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Insight Alma Mater: UC Davis

Welcome to our new blog series on our Insight Alma Mater colleges! First up, Amy Brennen talks us through her experience applying to and attending UC Davis, including her tips on the 4 things she would do differently now. Did you / do you attend UC Davis? Let us know your thoughts over on the Insight Facebook Page



When I applied to the University of California Schools back in the dark ages (i.e. ten years ago), we actually had to write a long essay instead of four short essays. I wrote my essay about an eye-opening experience that changed my life, which was spending a month studying abroad in Mexico.


I tried to decide between UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara; I ultimately chose Davis because the community was very friendly, open-minded and supportive.  


I also chose Davis because I had the option to live in the international-themed student dorm. And it was there I made friends that I’ve still kept in touch with more than a decade later. I can’t overestimate the importance of finding your community in college, and themed housing can be a great way of doing this.




I was a board member of my school’s Indian Student Association and the Japanese Student Association, however, my favorite activity was being a conversation partner for UC Davis international students – I had so many memorable, and interesting conversations with people from all over the world!


I’m also extremely glad I chose to do an intensive semester abroad in Japan where I learned a year’s worth of Japanese in just 3 months. There’s no better way to learn a language than full emersion.


I also worked part-time as an SAT teacher for the Princeton Review, and believe that having work experience during college made getting that first job afterward so much easier.


Another activity I’m glad that I did was take many UC Davis summer classes. Classes were small and gave me great access to professors and taking these classes also let me graduate in just three years!



I really wish I had a college counselor to tell me more about the application process. I didn’t consider going out of state or to any private schools, I just assumed they were out of reach for me – which I know now is a college counselor is absolutely not the case!


Four things I would’ve done differently if I could go back to my college days would be:

1) Take More Classes At UC Davis’s Experimental College  (the EC)

The EC is a community organization where you can take classes on everything from Vietnamese cooking, to slacklining, to Bharatanatyam for really cheap.


2) Do Informational Interviews.

At the time I was hoping to work in the US state department after I graduated, and dreamed of doing international diplomacy work. I wish I had actually done some informational interviews with the Davis alumni, or teachers to prepare me for this.


3) Go To Events In My Major Departments.

As an Economics and International Relations double major, I really wish I had actually gone to some of the talks given by amazing professors in these topics.


4) Use Memory Techniques.

It’s shocking and terrifying to find out how quickly (and how much!) we forget the information from our classes.


After paying thousands for an education, wish I had done more to truly retain the information by using memory techniques to make my memories and more vivid and long-lasting.


All the best,

Amy Brennen

Insight College Admissions Counselor 

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