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.

86 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2020”

  1. Hi Prof.Bishop,
    In your post, you mentioned that the ranges tend to be a bit conservative for some programs as they tend to be most accurate for the top program in a grouping. Do you release the data for the program rankings within the group? For example, is System Design Engineering or Computer Engineering as both of which are in the second group?
    Thanks,

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    1. It is difficult to say which program within a group is the top program. Consider the following scenario: Program X has a 60% chance of admission for averages above 95% and a 30% chance of admission for averages below 90%. Program Y has a 75% chance of admission for averages above 95% and a 15% chance of admission for averages below 90%. Which program is the top program? Does it matter how many applications have averages above 95% and how many applications have averages below 90%? The top program in a group is subjective. It depends on how you wait the criteria for ranking the programs.

      The only group where I can easily indicate the top program is the first group. The Software Engineering program is the most competitive program that we offer. The Biomedical Engineering program is a close second but the Software Engineering program has more high quality applicants per available space. This is unlikely to change in the short term.

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  2. Hi there!
    I was just wondering, does the time at which you apply to Waterloo affect your chances of getting in? Like, does applying earlier than the posted deadline of Jan. 31 mean that there will be a chance for your application to be reviewed earlier than those who apply later? If so, will this put you at an advantage compared to those applying later?

    I was also curious on how Waterloo treats summer school courses, particularly in the situation that they are not required for the program being applied to? Such as taking Social Studies over the summer, not as a repeat, but only to get it done in order to have one less class during the school year. Would taking such a course outside of the regular school time affect an application in any way? Would taking such a course matter if it is not being used to calculate the admissions average? Should one avoid using it for the admissions average in order to avoid the penalties they might otherwise face? Is there a situation in which this wouldn’t affect an application?

    My apologies for the many questions, but thank-you in advance for your time.

    Like

    1. The date of application is not considered in the admissions process.

      There is a practical reason why we cannot use the date of application as a measure of eagerness. It is my understanding that high school applicants are not allowed to apply at the same time. The Ontario University Application Centre staggers the enrolment periods to spread out the load on their computer servers. Some schools will be allowed to applied in early November. Others may have to wait to gain access to the system in December.

      Course scheduling may require students to take elective courses and/or required courses outside of regular day school. If you take a required course outside of regular day school, you should clearly indicate why on your Admission Information Form. We look for students who are trying to boost their averages by taking required courses outside of regular day school. If we feel that this is the case, we will apply an adjustment to your average. Not all summer school courses are easier than regular day school courses. Also, there are many reasons for taking a summer school course other than trying to boost your average. However, there are situations where students take summer school courses in the hopes of boosting their averages and we need to have a way of dealing with such situations.

      If you take a spare to participate in extra-curricular activities or if you take a spare to work part-time, you will not be penalized. We just want to see that you are still busy and you using your time effectively.

      If you take a spare to reduce your course load so that you can spend more time on certain (difficult) courses and you significantly boost your average by doing so, we will adjust your average.

      If calculating your average without your adjusted course grade is better for you, we will do so automatically. For example, if we were going to apply a 5% deduction to your 6th course taking it from 95% to 90%, we would use your 7th course, if it had a grade higher than 90%. Essentially, we will do the work to determine the best possible admission average for each applicant.

      If you take a non-required course outside of regular day school, doing so will rarely affect application decisions. We are most interested in the required courses. We fully support students taking extra elective courses through any means possible.

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  3. Hello Dr. Bishop

    I can see in your graph that you have made predicted acceptance rates based on a certain average for Canadian students. However, a 92 average at one school can be considered to be the same as a 97 average at another school, as seen in the Global News list, but the graph does not seem to account for that discrepancy. For schools that have lower/ higher adjustment factors, is the graph still considered to be a fairly accurate predictor of acceptance chances? Thank you for a very detailed article regarding admission chances.

    Like

    1. The graphs use the raw high school averages without any adjustment factors applied. This is partially why you see such a large range of averages receiving offers of admission. Adjustments simply level the playing field. If a student at a high school with a high adjustment factor moved to a school with a much lower adjustment factor, our modelling would suggest that the student’s average would drop.

      The graph is the most accurate predictor of acceptance chances that we can provide at this time. Some students will do well on their Admission Information Forms and their online interviews; others will do poorly. You can significantly improve your chances of acceptance by spending time carefully proofreading your Admission Information Form and by clearly documenting your activities. You can also significantly improve your chances by being prepared to answer the online interview questions. My best suggestion is to pick a quiet environment for your interviews and to think about how you might answer typical interview questions prior to taking the interview.

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    1. We probably wouldn’t even know the grades were taken online if they are taken through your local school board. It is not always apparent on the transcripts we receive. We will be treating them as regular day school.

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  4. Sir, what about transfer applicants? How would the graph look like if they would like to start back from 1A or start from 2A?

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    1. It would be extremely rare for a transfer student to start from 2A in a Waterloo Engineering program. Our co-op program is unusual in its scheduling so the courses rarely match well. Also, you would need to have a 4 month work experience equivalent to our co-op placement. Last year, I do not believe there were any.

      Transfers into 1A and 1B from other engineering programs are quite common. Transfers into 1A from non-engineering programs are quite common. University averages are used for the assessment but we use a much lower adjustment factor of approximately 8%. If a program had a 50% chance of admission with a high school average of 90%, the same program would likely have a 50% chance of admission with an average in university courses of 82%.

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    1. There may not be a policy that prevents this from happening but in practice, course scheduling and course workload make this difficult if not impossible. However, you can do a smaller course specialization known as an option. A Software Engineering Option and a Computer Engineering Option exist. These both give you exposure to Computer Science fundamentals.

      I would also suggest considering the Mechatronics program as this combines Mechanical Engineering with Electrical Engineering. It also increases your exposure to Computer Science fundamentals.

      In most cases, scheduling can be a limiting factor in accessing courses outside your core discipline. Waterloo Engineering programs are known for having busy course schedules.

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  5. Hello Sir. I am wondering if these admission projections apply to students studying engineering at a different university in Ontario. For example, if I have a first year average of 85 at my current school, would there be an adjustment factor that would be placed up against the high school applicants of the program?

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    1. University transfer students are considered alongside all other applicants. However, they are assigned lower adjustment factors so that they are not unfairly penalized for taking university level courses. An 85% average in university would be roughly equivalent to a 93% average in high school. However, we hand pick students so the average is less important than what you write on your Admission Information Form and how you do in your interview. Strong assessments on these can easily help a student compete for our most competitive programs.

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      1. Okay. So one question I have is if there is an anticipated safe range for certain programs that transfer students should know about? For example, I’d assume that Systems and Management would be less competitive than Software. Also when you mentioned the 8% adjustment factor, does the mark after it get directly compared with high school students? For example, I want to apply to SYDE and I finish first year with an 84. Does that mean I would be given the same chance as other high school applicants after my average gets translated into 92? Or are university transfer applicants from a different school given less priority/harder judgment?

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      2. There is no admission average that guarantees acceptance to an engineering program at the University of Waterloo. We assess all applicants individually. Admission averages are just one factor in our decision process. The 8% adjustment factor basically means that a university grade of 84% is treated approximately the same as a high school grade of 92%. Of course, we accept a wide range of averages to all engineering programs so the highest average doesn’t necessarily get accepted. Other factors (e.g., Admission Information Form, Online Interview, etc.) play a significant role.

        Waterloo Engineering only accepts transfer applicants if we feel there is a good reason motivating the transfer. Wanting a transfer simply because you would rather study at the University of Waterloo is not usually sufficient reason. Transferring into a program not offered by your current university is one (of many) examples of a good reason for requesting a transfer.

        Universities are often subject to written and verbal agreements that prevent the poaching of students from other universities. In the U.S., one such agreement has recently been called into question by the U.S. Department of Justice. You can find a good article on the issue here so I will not expand upon it further. I will let you form your own opinion about which side of the argument is most correct.

        Traditionally, Software Engineering has been our most competitive program and I expect this continue for the foreseeable future. I find the comment about Systems Design Engineering and Management Engineering a bit odd. It does not really matter whether they are more or less competitive to Software Engineering. They are completely different programs. If you want to study Software Engineering, Systems Design Engineering will not be a good fit for you. The same is true for Management Engineering. You must choose a program based on your interests and your career aspirations, not simply based on the chances of admission.

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  6. Hi,

    I want to talk about geological engineering. Is this program soon going to be as a software engineering or somewhere near, due to climate change? You summarized this in another post and so I just need clarification if that would be. Thanks!

    Thanks

    Like

    1. This is a great question. While I anticipate the popularity of programs such as Geological Engineering and Environmental Engineering to increase steadily as a result of climate change action, I fully expect the programs to remain very accessible to future students. Field work may be required in Geological Engineering and Environmental Engineering. Not all prospective students are interested in working outdoors. Of course, analysis can be conducted using a computer much like other engineering disciplines. To learn more about Geological Engineering and what our Geological Engineers do, check out our latest Geological Engineering Video on Youtube.

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  7. Hi sir. First of all, thank you for your very insightful blog posts. I know they have definitely helped me and many others to make informed decisions about our university applications.

