies.