Preparing for University

With the start of university approximately 1 month away, incoming students are likely starting to get very anxious about their future.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the Fall term if you are planning on starting university.

  1. Make sure you are prepared to participate in online course activities.
  2. If you are planning a move, think about the things you will need to take with you.
  3. Develop healthy living habits prior to the start of university.
  4. Connect with your classmates and instructors as early as possible.
  5. Reach out for help when you need it.

Let’s look at each of these points in detail…

Make sure you are prepared to participate in online course activities.

With classes being held remotely in the Fall and most likely the Winter, you will want to make sure that you have created an environment suitable for studying effectively.  You may not have the luxury of buying a brand new computer with dual 27″ monitors, a desk, an office chair, and all of the peripherals you would love to own so you need to prioritize.  My suggestion is to focus on acquiring things that will make it easier for you to study for reasonably long periods of time.

A functional desk is essential.  Students living in residence will have access to a suitable desk and a chair.  Some students may find it useful to upgrade their chair to a proper office chair for long hours in front of a computer.  In my home office, my chair is probably my weakest link.  A good office chair is something you will definitely appreciate when working long hours.  Keep in mind that there are ways to purchase chairs affordably.  There are stores that sell used office furniture where you can get a very good deal.  With businesses closing, you may find that there is a reasonable supply of lightly used office furniture.  Regardless of whether you are purchasing a new or used chair, make sure you try it out before buying it.  Stores like Staples and IKEA have chairs that you can test out.

On the computer front, make sure you have the peripherals you will need to be successful:

  1. Webcam
  2. Headphones
  3. A full-size keyboard
  4. A nice monitor (or two)

You will note that I did not specify a computer.  Almost any computer will work with the online teaching tools used by the university.  Unless your existing computer is very old or you do not have a computer at all, upgrading to a new computer may not be necessary.  Most computers (even old ones) are capable of running office software and browsing the internet.

If you need to acquire any peripherals, now is the time to do so.  Things like webcams can be hard to find.  Demand for technology has outpaced supply over the past 4 months.  Also, back-to-school sales have already started.

If you are planning a move, think about the things you will need to take with you.

Remember your business attire.  You will never forget to pack your favorite t-shirt but it is easy to forget that you may have a job interview in your first month of co-op studies.  Even if you are not in a co-op program, you should always have one outfit suitable for a job interview or a special event.  Working from home hasn’t eliminated the need for business attire completely.  If you are interviewing for a job, you should still show respect to an employer by dressing appropriately.

Another good thing to remember would be some memories of home.  If you have a photograph, a poster, or something that just sits on your desk and makes you happy, remember to bring it with you.  It is important that you make your “new home” feel like home.

If you need anything to help you sleep better, bring it with you.  A pillow or a blanket might turn a residence room into a much more welcoming environment.  But also remember that you will need something to wake you up in the morning.  When I was a student, a dedicated alarm clock with a battery backup was a great investment.  It also doubled as a radio which was nice.

Finally, keep in mind that space is likely limited.  You cannot move an entire house into residence.  Choose things wisely.  A bean bag chair might not fit comfortably in your new place.  Only bring things that you really need.  After a few terms of packing and unpacking, you will get very good at recognizing what you need to pack.

To figure out what you really need, you can do the following over the next week.  When you use something over the next week, make a note of it.  At the end of this week, things not on the list are probably things that you can manage without (at least for 4 months at a time).

Develop healthy living habits prior to the start of university.

Eating right, exercising, and developing healthy sleeping habits will boost your productivity.  All of these are tough things to do well but every effort you make will help. Most importantly, try to develop a good schedule now while you are not in university.  Once you develop a schedule, it will be easier to stick to it when you start your studies.  I would suggest going to sleep no later than 11 pm in the days leading up to you starting your studies.  Also, try to wake up by 7 am the next day.  Remember that classes start as early as 8:30 am.  In a normal term, you need to be at class by that time which means waking up, cleaning up, getting dressed, having breakfast, and going to class.

I have been guilty of having some very bad sleeping habits lately.  The long hours of teaching remotely have been taking a toll on my sleep.  Again, when you fall out of good habits (and this will happen), do everything you can to get back on schedule.

Connect with your classmates and instructors as early as possible.