    I was comparing your competitiveness blog post with this one and noticed that the admissions averages seemed to have changed. For example the table from the competitiveness blog posts suggests that a student applying to systems design with a average between 90-94 would have approximately a 45% chance of receiving an offer of admission. As you stated in a comment on that post, the 45% estimate accurately represents the probably of receiving an offer for a student in the middle of that grade range. So a student with a 92% average would have a 45% chance. This graph however, shows that a student with a 92% average would have about a 60% chance of receiving an offer. I was just wondering what new data, if any, influenced this change in probabilities?

    Like

    1. As I indicated in another comment, the competitiveness post is an early prediction of the competitiveness of a program based on all available data. The Chances of Admission for Fall 2020 blog post summarizes the actual data at the conclusion of an admission cycle. Both are measures of competitiveness. There is no guarantee that one is more accurate than the other. I would say that there has been a slight increase in the probability of acceptance to most engineering programs at the University of Waterloo. This increase is most likely due to a reduction in the number of Grade 12 students applying to universities in Ontario.

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  8. Hi Professor Bishop,

    For applicants enrolled in the IB Program, will UWaterloo receive the IB exam grades? If so, would a student have their offer rescinded if they do poorly on their IB exams, or if they fail the IB Diploma due to a failing grade on the Extended Essay or failing to complete CAS (given they still pass the Ontario Secondary School Program)?

    Thanks

    Like

    1. We have minimum requirements for the grades in IB courses. If you fail to maintain the required course grades, an offer can be withdrawn. The conditions of an offer of acceptance are clearly stated at the time of admission. All students should carefully review the conditions of an offer of acceptance prior to agreeing to the offer.

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    1. Competition scores are not a significant factor in our admissions process. Contrary to popular opinion and even some university websites which I cannot control, we do not have access to current year Euclid scores at the time that our admissions decisions are made.

      We will have access to the CCC competition results and previous year CEMC competition results as these are published prior to our admission deadlines. Last year, I briefly looked at these results to see how many students had been accepted into our programs. When I did this check, I found that most students who did well on these competitions had already received an early offer of admission to their first choice engineering program at the University of Waterloo. If a student did well in a competition but had not received an early offer of admission, there was often a reason that prevented an offer from being given.

      It is my understanding that the Euclid and the CCC may be significant factors in admission to the Math Faculty so I would strongly encourage students to write these competitions. Doing so keeps all of your options open. I would prefer you to choose an engineering program because you feel it is the best program for you, not simply because you failed to write a competition required for admission to another faculty.

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  9. Hi,
    I am interested in the system design engineering program. I have seen that this program (2017 onward) has moved from the third admission group to the second admission group. Is it fair to assume since it has switched from group 3 to 2 recently that the chances of getting in to system design are slightly higher than the average chances for group 2 programs. I mention this because you said in your post that the averages are more accurate for the most competitive program in the group and I would think that the SYDE would not be the most competitive in group 2 due to it being in group 3 recently.

    Like

    1. You should not assume that the Systems Design Engineering program is easier to get into than the other programs in the same grouping, simply because it was once in a different grouping. The Systems Design Engineering program accepts a smaller number of students so the acceptance rate can very significantly from one term to the next. We have put the program in its current grouping because it fits well within this grouping.

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  10. Hello Sir,
    I see that there is a particularly high jump in chances of admission from 2018 to 2019. For example, for the 2018 graph you only had slightly more than a 20% chance of receiving an offer for the group 2 programs with a 90% average whereas this year you have about a 40% chance of receiving an offer with a 90% average for the group 2 programs. Also on your competitive post posted in June you mentioned that between a 90-94% you have a 45% chance of receiving an offer for the group 2 programs but according to the graph shouldn’t it be closer to a 55% chance ?
    Thanks

    Like

    1. The June competitiveness post was based on the probabilities predicted for our 2019/20 engineering brochures. Predictions are made using prior year acceptance data, application data trends, and anticipated changes to program targets. You will find that the competitiveness post indicates the exact same values as those in our 2019/20 engineering brochures. At the print deadline, these are the best predictions that we can make.

      The most recent post on Chances of Admission for Fall 2020 uses more recent data. We have used the actual acceptance data from the 2018/19 admission cycle. This data was not known at the time of brochure printing.

