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.

340 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2020”

  1. Hello,

    I wanted to know if Waterloo Engineering and CFM care about the ranking I place them in OUAC?


    1. I cannot comment on whether rankings are used by CFM. The CFM program is not offered by the Faculty of Engineering.

      Within an engineering context, we use rankings to predict show rates. If an applicant lists Waterloo Engineering as their first choice, the applicant is more likely to accept an offer of admission than another applicant that lists Waterloo Engineering as their third choice. These show rates are used to determine how many offers of admission are given out for a program.

      Show rates are one of the reasons why a program’s competitiveness may seem to change from one year to the next. For example, despite having a higher target for Mechatronics Engineering last year, we gave out fewer admission offers since the program had more first choice applicants than in previous years.

      Show rates are also the reason why we do not have a target for the number of admission offers for each program. We simply have a target for the number of available spaces. If we fill a program with first choice applicants, the number of admission offers will be slightly more than the number of available spaces. If we fill a program with third choice applicants, the number of admission offers will be much higher than the number of available spaces.


  2. Hi sir! I don’t know if you are still replying to these but I’ll give it a shot anyway; Will having a spare in grade 12 affect my application in a negative way? I’m interested in applying to Software Engineering/Computer Science, and I’m worried it won’t make my application competitive enough. If I take a spare, will I have to provide a reason? Thank you in advance!


    1. Many successful applicants have spares in their schedules. When assessing applicants, we recognize that applicants may have spares in their schedules for various reasons. Sometimes, a spare is simply the result of course scheduling. In other cases, applicants use spares to participate in extracurricular activities, work part-time, or perform other tasks such as family commitments.

      When we calculate admission averages, spares are not considered.


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