There are ways that you can connect to your classmates already.  The Waterloo Ready program is just one of many ways to connect.  There are Discord servers and other online forums for students to interact with their classmates.  While many of these channels are unofficial, they are great ways to get to know other students in your program.  E-mail also works.  Feel free to reach out to your instructors.  Many of them will gladly e-mail you back.

Reach out for help when you need it.

Isolation is not healthy for anyone.  We have already seen anecdotal evidence that excellent students are struggling with remote learning.  While some students strive in a remote learning environments, students who have traditionally done very well in their studies are struggling the most.  Our university has been doing everything it can reasonably do to help students with stress, anxiety, and depression.  We realize that students are worried not only about their studies but also about many important societal issues and health concerns.  While we have resources to help students, many of the resources require students to take the first step.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Knowing your limitations is a sign of strength, not weakness!

A final note…

There is still time to defer your university studies by a year (or two) if you are not ready to start classes in the Fall.  The deadline for submitting an Admission Deferral Request Form was extended until August 14th this year.  Our university extended the deadline from August 1st in recognition of the fact that many students are likely undecided on how to proceed this year.

Deferring is not a decision that you should make lightly. 

This year, more than ever, there is a strong case to be made for deferring the start of your studies.  Students starting this year will be studying remotely in the Fall.  You are making a huge investment in your future.  You need to maximize the return on your investment.  If you do not think that remote learning is a good fit for you, deferring may be a very good option.  However, if you typically spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer watching videos, remote learning may be ideal for you.  Some students are thriving in remote learning.  Others are struggling.  It is difficult to predict how any individual will react to remote learning.

Another reason to defer may be that you cannot come to the university and you are studying in a different time zone.  We have approximately 300 international students who have actively enrolled in first year studies for engineering programs in Fall 2020.  While travel restrictions are always subject to change, the current restrictions do not appear to allow new students on a study permit to travel to Canada for remote learning.  There are a few exceptions but travel may be impossible for new students.  While it is possible to study remotely in the Fall, it may be difficult to justify paying over $30,000 in tuition and incidental fees for one term of remote studies.  For those students studying remotely in different time zones, know that the University of Waterloo has been developing ways to support you effectively in your remote studies.

Of course, recent data suggests that students who graduate from our engineering programs often get very lucrative employment offers after graduation so studying this Fall may still be a very good investment in your future.  A recent survey of Management Engineering graduates suggests that the starting salaries of the graduating class are very comparable to the salaries of the faculty members teaching them.  About a third of our recent graduates in Management Engineering report making more than $160,000 CAD.

On the subject of investment, keep in mind that university tuition typically increases every year.  This is one of the disadvantages of deferring.  From a cost perspective, it is always best to start your studies as early as possible and to finish as early as possible.  For international students, first year tuition sometimes increases by as much as 15% per year so this can be an important consideration.  For domestic students, first year tuition increases are typically around 5% so it plays a much less significant factor in decisions.

As a final comment, I should point out that even if you start this Fall and you find that you are overwhelmed, the last day for a full tuition refund is September 28th.  If you start classes and decide that you are not ready after a few weeks, you always have the option of getting your tuition refunded.  While it is clearly better to defer now than to pay and then ask for a refund, this does provide students with a bit of time to better assess their situations.

I will finish by thanking everyone for the positive feedback on the photos from my garden.  Here are a few more photographs from my garden to brighten your day:

 

 

Confirmation Deadline

Today is June 1st.  Admitted students have until midnight tonight to accept their offers of admission to Waterloo Engineering programs.  I will likely receive a few e-mails tomorrow from students who did not confirm their offers in time or who now regret their decision to study at another university.  Unfortunately, once the deadline passes, there is not much that I can do.

Based on our results so far, it appears we have had another successful year of admissions.  We are a bit above target but this is normal at this time of the year.  There are always a few students who do not meet offer conditions, a few students who ultimately decide to not come to Waterloo Engineering, and a few students who defer their offers.  We have to exceed our targets slightly at this time to meet our November 1st targets for grant funding.

There is greater uncertainty this year given the global pandemic.  It may be the case that some students will not be able to afford Waterloo Engineering due to financial difficulties.  It may also be the case that a few more students defer their offers of admission this year.