      It is fair to compare the graphs from the Chances of Admission for Fall 2020 to the Chances of Admission for Fall 2019 as these graphs represent consistent data sets. It is also fair to say that there has been a slight increase in the chances of admission to certain engineering programs for students with an average of less than 95%. Certainly, the probability of admission with an average of 90% has increased slightly. However, part of the difference you are noticing is also the result of the different mathematical modelling techniques used to produce the graphs. I used a slightly different smoothing function in the Fall 2020 graph. I hope to be consistent in future years but it made sense to change our smoothing function to eliminate artifacts at the ends of the curve. In general, admission probability curves monotonically increase in response to an increase in admission average.

      Like

  11. Dear Professor Bishop, thank you very much for your very helpful posts and comments. They have certainly helped many students get into their dream programs.
    On the webpage of Engineering program requirements, there is a sentence under the heading ‘Notes’ which says “Required courses that are two to three years old may need to be updated.”
    Here is the link to it: https://uwaterloo.ca/future-students/admissions/admission-requirements/computer-eng/international-system/british-system/
    Could you please elaborate on that and clarify if a student’s required courses are two years old should update them or she has to refresh or update the courses if they are three years old at the time of submitting AIF.
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. My best suggestion if you are concerned that you might need to have courses refreshed is to contact one of our admissions specialists to have them review your transcript. You can start this process by e-mailing enginfo@uwaterloo.ca. Your e-mail will be forwarded to someone who can make an assessment on your case.

      Like

  12. Hello,

    Does Waterloo admissions care about the OUAC choice rankings? I have heard that other universities, such as UofT, do.

    Thanks.

    Like

  13. Hello Professor, I am currently enrolled in the IB diploma program. At our school, some of our teachers are very hesitant about giving out 7s as our predicted grade. They made it very clear that they will only give out 7s after we write our mock exam in March. Meaning that even if we get predicted at a 7, it will only appear on our April report card. Will that affect our chance of admission? I would like to apply for software engineering this year and I know it is a very competitive program so averages matter a lot. I am very worried right now that my predicted mark will decrease my chance of being admitted. Also, if our actual IB exam mark is higher than our predicted mark, will it be possible for us to ask the Waterloo admission team to reconsider our application based on our actual mark? Thank you very much for your writing this blog, it has clarified a lot of my concerns! 🙂

    Like

    1. IB grades reported on your April report card will be taken into account in our final round of admissions. It should not be a problem for you.

      During our first round of admissions, we will look at your grades from previous years to make informed assessments. Of course, we look at much more than just grades. This becomes quite apparent looking at the Chances of Admission for Fall 2020. One student got into the Software Engineering program with an average of less than 90% last year. Of course, this applicant was exceptional in many ways that were not apparent from the grades and this applicant came from a very strong school.

      Like

      1. That’s good to know, thank you very much! May I ask what was the average predicted IB mark for last year’s applicants that were admitted into software engineering?

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      2. We do not compute this statistic. It would probably not be statistically significant since the sample size is small. Also, as I indicated previously, good grades are a requirement but they do not guarantee admission, particularly to high demand programs such as Software Engineering.

        Like

  14. Hello Professor,
    One of the requirements for admission is proof of English proficiency. Do I need to do anything special for that? I go to school in a regular Ontario high school and passed the OSSLT, and I’m taking ENG4U in day school.
    Thank you

    Like

    1. Our English language requirements are best summarized on our website for English Language Requirements. For most applicants, if you have studied for four years in a high school where the language of instruction is English, an English proficiency test will not typically be required. There are also a few exceptions that allow applicants in other situations to avoid an English proficiency test. In some cases, applicants typically exempt from taking an English proficiency test may be required to write a test to prove their abilities. For example, if a student takes an ESL course in their last year of high school, we will typically require an English proficiency test.

      For applicants required to take an English language proficiency test, we accept many tests (TOEFL, IELTS, MELAB, CAEL, PTE, and EFAS) of English language proficiency. It is my understanding that we send out an e-mail to all applicants that require the completion of an English proficiency test to ensure that they know one is required.

      Like

  15. Hello Professor,

    Thank you so much for this blog, and the comments.

    I was just wondering that for the Software Engineering program, what type of experience would highlight an applicant? Would it be better to have multiple smaller projects or a couple of big projects?
    Also when we write our AIF form, other than writing about our experience, can we share a GitHub account and something like a powerpoint to explain our projects?

    Thanks in advance!

    Like

    1. Some applicants provide links to GitHub sites and YouTube sites. We can look at these links when you provide them but we do not guarantee that we will always do so. There needs to be enough quality in the application to justify looking at the links. There were a few applicants that benefited from having GitHub links and a few applicants that did not benefit from having GitHub links in last year’s applicant pool.

