Early Offers of Admission

Today, I spent most of my afternoon at the Capstone Symposium for Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering.  This annual event showcases design projects completed by student teams in their fourth year of their program.  Shown below is a photograph I took of some of the teams presenting their projects in the atrium of our Engineering 7 building.


As many Waterloo Engineering applicants have now discovered, early offers of admission have appeared on Quest.  If you are one of the lucky few with an early offer of admission, you should be very proud of what you have achieved.  Applicants with early offers of admission on Quest should receive an e-mail within the next week.  Please review this e-mail carefully as it provides some very important information for you.

Remember that all early offers of admission typically come with conditions to be satisfied.  Most applicants still have one or more required courses to complete.  Every year, there are a few applicants who unfortunately fail to successfully complete one or more conditions resulting in their offers being automatically revoked.  As you might suspect, doing poorly on a final exam in a required secondary school course can have some very undesirable consequences.  A handful of admission offers for Fall 2018 were revoked last July due to unsatisfied conditions.

If you were not fortunate enough to receive an early offer of admission, take comfort in the fact that approximately 70% of all admission offers are sent out in May.  Many great applicants were not accepted early simply due to our highly competitive admission process.  By waiting until May, we can use 2nd semester midterm grades to improve our average predictions.  This helps us ensure that applicants accepted to our programs are highly likely to be successful at university.

During the early admission round, we looked for students with the following characteristics:

  • Strong communication skills – An applicant with demonstrated strong communication skills was more likely to be selected.
  • Consistent grades – An applicant with consistently good grades in both Grade 11 and Grade 12 was more likely to be selected.
  • Variety of extra-curricular activities – An applicant with significant breadth and depth of extra-curricular activities was more likely to be selected.
  • Significant work or volunteer experience – An applicant with any significant work or volunteer experience was more likely to be selected.
  • Knowledge of engineering discipline – An applicant with a demonstrated knowledge of the chosen engineering discipline was more likely to be accepted.

It is quite possible that we missed out on accepting some truly exceptional applicants.  It is a difficult challenge to select applicants in a very short period of time based on preliminary grade data and AIF data.  We do our best given the resources available at the time.  With over 11,000 applicants, the task of selecting top students is a challenging one.

Some applicants might be very surprised to know how important AIF data can be during the assessment of an applicant.  We do not simply rank students by their predicted Grade 12 averages and select the top 30%.  We do individual selection.  We review the AIF data, we review all available grade data, and we attempt to select those students that we feel are most likely to succeed in our programs.

A common question that has already been asked by a few applicants is whether adjustment factors prevented applicants from certain schools from receiving an early offer of admission.  The simple answer is no.  Some applicants with excellent grades and great applications were given early offers of admission to some of our most competitive programs despite having studied at a high adjustment factor school.  Certainly, applicants from low adjustment factor schools had a slight advantage in the process but no schools were blacklisted as some individuals have suggested.

For those applicants who have not yet received an offer of admission, please note that we have a high quality applicant pool.  Our admissions team will be carefully reviewing each applicant over the next two months to select the best applicants in the pool.  As an applicant, the best thing you can do in preparation for university at this time is to focus on your secondary school courses.


29 thoughts on “Early Offers of Admission”

  1. Hey Professor Bishop,
    I was wondering what is the process for applying to the Suncor Emerging Leaders Award. I have already been admitted conditionally to Chemical Engineering. Is it just to check the box on my AIF or is there a form to fill out because on the Waterloo website it says an application is required.


    1. I believe there are three requirements. First, you must check the box on the AIF when completing your application. Second, you must complete the online interview using the Kira Talent system. Third, you must be given an offer of admission to first-year Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, or Environmental Engineering programs at the University of Waterloo. More information on the award can be found on the following website: https://uwaterloo.ca/engineering/future-undergraduate-students/financing-your-education/suncor-emerging-leaders-award


    1. In the early round, we sent out approximately 40 admission offers to Ontario Secondary School students for the SE program. We also sent out a small number of offers to students not currently studying in Ontario Secondary Schools.


  2. Can it be assumed that all applications were given a read before early admission decisions came out? For example, if someone submitted their aif on March 1, then were admissions able to take a look at their application before making an early decision?


    1. Not all applications are read fully. We upload all applications into a database which allows us to filter out applications that do not meet our criteria for early admission. However, it is safe to say that all complete applications that meet our early admission criteria are read (at least briefly) during the early admission round.


  3. Can dropping a non-required course for engineering after receiving an early offer in any way lead to that offer of admission being revoked in the future?


    1. I could imagine a few scenarios where dropping a non-required course could be a potential issue, particularly for non-Ontario Secondary School applicants. It could also be an issue if a student dropped their 6th course without remembering that a 6th course is required. I mention this since we had at least one applicant that would have received early admission to Waterloo Engineering but the applicant (unfortunately) lacked a 6th course and was not in a position to register for a 6th course. My recommendation would be to e-mail enginfo@uwaterloo.ca for an answer more specific to your situation. When e-mailing, provide as much detail as possible on your specific situation.