A deferral is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly.  While it may seem like a great idea at first glance, here are some things that you should consider prior to requesting a deferral:

  • Tuition and incidental fees increase every year.  A deferral will mean that your education will likely cost a bit more.  While you may also earn more on your co-op work terms, tuition increases often exceed the pace of inflation.
  • Taking a year off studies can make it difficult to return to your studies.  You will need to find a way to maintain your knowledge of Calculus, Physics, and other high school subjects that are required for Waterloo Engineering.
  • If you defer your studies, you are not allowed to take courses at any other post-secondary institution.  This would include courses at both colleges and universities.
  • If your classmates do not defer, your classmates will be a year ahead of you.  They will likely graduate before you do if you defer.
  • The sooner you graduate, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits of a Waterloo Engineering degree.  There are likely to be some great engineering jobs available in 5 years.

Some students are justifiably worried about online classes in the Fall.  There certainly have been some terrible implementations of online classes in high schools and universities.  I’d like to believe that these are anomalies.  While I have heard of some courses in other faculties simply providing course notes for self-study, this is not the plan for Waterloo Engineering.  We expect to deliver a rich online experience for our students with a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded sessions for most engineering courses.  We are already making this a reality for our students enrolled in courses this term.

I have been teaching a course this term.  I have been splitting my normal lectures into micro lectures implemented as videos no longer than 20 minutes.  My notes are being completely rewritten for an online context with more details being provided.  My assessment techniques are being modified to fit within an online context with weekly quizzes and timely feedback.  My labs are being replaced with online project activities that include group work.  My online course is probably better aligned with our expected learning outcomes and I fully expect my students to learn more from my online course.

Our students are finding the switch to online learning a bit challenging but many students have given positive feedback.  The biggest complaint our students have is that most faculty members do not have access to a professional grade microphone.  I am working on acquiring one but they are in short supply.

In a normal course, students have the ability to skip lectures when they are really busy.  While students who skip lectures miss out on some lecture material, it often saves them time and they still do well by the end of the course.  In an online context, it is more difficult for a student to skip a video lecture.  Most of my students are watching all of my lecture videos.  In a normal course, only 70% (or fewer) of my students would typically attend all lectures.  This might be one of the reasons why online courses seem to consume more student hours.

In terms of preparation for future courses, I expect the students in my online course to be slightly better prepared if they can handle the workload.  I have done my part by shrinking the lecture videos to the core topics.  Without student questions, I can cover the same material in about 2/3rds of the time.  A 1 hour lecture appears to require about 40 minutes of lecture videos to complete.

As the Fall 2020 admissions cycle comes to an end, I am looking forward to spending some time relaxing in my backyard.  I will leave you with a few photos of my gardens that I took over the past week.

 

Frequently Asked Blog Questions

I haven’t been able to answer all of the questions I have been receiving on my blog.  As you can imagine, it is a very busy time of the year.  In addition to my admissions work, I am also teaching an online course for the first time so I am busy learning new tools, developing online course materials, and conducting live tutorial sessions with my students.  Hopefully, this post will address a few of the questions not yet answered.  Shown below are a few images that I took of my new home office campus this past week.  It appears that the only thing harder to predict than the future is the weather.

Have all engineering admission offers been given out?

The most frequently asked question that I have not answered is whether all of the admission offers have been given out for program X where you can replace X with the name of any engineering program (and even some non-engineering programs).  I just sent in the last 7 admission offers to the Registrar’s Office.  These will likely appear on Quest later today.  Certainly, if you do not have an offer on Quest by Tuesday, May 19th, you can safely assume you will receive a rejection letter.

When will rejection letters be sent out?

We will start sending out rejection letters next week.  Rejection letters are a difficult part of our job.  There are some clearly excellent students who have not received offers of admission, sometimes for things they couldn’t reasonably control.  Rejected applicants often wonder what more they could have done.  In the most highly competitive programs, the admission information form and the optional interview can make a big difference.  In some cases, applicants simply didn’t submit the documentation required for admission.  If we are missing an admission information form or a required grade for an applicant, a rejection is automatic.

It is important to remember that we had over 11,000 applicants for approximately 1,800 spaces.  We can’t accept everyone, even if we might like to do so.

Was a particular program more competitive this year?