      As far as the comment about breadth versus depth, we want to see a bit of both. Many small projects can demonstrate a breadth of skills and creativity but a big project can demonstrate engineering skills that are necessary to succeed as a software engineer. Applicants who have one or two large projects with a few smaller projects often have the best chance of demonstrating their fit within the Software Engineering program. Of course, anything that catches our attention is a good thing.

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  16. Professor Bishop: Much of the discussion has been around mark averages for the competitive programs, such as computer engineering and electrical engineering. Is it the overall average that matters, or do you take a more nuanced approach. For example would a high 80’s mark in English be weighted as a significant factor if a 95 mark were achieved in math, calculus and vectors, and physics?

    Like

    1. Averages are a convenient way of summarizing and ordering data. We do look at every application in order of decision score and the average is a significant component of this decision score. When assessing a particular application, we will look at all data available to us. If everything seems good and we have spaces available, the applicant will be accepted. If there are any concerns, we will postpone a decision on the applicant until a later iteration of the process. The number of iterations depends upon the number of high quality applicants and the number of spaces available. Of course, our admissions process is always subject to change.

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  17. Hey Professor Bishop,

    Thank you so much for your blog, your insights are very helpful for seniors planning to attend the University of Waterloo. I had two questions regarding admissions.

    I know this was mentioned in the blog, but my first question is how would you judge whether or not a student took a spare to lessen their course load, or to participate in extracurricular activities. In other words, how would you know a student is using their spare effectively?

    My second question is I have a projected average of 95%, my number one choice is Software Engineering, and my second choice is Computer Engineering. Since my chances for Computer Engineering are much higher than Software Engineering, am I considered equally for both or are there a set amount of seats for students with Computer Engineering as their second choice? Put differently, do students with Computer Engineering as their second choice compete with other students who have Computer Engineering as their second choice for a smaller number of seats than the 230 seats, or do they compete with both those who have it as their first choice, and those who have it as their second choice?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    Like

    1. On the Admission Information Form, there are questions that allow applicants to explain their various situations. Applicants should inform us that a spare was taken to allow participation in some other activity. We can also look at the number of hours devoted to extra-curricular activities to make an informed assessment. It is not always an easy assessment to make. We use our experience and judgement.

      We do not set aside a fixed number of spaces for second choice applicants to a program. Our goal is to fill a program with first choice applicants, if possible. If we find an exceptionally qualified applicant that is not going to be given an offer to their first choice program, we will immediately consider them for their second choice program. This can happen with Software Engineering when we have an applicant with great grades but limited programming experience. First choice Software Engineering applicants might get deflected to Computer Engineering or another related discipline. Also, if we find that the quality of first choice applicants to a program are significantly weaker than the quality of second choice applicants, we then consider second choice applicants for available spaces.

      We do tend to give out quite a few offers to second choice applicants. Applicants listing a program as their second choice are much less likely to accept an offer of admission. While a class may only have a few students deflected from their first choice program, we may have actually offered admission to a much larger number. For example, if we have a class with 2 deflected students, it may be the case that we actually offered deflections to 8 students.

      The 95% average does not provide me with enough data to make any informed assessment about your chances. Last year, we rejected a Software Engineering applicant with a 98% average but we accepted many with averages below 95%. There are many factors other than just your average. Of course, even if I knew more about your situation, it would not be appropriate for me to make an assessment of your application prior to applying.

      I should point out that the Software Engineering is quite a bit different from the Computer Engineering program. While it is possible for both degree programs to have similar career paths, it is also possible for the programs to result in substantially different career paths. If your desire is to program, Software Engineering or Computer Science are the best programs to choose. If you like programming but you want to learn how to design both computer software and compute hardware, Computer Engineering makes more sense. Computer Engineering also makes sense if you are not 100% committed to a future in programming as this program opens the door to a future in Electrical Engineering.

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  18. Hello Professor,

    I was looking at the course calendars and noticed that computer and electrical engineering have the same courses until the end of 2A. How difficult is it to switch between the two programs? If you can switch, would you still have to start your degree over again? I am looking at applying to Computer Engineering, but am worried Electrical is more for me. Would it be possible to switch after first year?

    Thanks

    Like

    1. Currently, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering allows students to easily transfer from Computer Engineering to Electrical Engineering until the end of the 2A term. The same is also true for transfers from Electrical Engineering to Computer Engineering. Both programs have the same admission requirements and comparable decision averages. Apply to the program you feel fits you best at this time. If you are accepted to Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering, you can switch to the other program anytime prior to the end of your 2A term. You simply need to submit a plan (i.e., program) modification form.