  4. Hi,

    When looking over the applications to decide early admission offers, was every application looked at and the best were given an offer? Or was it based off which applications could be looked at by the deadline? If it was the latter, what was the process of selecting which ones get viewed, and how many were looked at?

    Thank you


    1. As I indicated in another comment recently, we do filter out applications that are incomplete or ineligible for early admission prior to assessing applications. We have the ability to extend our deadline for offers of early admission, if needed. This year, we had hoped to get our decisions out two days earlier but we took two extra days to make the best decisions possible.


  5. Hi, I just got accepted into Computer Engineering and I was wondering what you think potential students should do before starting University.
    Personally, I want to work on projects over the summer but considering my school’s adjustment was above average should I just start learning 1A material? I want to do everything in my power to prepare myself to be successful at Waterloo. So I was wondering if you could provide tips on how students should spend their summer in a blog post or even in a reply as I’m sure other students would find it just as useful.
    Currently, you’re the only prof I can contact and ask, however, if you can lead me to another prof’s blog (preferably an ECE prof) that would be great!
    Anyways, thanks for sacrificing your time to consistently post on your blog, it has really helped me understand the application process!


    1. You are right that I should spend a few blog posts on preparing for university. There are many things that students can do but the best course of action really requires thinking about what you (as an individual) might need to do to prepare. For some students, learning how to survive independently is really important. For others, studying a subject such as programming, calculus, or physics might be a better course of action. There are also probably some students who would greatly benefit from a summer job to get both work experience as well as money to prepare for university. I can provide some ECE specific advice as well since I regularly teach a course in Computer Engineering (ECE 224: Embedded Microprocessor Systems to be specific). I will try to make a few blog posts over the next couple of months to help students prepare for university. Thanks for the suggestion!


      1. I’m looking forward to those posts! This blog was a great tool during the application process and hopefully, with your new posts, it can be just as great of a tool for Waterloo Engineering students entering their first year this fall!


  6. Hello sir,

    I wanted to ask whether or not any more admission offers for engineering will be sent on Quest this month? Some individuals have stated that they called the admissions office and were told that the admissions for March were not over yet, would you be able to confirm this and if so, perhaps estimate a final date for when these early admissions are over?


    1. Waterloo Engineering attempts to send out admission offers in two rounds (e.g., an early round in March and a final round in May). We concluded the early round selection process last Thursday. The coding of all admission offers sometimes takes a few days, particularly for admission offers to non-Ontario Secondary School students. I would expect all Ontario Secondary School early admission offers to already be coded on Quest by now. There might be a few non-Ontario Secondary School early admission offers still requiring coding. Offers for non-Ontario Secondary School students take a bit longer since we need to customize the offer conditions for each school jurisdiction.


    1. I am reluctant to give out the exact number of offers given out to applicants in each program. In a previous comment, I gave out one number (i.e., the number of SE admission offers to OSS students) simply as an example of our actual data. The problem with this number is that without historical knowledge of show rates and without the breakdown of applications by applicant choice, there is no way to convert this number into something meaningful.

      A more useful number is to know that during the early admission round, our goal was to fill approximately 25% to 30% of all available spaces in our programs. We have a predictive model based on historical data that tells us how many offers we need to give out to meet our admission targets. In some programs, we were not able to meet our targets due to the application data being insufficient to make confident decisions. In other programs, we believe we will meet our targets but we might also miss or exceed them if our model is not correct this year.

      One reason why I do not wish to release this data for all programs is that it doesn’t really benefit applicants in any meaningful way. If you know you are one of X applicants given acceptance to program Y, it doesn’t help you understand whether you should accept the offer and it doesn’t even tell you where you stand relative to the rest of the applicant pool. After all, some of the applicants not considered for early admission due to missing grades or other factors may in fact be stronger applicants by the time of the final admission round.

      Remember that receiving an early admission offer simply means that we are confident based on the data available at the time of the early round that you would eventually receive an offer of admission to your first choice program. Based on past experience, some of the strongest applicants have not yet received an offer of admission to Waterloo Engineering.


  7. Hello,
    Thank-you for sharing you knowledge it is not only great information for students but also for teachers when we talk to students earlier in their high school experience to help them prepare for post-secondary. In your post you have a graph regarding the percentage of students who had done the engineering interview as of Feb 27th. I was wondering if there is data on the percentage of students who actually complete the interview by the deadline. Also since the interview is optional what type of weight does it carry compared to a students grades and AIF? or is it really something that is just considered when you are selecting the final few spots and all other things are equal?

    Also I am hearing some students talking about having part time jobs being more important now than programs such as first robotics or SHAD since co-op is a big part of the engineering program. If there a greater weigh given to some experiences over others. I am not talking an internship at a software company but something like working at McDonalds or Walmart.



    1. The percentage of students who completed the online interview assessment by the deadline was 59.3%. As expected, this percentage increased significantly between February 27th and March 2nd. The interview itself is scored out of 5. The weight of the interview is simply added to our admission score. Since applicants do not see their score, we use the full range of scores. In other words, scores of 1.5, 2, and 2.5 are fairly common. An applicant with a strong interview score (4+) will be much more likely to be given an offer of admission. This may mean that an applicant that would not have received an offer of admission may actually get an offer of admission. An applicant with a strong interview score might also become one of the first applicants in the final round to receive an offer of admission.