Another frequently asked question was whether program X was more competitive this year.  The simple answer is “No”.  We gave out more admission offers to programs this year than previous years based on the expectation that our deferral rate may be higher.  Also, our total number of applications was done from last year.  For programs to be more competitive, there would have to be a huge change in the quality of the applicant pool.  This did not happen.  However, this is not to say that all great applicants received admission offers.  Competitive programs always reject great applicants.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be competitive programs.

One reason why engineering programs may seem more competitive this year is that other campus programs increased their admission offer rate much more than we did.  Some programs on campus gave out twice as many offers as they did last year.  In engineering, the increase in the number of offers has been much more modest.  We did not increase all programs uniformly.  Programs that had strong confirmation rates in the early round of admission were subject to smaller increases in the number of admission offers.

Have all scholarships been announced?

We are getting close to finishing our scholarship selections but I do not believe they have been announced on Quest yet.  One thing to keep in mind is that we have very few entrance scholarships beyond the President’s Scholarships and Merit Scholarships.  All applicants receive some form of scholarship provided that they have at least an 85% average and they have not done post-secondary education previously.  In addition to the scholarship grid, entrance scholarships are given out to approximately 85 individuals.  We expect slightly over 1,800 students in the Fall so 85 students represents just 4.7% of all admitted students.  If you consider the fact that we give out more than 1,800 offers of admission, the probability of getting an entrance scholarship is low.

There will be some very happy applicants who will receive significant scholarships.  I believe we will have four Schulich Leader Scholarships valued at $100,000.  The majority of our entrance scholarships are much smaller.  Entrance scholarships typically range from $1,000 to $4,000 for domestic applicants.  Some international applicants will receive $10,000 scholarships which help pay for a portion of their higher tuition costs.

If you receive a scholarship or bursary, a “View Award Offers” link will appear in your Quest account next to the program details.  Clicking on this link will allow you to view the scholarship that you have been given.

Can I upgrade my offer or get a new offer?

In the past, the answer would simply be “No”.  This year, the answer is still “No” but there may be a few exceptions.  We won’t know which programs have spaces available until after June 1st.  You can ask to be put on a waitlist for a program by e-mailing enginfo@uwaterloo.ca, even if you have not been accepted to any engineering program at the University of Waterloo (provided you were an applicant previously).

If a program has spaces become available, we will contact waitlisted applicants in June, July, and August as spaces become available to inquire whether the applicant still wishes to receive an offer to the program.  If so, an offer can be made.  If not, we will remove the applicant from the waitlist and move on to the next applicant.  We will choose the most qualified applicants from the waitlist first.

In most cases, a deflected applicant is more likely to be chosen over an applicant that did not receive admission at all.  The exception might be an applicant that only applied for a single program and did not list an alternative program.  We will use our admission database to determine which waitlist applicant is “most” qualified for any space that becomes available.

If I receive a waitlist offer, will I miss out on residence?

Some applicants might be worried that a waitlist offer will be too late to be guaranteed a spot in residence.  While our residence guarantee only exists until a particular date, this does not mean that we run out of residence rooms on campus.  Usually, we still have rooms available long after the residence deadline.  You just may not have access to your preferred residence choice.

Also, it is not uncommon for some residence rooms to become available late in the summer due to students deferring admission.  It will be interesting to see how many international students will be able to obtain study permits and visas (if necessary) to start classes in the Fall.  The global pandemic has made predictions very difficult this year.

When will I find out more about my program?

We have a series of Virtual AMA Events starting on May 22nd and running until May 28th.  We will try to answer your questions at these events as we are sure that you will have some.  Admitted students will receive an e-mail invitation to the event for their program in the next week.

Will courses be online in the Fall?

To the best of my knowledge, the University of Waterloo has not made a decision on the Fall term.  However, it is my understanding that the university will make a decision about the Fall term prior to the June 1st so that admitted students will know how the Fall term will run and so that teaching staff may prepare accordingly.  Many (top) universities are moving in the direction of online education for the Fall term out of an abundance of caution.

Online education is not new to universities.  The University of Waterloo is currently running a full term of online studies for our students.  By the Fall, should we be required to offer our courses online, we will be well prepared.  Also, if ever there was a term that made sense to do online, the first term is the most logical one.  Upper-year courses have highly-specialized lab work which is difficult to complete remotely.  First year courses on Calculus, Physics, and Programming are a bit easier to learn online.

Will there be a summer program?