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  19. Hello Mr. Bishop,

    I am currently a grade 12 student in the process of university application. I would like to apply to Waterloo’s software engineering and computer science major. Right now, I am enrolled in AP computer science as an extra course that is done outside of school hour. My original intention when I decided to join this course was to expand my knowledge in computer science and to see if I am actually interested in pursuing this career. But right now, my grade in this course isn’t very good, or at least this mark is significant enough to pull down my average. Since computer science is technically an additional course that I decided to take, will it affect my chance of admission? I know that most universities only look at required courses and the top six grades that students have, but since I am applying to computer science/software engineering, I am afraid that a low mark(high 80s) in a course like computer science will decrease my chance of admission.

    Like

    1. A grade in the high 80’s in AP CS will not negatively affect your application. This is still a reasonably good grade for someone learning programming for the first time. If your grade was below 70%, I would provide different advice.

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      1. Hello Mr. Bishop, thank you for replying to my question. So I was just wondering: because I am applying to software engineering which puts a heavy emphasis on programming experience, will I have a chance of being admitted with just AP computer science? Or is that unlikely?

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      2. AP Computer Science is a sufficiently advanced course that you would be considered for SE admission. It is difficult to say what the depth of the applicant pool will be this year. In some years, it might not be enough for an offer of admission but in other years, it would be more than enough. If you wish to improve your chances of selection, you might wish to practice your programming by either designing an app, by competing in a programming competition, or by working on coding challenges such as Project Euler.

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  20. Hi Professor Bishop,

    Thanks for making such a wonderful blog. I was wondering if grade 11 marks impact early acceptances in March for non-semestered schools, since all grade 12 midterm marks will be available by then.

    Thank you so much once again!

    Like

  21. Hi Sir,
    What are the chances that an applicant would be deffered to their second choice? I’m quite unsure of whether I will be able to get into software engineering (based on last year’s results), and feel as though I have a much better shot at ECE/CE. Knowing this, would it be wise to opt for ECE/CE as a first choice and disregard SE entirely?

    Like

    1. The most frequent deflection last year was from SE to COMPE. I think we gave out approximately 40 offers of admission to SE applicants for COMPE. The only way to know if you will be admitted to SE is to apply to SE.

      I should point out that the competition to get into the COMPE program has been increasing steadily over the past 5 years. Applications to COMPE appear to be increasing, most likely due to the highly competitive nature of both CS and SE. However, you should only apply to COMPE if you have some interest in how computers are designed and how electronic circuits work. If SE is your passion, you should apply to SE and do everything that you can to get an offer of admission to the program.

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  22. Hi Professor Bishop,

    Does Waterloo consider Canadian applicants outside of Ontario differently to those within? is there any preference or allocated spaces for students in Ontario? Thanks in advance.

    Like

    1. We keep the pools of applicants separate but we consider both pools simultaneously for available spaces in our program. We will shift our targets as needed to ensure that we accept the highest quality applicants, regardless of where they reside.

      Like

  23. Hello Professor Bishop,

    You mentioned in another post that repeating courses could cause a significant mark decrease in one’s overall average. There is a policy in my school (IB and non-semestered) where one could potentially have their Advanced Functions mark adjusted without actually retaking the course, which you may be aware of. If not, IB courses are traditionally taken in both IB1 and IB2, in which case the latter year’s mock exam will dictate one’s predicted grade for the IB Examinations (used as final Ontario grade). Specifically, this is for students who took HL Math in grade 11 (registered as Advanced Functions) and then decide to do SL Math in Grade 12 (registered as Calculus and Vectors). Based on their performance in Grade 12 SL Math and the SL Math mock exam, their original Advanced Functions mark will be adjusted accordingly; however this adjustment will not occur until the April report card. With this in mind, Waterloo will have the original Advanced Functions mark for the March admission round, but without any notice receive a different one in April.

    Should students worry about this being under the impression of repeating a course, even if they specify the circumstance in the AIF? Also, will the final adjusted mark surely be used instead of the original in the last admission round?

    I also understand that you may not be able to disclose the specific method of evaluation, which is perfectly fine. What do you think is the next step for these students?

    Thanks so much for your time

    Like

    1. We understand predicted IB grades. When an IB grade changes from a predicted grade to a final grade, it is not flagged as a repeated course.

      A similar situation happens to students in non-IB programs. We often have midterm grades from non-IB programs. When the midterm grade is replaced by the final grade, the course is not flagged as a repeated course.

      Like

  24. Hi sorry please ignore my last question, I skipped one of the graphs. In your post, you also mentioned that a few students who got in the program as their second choices were also counted. Right now in my OUAC application I put CS first and Management Engineering as the second. Since my grade is not extremely competitive (91%), should I move Management Engineering to the first? Does that make a difference?