      We do give some consideration to applicants having ANY (paid or volunteer) work experience prior to entering university in jurisdictions where work experience is possible. There are some countries where persons are not allowed to work legally until age 18. Other countries may have an earlier legal age for employment but have cultural customs that make practical work experience less likely. For applicants from Ontario, we generally prefer students with some part-time work experience. Discipline-specific work experience may be given a slight preference but we recognize all work experience as valuable. Jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart require the development of important soft skills that are valued by our co-op employers. Any previous work experience makes the process of finding a co-op job easier.


  8. Hello Sir,
    For ECE, how does the university of Waterloo do admissions?
    I was looking at einfo, an both electrical and computer engineering have a different target enrolment.
    However, people say that they are ‘combined’ for admissions.
    Does that mean that the number of EE and CE students chosen per year are variable?
    In summary, can please explain how are ECE admissions done.
    Thank you so much sir.


    1. We do have independent targets for the COMPE (Computer Engineering) and the ELE (Electrical Engineering) programs that we use as a guideline. These targets are based on historical data and trend analysis. For Fall 2019, the target for COMPE is a total of 230 students and the target for ELE is a total of 110 students. However, the ECE Department has given us the flexibility to accept any blend of COMPE and ELE students such that the total number of students remains the same and neither discipline drops below the size of 100 students. This allows us to accept the 340 best ECE students, regardless of specific discipline. The ECE curriculum makes this possible by requiring COMPE and ELE students to take the same courses in first year.

      When we did the early round of admissions, we simply used the targets for the individual programs. When we do the final round of admission, we will pool the COMPE and ELE students together and attempt to select the best students available.


  9. Hello,

    I was wondering if students will be deffered to their 2nd engineering choice mentioned(e.g. a student applies to sofware engineering but doesn’t meet the requirements and selects computer engineering as their second option) on the AIF, if so, what is the probability of that happening? Also, how many 105D students were accepted to sofware and computer engineering?



    1. We will allow deflections from one program to another in the final round. Deflections only occur when an applicant lists a less competitive program as their second choice. I couldn’t even tell you the exact range of possible deflections at this time. Until we start selecting students in the final round of admission, we do not know which programs are most competitive and which are least competitive. Application numbers tell us a piece of the answer but you can have a high number of weak applications to a program. In such a situation, the program would be less competitive despite having a healthy number of applications. In general, the number of students given deflection offers is low. We do not want to fill a classroom with students who would have preferred another program. A few students will blend in well.

      As I indicated in an earlier comment, I am reluctant to give out the number of admission offers to each program. We attempted to give out offers to enough applicants to fill 25% to 30% of our targets for each program.


  10. Hey Sir,
    I was recently accepted into U of T engineering science and Waterloo engineering. Due to my early offer from U of T I was invited to a top applicant event (dinner and an orientation of sorts). I was just wondering if Waterloo has a similar event for its applicants?

    Also just wanted to thank you for all the time and effort you’ve put into this blog. You’ve helped so many anxious graduating students (myself included) along the admission process, showing us how much Waterloo truly cares about its incoming students. Thanks!


    1. In the past, we invited students with early admission offers to our March Break Open House for a special event but due to changes in the timing of the admission process, we were unable to get the offers out prior to the March Break Open House. I only look after the admission process itself so I am not (usually) involved in the planning of events. Marketing and undergraduate recruitment takes care of special events. I have not heard of anything but I am sure that if they do something, you will be one of the first to know.

      I encourage you to attend the U of T event if you can. It is good to fully understand all of your options. U of T is a very good university and the Engineering Science program has a very strong reputation. When I applied for university many years ago, I also got accepted to U of T. After carefully weighing my offers, I chose to go to the University of Waterloo. I would say that the choice has been a good one for me.

      We will have You@Waterloo Day on May 25, 2019. This is an event for all applicants with admission offers that provides students with another great opportunity to visit our campus and find out more about what we offer.

      As for your comment about the blog, thanks for your support! I will say that like all large universities, you will find that many people care about students and some (sadly) do not. One of the things that sets Waterloo Engineering apart from its competitors is how much students care about each other. The student run Engineering Society does a tremendous job of helping our students cope with the challenges of university life. We also have a great team in the Engineering Undergraduate Office that helps our students in any way that we can.


  11. Hi sir, I was just wondering what exactly would count as ‘An applicant with consistently good grades in both Grade 11 and Grade 12’. For example would a student with a 87 average in grade 11 and a 97 average in grade 12 be considered Inconsistent? Thanks in advance!


    1. Some variation in grades is normal. Many Ontario applicants receive higher grades in Grade 12 than Grade 11. When comparing applicants for the final spaces in a program, we look at all available applicant data to make our decisions. Grade 11 averages could be used to break a tie between two applicants in such a scenario.


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