Some universities have already announced that they will be running summer programs to help students transition into university.  These programs are particularly important given that the previous year of school abruptly ended.  I know there are several plans being developed for a summer program.  I expect an announcement in the near future.  We certainly will do our best to ensure that our students are successful in the Fall term.

Can I defer my offer until Fall 2021?

We have always allowed admitted students to defer their offer until Fall 2021.  Many students may be thinking that this is a good idea this year.  This is not a decision that should be made prematurely.  You will likely have until the end of July to make a decision on deferring studies.  I would recommend waiting until closer to the deadline to make a decision.  By the end of July, you will have likely had an opportunity to participate in an online summer program and you will have greater clarity about the operation of the Fall term.

One thing I will say is that there are pros and cons to deferring a degree program.  The pros are likely obvious so I will focus on the cons:

  1. From a financial perspective, it is likely in your best interest to not defer your program.  University costs have been increasing at a rate well above inflation over the past two decades.  If this trend continues, deferring your studies may mean that your university education costs you more, even if you factor inflation.
  2. From a career perspective, deferring your program means that you will presumably start your career one year later which may mean missing an important career opportunity.
  3. From the perspective of a co-op student, you would rather be looking for co-op positions when fewer other students are looking for them.  Generally, this means you will find a better co-op position or have a better chance of getting the co-op position you really want.  Deferring might mean that you are in a slightly larger class in Fall 2021.

Personally, if I were faced with making a similar decision as a prospective student, I would want to wait as long as possible to get greater certainty about the future.

Should I accept my offer of admission to engineering?

YES

Fundraiser T-Shirts

The University of Waterloo has a pretty good sense of humour sometimes.  Things are really hectic right now with the next academic term starting on Monday and the final round of admissions in progress.  In the midst of all this activity, the W Store has launched a set of t-shirts to fundraise for charities.  The t-shirts are great examples of the sense of community that students, staff, and faculty have at the University of Waterloo.  You can view the t-shirts at the following website:

Covid 19 Fundraiser Tees

I particularly like the slogans.  One t-shirt says, “I’m critical to the academic mission” in acknowledgement of the words used by our university president regarding the importance of continuing our academic mission during the pandemic.  The other t-shirt says, “I learned social distancing long ago…” in acknowledgement of the fact that we have to keep our physical distance from geese on campus but also likely meant to make subtle fun of our campus community being a bit introverted.  Shown below is an image of a Canadian Goose taken on our campus.

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The sense of humour enjoyed by our students, staff, and faculty is one of the things that makes the University of Waterloo special.  Even it difficult times, members of our community work together to make life a bit more enjoyable.  In this case, that humour is also raising funds for charity with 100% of the proceeds from the sales going to local charities.  The t-shirts are limited editions so they will sell out fast.

I should probably mention that our final round of admissions has now begun for the Faculty of Engineering.  We received our grades this morning.  I am in the process of setting up our database to run our final round for Ontario Secondary School students.  I expect offers to start appearing soon but they will likely continue to be going out for the next week or so.  The first offers to go out will be those for Non-Ontario Secondary School students.  I do not expect offers for Ontario Secondary School students to appear for a few more days.  Offers will likely slowly appear on Quest for about a week.  Scholarship offers will also start to appear but I am not sure when exactly.  We are doing our best under fairly challenging circumstances.  Please be patient.

 

A Quick Update from My New Office

I thought I would give you a quick update from my new admissions office in my basement.  My computer desk can be seen in the photograph below.  The curious diagram behind my monitor was a 4th year project in VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) design that my team built when I was a student of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo.  The schematic implements a 4 bit ALU (Arithmetic and Logic Unit) in CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology.

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Our early round of admission is nearly completed.  Despite some very challenging circumstances, we managed to successfully select many outstanding applicants to receive admission offers to Waterloo Engineering for Fall 2020.

Offers are first communicated on Quest.  Official offer letters with conditions will be communicated as soon as possible.  Applicants may also be contacted by individual departments.  Please be patient.  I know all applicants are anxious to find out more.  We are doing the best that we can.  It has been incredibly difficult for our team to focus on their work given all of the extraordinary events that have been occurring throughout the world.  I really wish to thank everyone involved in assessing applicants and communicating offers to applicants.  In particular, I must thank Mirjana and Leigh for their hard work.  I know they worked long hours through the weekends to meet our deadlines.