    Like

  25. Hello Professor Bishop,

    I would first like to thank you for creating these blogs that have helped me understand how the University of Waterloo’s admission system works. Keep up the great work!

    I was wondering if there were any other negative consequences for using a summer school course when applying to an engineering program other than adjusting the grade. Also, I have heard that a summer school grade is adjusted using the corresponding grade 11 course. However, in my case where I have taken Calculus and Vectors(MCV4U) in summer school, would it be compared to the grade I got for Advanced Functions(MHF4U) instead?

    Like

    1. The only possible consequence of a summer school course is a grade adjustment if we see that there has been a significant improvement in one or more grades due to spreading out the workload over the summer term. Our goal is simply to ensure that applicants are ready for the significant increase in workload that happens when transitioning from high school to university. We want students to be successful in our programs.

      A grade adjustment is only applied if there is no justification for taking the summer school course and there is a noticeable improvement in course grades. An applicant with consistently high grades (in the high 90’s, for example), would not be penalized for taking a summer school course. An applicant working part-time or participating in a significant extra-curricular activity would not be penalized for taking a summer school course if this is clear on the application. An applicant with a medical reason for taking the course in summer school would not be penalized if this is clear on the application.

      With respect to Calculus and Vectors (MCV4U), we would compare it to another math course grade, preferably Advanced Functions (MHF4U), if known.

      Like

      1. Thank you very much, Professor Bishop, for the clear, informative response.

        There is something I would like you to confirm: I have heard from a member of the engineering admissions team that adjustments are only applied to summer school courses if the grade is at least 10% higher than the related grade 11 course. Is this true?

        Like

      2. This may have been true in past years but our adjustments are always subject to change. We are constantly evaluating the quality of our applicant pool and making adjustments to our processes both to ensure fairness and to ensure success in our programs. I can only say that adjustments are applied when we feel they are justified. The conditions that trigger an adjustment may change from year to year.

        We do not yet have a good feel for how our applicant pool will change this year as a result of changes to the education system in the Province of Ontario. We may need to adjust our processes to better align with our applicant pool. Any decisions will be made once the applicant pool finalizes in February.

        Like

    1. Our required courses are grade 12 courses. During our early round of admission, if a grade for a required grade 12 course is not known, we predict the grade. Predicted grades may use grades from grade 11 courses in such situations.

      Like

  26. Hi Mr. Bishop!

    I am a full IB student also completing my diploma in the province of Alberta. Seeing as I will have both my predicted grades and midterm grade 12 marks by the first-round of admission, how do you recommend that I send these in? Is it possible for me to input both IB and percentage grades and will the admissions team consider both?

    Thanks in advance.

    Like

  27. Hi Mr Bishop,

    Thank you for the detailed information as I learned a lot. As I read above, summer school marks may not be penalized based off of reasoning. I summer schooled grade 12 english with my final mark being around 2% lower than my grade 11 english mark. The only reason I took english in summer school was because I felt confident in my english and felt a need to further my depth in other courses (specifically the sciences and maths). Would this cause a penalization in my final english grade?

    Thank you!

    Like

  28. Hi Professor Bishop,

    You mentioned in one of your comments last year that taking an elective online is fine. I was just wondering whether or not that mark would count towards the top 6 average for engineering, given that it is high enough. If so, would any adjustment be applied?

    Thank you

    Like

  29. Hello Professor Bishop,
    I took two spares this year in order to free up some of my schedule so that I can contribute some time to my extracurricular activities such as volunteering in youth clubs and businesses I run, however, I am currently thinking about taking another course. How will this affect my application?

    Like

    1. It is difficult to predict how extra-curricular activities and extra courses will affect the assessment of any application in general. If you already have a significant amount of extra-curricular activities and you can take another course without negatively affecting your grades in your other courses, it may be a good decision. However, if you overload yourself and your grades suffer, it will not be a good decision. You need to do what you feel is best for you. Is the course one that you want to take? Will the course help prepare you for university? Will you be able to maintain your participation in your clubs and businesses? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

      Your decision to take a course should not be solely motivated by how it affects your chances of admission to an engineering program at the University of Waterloo.

      Like

    1. I do not have acceptance rates for either program. The School of Computer Science may be able to answer your question with respect to CS. The Faculty of Engineering does not typically release acceptance rates for our programs.

      Like

  30. Hi Professor,

    I was recently reading the Global News Article and was shocked to see my school high on the adjustment list. Is the adjustment final, meaning are the 16+/-x percent directly subtracted from the admission average without further consideration? I saw your post regarding early admissions last year where you mentioned students from highly adjusted schools being accepted in the March round. You stated they get a slight disadvantage but assuming adjustments are final, wouldn’t students from these schools get a substantially greater deduction on their average? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Given 3 adjustment factors for the 3 most previous years, the article seems to average the adjustment numbers over those years. Does Waterloo use an average adjustment factor over a certain number of years, or just the adjustment factor of the most recent year?

