Chances of Admission for Fall 2019

Every year, prospective students frequently ask about their chances of admission to Waterloo Engineering.  As you can probably imagine, admission to Waterloo Engineering is highly competitive.  As one of Canada’s premier engineering schools for undergraduate education and as a worldwide leader in co-operative education, our programs are quite popular among prospective students.

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.  Here is a link to last year’s version of the blog post.  Bill bases this information on the previous year’s experience and shows the overall probability of getting an offer of admission given an applicant’s admission average.  This admission average is based on the required courses, usually mathematics, physics, chemistry, and English (depending upon the school, the location, and the curriculum).

Thanks to Bill Anderson, I now have an updated version of his blog post for 2019, based on experience with the 2018 admission cycle.  New this year, some changes have been made to more accurately display the information.  The biggest change is in the assumption that an admission average of 100% should result in a 100% probability of an offer.  When Bill first started constructing these graphs, this was a fair assumption but recent years have illustrated that it can now be misleading for the most competitive programs where there are many applicants with averages between 95% and 100% who unfortunately, did not receive offers of admission.  Now, the assumption (for graphical curve fitting purposes) is that the probability stays constant for 95% and higher and does not approach 100% probability.  With this change, the graph looks somewhat different than those previously posted.


For example, this graph would suggest that of all the Canadian applicants to Mechatronics Engineering with an admission average of 94%, about 60% of these students will receive an offer of admission to their program of choice.  For the purposes of this graph, the admission average does not include any other factors such as work experience, extra-curricular activities, or other distinguishing factors.

This graph is based on the data shown on the Waterloo Engineering website.  As in previous years, programs with similar probabilities are lumped together for simplicity and clearer presentation.  This is based on the actual admission results for all 13,000+ applicants to Engineering in the 2018 cycle.  The apparent decrease in probability fro averages from 98% to 100% is an artifact of the mathematical technique used to fit the curves and does not represent any real reduction in probability of admission.

In past years, Bill Anderson used Mathcad to fit cubic splines to the data shown on our website.  This year’s graph was produced by Bill Anderson using Maple, a home-grown Waterloo product that has been in existence for over thirty years.  I recall first using Maple in 1988 while visiting Brock University on a school trip.  I recall being amazed by what the tool was capable of solving on a Macintosh computer that at the time seemed better suited for drawing pictures than solving complex mathematical problems.  I am sure that the modern version of Maple is both faster, more reliable, and more powerful than the version I used so many years ago.

For those interested in the details of how the graph was produced, Bill used the “ArrayInterpolation” function with “method=spline” to get a cubic spline interpolation between the points.  As expected with a cubic spline method, there are some artifacts in the graph that are not actually meaningful.  There may be a better way to represent the data but this approach seems reasonable.

9 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2019”

  1. Welcome to the job! Just read about “Waterloo’s secret list” on Global News. I imagine you may address it in an upcoming blog post. Is there an adjustment applied to “students from New Brunswick” or “students from Egypt”? How much can the adjustment factor affect the admissions process? What was the minimum number of students from each high school e.g. Grimsby or Bangladesh for it to make the list (for the result to be statistically significant)? Will you release the data in a more open way with detailed explanation here on your blog? What would you say to parents who are concerned that their children are attending one of the schools on the list (or want to move their children to a school on the other end of the list)?


    1. I do intend to have upcoming blog posts that will address many of the questions you have raised but right now our team’s focus is on addressing media inquiries from Global News, CTV, and various other news organizations. I believe Global News published the adjustment factor for New Brunswick. Factors are applied to any school or jurisdiction where we have sufficient students to justify a statistically significant result. This includes other provinces and countries. I do not recall which other provinces and countries made the list last year. We have not disclosed the number of students required for the calculation, partially due to the fact that it may cause other issues. There is a more detailed explanation of the adjustment factor calculation on Bo Peng’s blog that you can find online. It is reasonably accurate. For parents, I would say that they should not move students to try to game the system. Moving a student from one high school to another will disrupt their learning. The fact that we have adjustment factors for schools indicates that we accept students from those schools. It is possible to get into engineering from any of the provincially approved secondary schools in Ontario.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your responses and glad to hear it will be addressed later. I do see that Bo Peng and Patrick Cain provided access to the whole OSS and NOSS list in a Google spreadsheet. Looking forward to your explanation and considerations.


  2. Any consideration for future admissions to use AP scores, SAT scores (Standardized exams) to evaluate students potential? I feel that the grading system in Ontario is very biased and depends on competitiveness of certain schools (i.e. top ranked school in GTA not same as top ranked school in other areas in Ontario).

    Also, does the engineering release grade distribution for undergrad courses?


    1. We do not have any plan to require any standardized testing from jurisdictions that do not already use such testing. We do ask for SAT scores from applicants in jurisdictions where SAT scores are typically required but the scores themselves are not a significant factor in our competitive selection process. The top U.S. schools are currently moving away from requiring SAT scores as they have found them to not be great indicators of success. SAT scores have the potential to exhibit some bias since students who come from affluent families have much better access to prep courses. I plan to write a blog post on standardized testing sometime later this year. It is a hot topic.

      We do not release final grade distributions for our undergraduate courses.


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