If you have not yet received an offer of admission, do not give up hope.  There are still some early round offers that I expect to be processed this week.  Also, we still have many admission offers to give out to ALL of our Waterloo Engineering programs.  We still have room for many great students in our programs.  Quite a few applicants will receive good news in early May when we complete our final round of admissions.

One other thing to keep in mind is that we finalize all of our scholarship decisions in May when we complete our final round of admissions.  If you have received an offer of admission in the early round, you will only know the grid scholarship (Merit Scholarship, President’s Scholarship, or President’s Scholarship of Distinction) that you have been selected to receive at this time.  If your grades improve between now and May, your grid scholarship may be upgraded.  In addition to a grid scholarship, students may also be selected for a named scholarship in early May.

Finally, for those who like to ask theoretical questions, your grid scholarship will not be downgraded if your grades decrease for any reason.  Once you have been offered a grid scholarship, it is never downgraded.  However, if your grades fall too much, you may run the risk of having your admission offer revoked.  You still have to meet the conditions on your offer letter.

Admission Information Forms

For those students who have applied to one of our engineering programs, remember to submit all required documentation by midnight (EST) on February 28th.  Applicants who do not submit their Admission Information Forms will be ineligible for admission.  Every year, we have a few applicants who miss the deadline and they are very surprised to find out that we enforce the deadline.  Extensions to deadlines at the university level are very rare.  We need as much time as possible to assess our applicants thoroughly.  We simply cannot afford to delay our admission decisions.  Our first full round of admission offers will be sent out on March 31st.

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At our latest count, we had 11,066 applications to Waterloo Engineering programs this year.  This is fewer applications than we have had in previous years.

As noted previously, we have seen a decline in the number of international applications.  At first glance, the decline in international applications does not seem to be attributable to a single factor.  Determining why prospective international applicants do not apply to a program can be difficult.  We have no easy way of contacting people who considered our programs but did not apply.  We could run a survey on our website but this requires people to visit our website and to answer honestly.

If you are still reading my blog and you decided to apply elsewhere instead of Waterloo Engineering, please let me know what factors played a role in your decision by commenting on my blog.  If there is something we can do better, it would be useful for us to know.  Anecdotal evidence is often better than nothing at all.

Every year we do a survey of applicants that turn down offers of acceptance.  For the 2018 / 2019 admission cycle, the most common reasons cited for turning down a Waterloo Engineering offer were the following:

  1. Campus Life (33.2% of respondents)
  2. Program Offered (32.9% of respondents)
  3. Program Cost (30.3% of respondents)
  4. Campus Location (25.2% of respondents)
  5. Distance from Home (23.6% of respondents)

We did receive some good news in this admission cycle.  Domestic applications to engineering programs remain strong in a highly competitive environment.  Some programs did better than others.  To answer the question that my readers will no doubt ask, I do not anticipate the probabilities of acceptance to differ significantly from the graphs I posted last September.

If you missed out on applying for a Waterloo Engineering program for Fall 2020, applications for Fall 2021 will open next October.  Due to our cohort system where students are part of a class of students that progress through terms of study, we are only able to offer admission to our undergraduate programs starting in Fall terms.  Our 1A term courses are not usually offered in the Winter or the Spring terms.

Application Process Update

Now that the holiday season is drawing to a close and the Winter term has started, I thought it might be worthwhile to give everyone a brief update on our application process.  The application deadline for Waterloo Engineering is fast approaching.

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As indicated in our engineering brochure, interested applicants should apply to Waterloo Engineering on the OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Centre) site by Friday, January 31st.  Applicants have an additional four weeks to submit all supporting documentation for their application.  Supporting documentation includes the AIF (Admission Information Form) and the optional Online Interview.  All supporting documentation must be completed by Friday, February 28th.

The AIF (Admission Information Form) is a required component of the application process.  If it is not completed and submitted by the deadline, you will not receive an offer of admission.  Last year, there were a few applicants who missed the deadline due to a combination of procrastination and computer problems.  My suggestion is that applicants complete the AIF (Admission Information Form) well in advance of the deadline to ensure that they do not miss out on their applications being fully considered.