    Thank you in advance.

    Like

    1. The adjustment factor is one of many tools that we use to ensure student success in our programs. When calculating decision scores, we apply adjustment factors to every applicant’s average. The adjustment factors are updated for every admission cycle based on the performance of students in previous years. Our adjustment factor attempts to account for statistically significant differences in performance observed over a window of six years to ensure that the students we accept are best equipped to be successful in our programs.

      In terms of the size of the adjustment, all applicant averages are adjusted. The provincial average in the 2018/19 admission cycle was approximately 16%. Students attending schools with high adjustment factors (more than 16%) are less likely to be accepted. Students attending schools with low adjustment factors (less than 16%) are more likely to be accepted. The effect of the adjustment factor is slightly more significant in highly competitive programs. For many engineering programs, the effect of the adjustment factor is relatively minor.

      Since our adjustment factor takes into account 6 years of student performance data, we do not average the adjustment factors over a three year period.

      Like

  31. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    What are the IB grade conversions for students not in Ontario? I know that students in Ontario have a predetermined conversion table but how do IB grades work for domestic students outside of Ontario?

    Thanks

    Like

    1. IB grades should be comparable regardless of where they were obtained. It is my understanding that the same conversion table applies to IB grades for students from outside the Province of Ontario.

      Like

      1. I researched the conversion grades and realized that each ib grade has a corresponding percentage range. Which end of the spectrum does Waterloo use? (for example, a 7 in IB is considered from 97-100%)

        Like

  32. Good Day Mr.Bishop,

    I’ve submitted my AIF for CE and Tron. And received an email to complete the online interview. By which date should I complete the interview?

    Kind regards.

    Like

    1. I would recommend completing the interview within the next 3 weeks, if possible. The holiday season is often a good time to set aside an hour to do the interview. I recommend treating the interview like a job interview. Think about the questions we might ask and try to think about ways you might answer these questions effectively. In general, we ask questions about why you have chosen to pursue your chosen discipline at Waterloo and how you deal with adversity. Also, make sure you follow the instructions carefully. Some students have been penalized in the past for not following the instructions. Finally, make sure you will not be interrupted during the interview by parents, siblings, pets, or any other distractions.

      The deadline for submission of the interview in the 2019/20 admission cycle is February 28th. The interview is considered to be a supporting document. However, we would greatly appreciate interviews being completed early as this provides us with more time to complete all assessments of the interviews. We need to assess your interview prior to our first round of acceptances at the end of March.

      Like

  33. Hello Prof. Bishop,

    I am interested in the mechatronics engineering program. According to your graph, this program belongs to the second group. However, I have heard that the mechatronics program and the biomedical program are similar when it comes to competitiveness (in the 2020 UW viewbook, they are grouped together for the minimum average). So, where does it really belong in your opinion?

    Also, this is just out of curiosity, but I have noticed that the admission average has decreased over the past 2 years, according to the graphs. What might be the cause?

    Much thanks, and thank you for doing this.

    Like

    1. The Faculty of Engineering brochure is more specific than the UW Viewbook. The Viewbook simply indicates a broad range (Low to mid-90s) which is used for Mechatronics, Biomedical, and Software. The Viewbook also targets out-of-province students more than Ontario students; average ranges fluctuate widely outside of the Province of Ontario due to differences in school systems. The Faculty of Engineering brochure provides probabilities of acceptance which are much more specific and most suitable for students in the Province of Ontario. I slightly prefer the Faculty of Engineering approach. The range provided in the Viewbook spans an approximately 7% range of averages ranging from 90% to 97%. While this is accurate, I would say that Biomedical and Software are near the top of the range while Mechatronics is closer to the midpoint of the range.

      Admission averages have decreased over the past 2 years. There has been a downturn in applications due to a decline in students applying to university. The size of the domestic high school population has decreased. Also, our university ranking has dropped slightly at the international level. One of the things that hurts the University of Waterloo in international rankings is the fact that we lack a medical school, a law school, and a business school. We are probably one of a very few universities ranking in the top 250 universities worldwide that lack all three of these schools. With respect to international students, we are also seeing a decline in applications that may be due to geopolitical issues and funding issues. It is difficult to pinpoint a single factor. There are many things contributing to the decline in applications. On the plus side, the decline in applications has made it slightly easier for good students to get a great education at the University of Waterloo.

      Like

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