We have currently received over 9,100 applications to Waterloo Engineering programs, excluding Architecture.  This is approximately 1.8% lower than last year.  Some programs have more applicants and others have fewer applicants.  To answer the inevitable question, I cannot disclose more specific application numbers at this time.  The application numbers change rapidly and without context, they are largely meaningless.

However, I can say that we have seen a few general trends.  There has been a slight increase in domestic applications for many engineering programs and a slight decrease in visa applications for almost all engineering programs.  These trends have been consistent for the past month as I have been tracking the application numbers periodically.  In approximately 4 weeks, I should have the final application numbers for the 2019/2020 admission cycle.  I expect our total number of applications to approach 11,000 by the application deadline.

I wish to thank those applicants who have already submitted their AIFs and Online Interviews.  We have already begun assessing interviews that have been completed by applicants.  We expect to complete our assessments of all AIFs and Online Interviews by the end of March in preparation for our first round of admission offers.  It greatly helps our Admissions Office to receive supporting documentation early.

As you can probably imagine, we are very busy at this time of the year.  While our Admissions Office will do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner, please keep in mind that we are very busy at this time of the year.  We are experiencing a high volume of inquiries.

 

 

 

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

30 years ago, a senseless act of violence occurred at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal that took the lives of 14 young women.

There is no place in society for gender-based violence.

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The above image is one of many that the Government of Canada has prepared for individuals to start a conversation on gender-based violence.  Additional images can be found here for those wishing to start a conversation.  Remember to include the hashtag #OurActionsMatter to have your voice heard.

Today at 10:30 am, the University of Waterloo will commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women with a ceremony in the 2nd Floor Atrium of Engineering 7.  You can officially register for the event here but there will be space set aside for people to attend, even if they have not officially registered.

In addition to the ceremony, the University of Waterloo will be participating in a nationwide memorial by shining a beam of light into the sky to honour and remember the 14 young women.  The beam of light will be turned on at 5:00 pm just outside of Engineering 5.  As visitors pass by the light, we ask that all reflect upon this tragedy and pay tribute with a moment of silence.

Should you wish to take positive action, one thing you can do is donate to the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation.  This foundation aims to attract women to the engineering profession to honour the memory of the 14 women whose lives tragically ended on December 6, 1989.  Many highly successful engineers have benefited from the work of this important foundation.

One of our University of Waterloo students was the recipient of the Nellie Giffen Ambassador Award for 2019 offered by the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation.  I would encourage interested female applicants and female students to consider applying for an Undergraduate Ambassador Award on the foundation’s website.  The deadline to apply for an award is January 13, 2020.

Chances of Admission for Fall 2020

With the Ontario Universities’ Fair starting in less than 24 hours, I thought I would attempt to answer the most frequent question asked of any admission officer:

What are my chances of receiving an offer of admission?

This is not an easy question to answer since every applicant is different.  Good grades are one consideration for admission but we also look at many other factors including previous employment, volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, skills, and notable achievements.  We can use good grades as a starting point for the discussion but we obviously look beyond grades to select applicants who will be highly successful in our programs.  This is why Waterloo Engineering does not simply accept applicants with the top grades and why students with lower admission averages still have a reasonable chance of receiving an offer of admission to some of our top engineering programs.

Since 2014, Bill Anderson has posted on his blog an easy-to-read graphical version of the information that appears on the Waterloo Engineering website and in our promotional brochures.  I continued this transition with my blog post last Fall on the Chances of Admission for Fall 2019.  In our brochures, we estimate the probability of an applicant receiving acceptance based on several years of application trends.  We try to make the projections as realistic as possible but the projections often tend to be a bit conservative.  Not all programs grouped together have exactly the same probabilities.  The projections tend to be most accurate for the top program in a grouping.  The most recent admission average probabilities can be found in my blog post on Competitiveness.

Using the applicant data for the Fall 2019 admission cycle, I have produced graphs that show the probability of receiving an offer of admission to Waterloo Engineering programs.  All of our engineering programs have been put into three groups as follows:

  • Group 1: Biomedical and Software
  • Group 2: Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, Mechatronics, and Systems Design
  • Group 3: Architectural, Chemical, Civil, Environmental, Geological, Management, and Nanotechnology

The first graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for Canadians and permanent residents applying from the Ontario Secondary School system.  This graph is shown below:

Fall 2019 AOS - CPR

The second graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for visa students applying from the Ontario Secondary School system.  The probabilities tend to be much lower for visa students due to the high number of applicants per available space.  However, high average students still have a very reasonable chance of receiving an offer of admission, even to our most competitive programs.  This graph is shown below:

Fall 2019 AOS - Visa

These graphs include a small number of applicants who receive offers to their second choice program instead of their first choice program.  I debated whether these applicants should be included in the graphs but I felt it would be inappropriate to remove them.

I used a slightly different mathematical approach than the one used in previous years.  I used a free software add-on to Excel from SRS1 Software to interpolate data points throughout the admission average range of 80% to 100% using a one-way spline function.  This approach allowed me to produce relatively smooth curves that are monotonically increasing as the admission average increases.

These graphs represent the best projections we can make regarding the Fall 2020 admission cycle.  Until we receive our final application data in February 2020, we won’t know if the application pool is similar to last year’s application pool.  If it is, then these projections are likely to be accurate.  If applications increase (or decrease), the probabilities of receiving an admission offer to a program will change accordingly.

For U.S. High School Students

It has been quite some time since I last posted to my blog.  The Fall 2019 admission cycle came to a close at the end of August and we have now started the Fall 2020 admission cycle.  I thought I should start off the Fall 2020 admission cycle with a post specifically for students studying south of the border since the application process has already opened for out-of-province students.

For U.S. high school students potentially interested in applying to Waterloo Engineering, here are a few important things to remember:

Why Should I Consider Waterloo Engineering?

Waterloo Engineering has a strong international reputation.  We are known for our innovative co-op program which requires engineering students to complete paid internships at companies around the world.  Our students obtain 2 years of practical work experience while completing their academic studies.  Many of our co-op students and alumni are employed in the U.S..  Our campus is modern and our facilities are state-of-the-art.  Our university ranks as one of the top undergraduate engineering schools in Canada.

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Does Waterloo Engineering Attend U.S. College Fairs?

Waterloo Engineering does participate in a limited number of U.S. College Fairs.  This year, we plan on attending four U.S. college fairs in the following cities:

How Do Students Educated in the U.S. Apply?

The University of Waterloo is not listed on the Common Application used by many U.S. colleges and universities and a few Canadian universities.  Our applications are processed by a province-wide application centre known as the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC).  Students with Canadian citizenship (including Canadians who have lived in the U.S. their entire lives) apply using Form 105 Domestic (105D).  Such students compete directly with Canadian students educated in Canada for spaces reserved for Canadian students.  Students with non-Canadian citizenship apply using Form 105 International (105F).  Such students compete directly with international students for spaces reserved for international students.

When Can U.S. Students Apply?

The application process is now open.  U.S. students may complete their application anytime between now and January, 31, 2020.  All supporting documents must be received no later than February 28, 2020.  Incomplete applications will not be considered.

How Will I Be Assessed?

All applicants are requested to provide transcripts and SAT / ACT scores.  In addition, applicants are required to complete an Admission Information Form (AIF) and applicants are invited to complete an online video interview.  Our Engineering Admissions Team examines all information provided to make an informed assessment about each applicant.  We individually select applicants to ensure fit within our engineering programs.

When Are Acceptance Letters Sent Out?

Waterloo Engineering typically sends out its final round of acceptance letters in the middle of May, shortly after 2nd semester midterm grades have been processed.  This year, it is our goal to ensure that students applying from the U.S. receive an admission decision by the end of March, if possible.  We recognize that students applying to U.S. colleges and universities often have much earlier deadlines for acceptance.  We will attempt to provide U.S. students with an admission decision so that they make an informed decision about their future.

Will I Pay International Tuition Fees or Domestic Tuition Fees?

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you pay domestic tuition fees.  International students are eligible to pay domestic tuition fees if they are dependent upon a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.  In other words, if your parents hold Canadian citizenship or permanent residency in Canada, you pay domestic tuition fees even if you are a U.S. citizen or an international student.  All other students are required to pay international tuition fees.

Can 529 Plans Be Used By Students?

The University of Waterloo is a FAFSA eligible school.  However, some restrictions apply to the use of U.S. federal student aid.  Students may use 529 plans to pay tuition and other eligible expenses incurred at the University of Waterloo.  For those with 529 plans, our OPE ID is 00852600.