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.

255 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2020”

  1. Hello Mr Bishop,
    I got a 79% in physics but I still predict a 93% after second semester midterms. Does this individual mark hurt my chances a lot? What do you think my chances are with a 93% average applying for mechanical engineering?


    1. The 79% grade is not a failing grade and it will not be flagged by our system as a low grade. It may be a point of concern for Mechanical Engineering as this engineering program is based heavily on the study of physics. If there is a reason for the grade of 79%, it might be worth mentioning the reason on your Admission Information Form.

      Keep in mind that your admission average is much more important than any single grade. A 93% average is a very good average.


  2. Hi sir,

    Is it fine if I did Gr 11 English in summer school and got a 92% but I did Gr 12 English in regular school and got a 94%? I’m wondering because initially when I was doing Grade 11 English (the only course I took in summer school), I didn’t have a slight clue as to what I wanted to do. However, after I heard about Waterloo Engineering and it’s requirements, I took all my grade 12 courses during regular school.


    1. We do not calculate an average of your top six courses. We calculate your admission average as the average of your 5 required courses plus the best 4U or 4M course not already included in the list of required courses. English will ***ALWAYS*** be included in your admission average. It is included in every applicant’s admission average.


  3. Dear Prof Bishop,

    Thank you for answering my inquiry from before. Orginally I had taken summer school for religion (mandatory course since I attend a Catholic school) to free up space for the 3 electives I wanted to take in addition to the 5 prerequisites for Engineering. However, I feel as though freeing up one of these electives (a mixed level business course) for a spare would be more beneficial for me as I can commit more time to my extracurricular commitments. Would I be penalized in any way for taking this spare (my other two electives are a university-level computer science course that I have completed and will be in my Top 6, and an open level fitness course)? As a result, my course would look like this: AP Physics, Personal Fitness, Spare, and AP Calculus, with the rest 4 courses of my Top 6 completed in the previous semester. Would obtaining a spare for extracurricular commitment be an acceptable reason for taking this course outside of my regular day school? Thank you


    1. We simply look for effective time management. You can demonstrate this by taking a full course load or by taking fewer courses to allow for extracurricular activities. Taking a spare to allow for extracurricular activities is perfectly valid. When completing your Admission Information Form, make sure you indicate why you took your spare.


  4. Dear Professor Bishop,

    Thank you for your blog and answers to admission questions. There doesn’t seem to be any other school/program/admission office that does what you do!

    I have two questions. 1) Are AIFs reviewed by two committee members or just one? 2) If one doesn’t get an offer, will it be OK to contact your admission office and get some broad explanation (marks, AIF, video interview, etc.)?

    Thank you!


    1. AIFs often get looked at by many people but ultimately, one person is responsible for scoring them to ensure consistency. We usually do not provide much guidance on why students are not given an offer of admission. In most cases, applicants do not receive an offer of admission due to the depth and quality of the applicant pool. Hopefully, you will receive an offer of admission and the questions you will want to ask will change to things such as “Which residence is best?” or “What type of computer should I purchase?” or “How much do textbooks cost?”.


  5. Hello Professor Bishop,

    I am currently in Grade 11 and plan on taking an M-level course in Grade 12, TEJ4MI, Grade 12 Computer Engineering Technology, University/College.

    I was wondering if this course could count towards my top 6, even though it’s an M-level course? Also, are M-level courses looked down upon during the AIF evaluation? I would rather not take it if it can result in docked AIF marks.

    Also, I was wondering if taking Engineering-related courses like the above can boost the AIF’s score?

    Thank you,


    1. It is a 4M course. Any 4U or 4M course can count as your 6th course.

      Taking an engineering course does not have any direct effect on your AIF score. However, if the course encourages you to design a project or to participate in a competition, it may indirectly have some minor effect on your AIF score. It can also help satisfy the requirement for computer programming experience in some cases.


    Hi, I applied for Mechatronics for Fall having average of 93.5. This average from 1st semester. currently now in 2nd semester. I do have a lot extracurricular activities. Do you think that I have a fair chance of getting in Mechatronics Engineering? It will much appreciated if you can give me te answer. Thank you


    1. If you look at the chances of admission post from September of last year, you will see that the graph suggests an almost 70% chance of admission based on the average alone. It would appear that your chances are good.


  7. Hi Professor!

    I read previously you mentioned to input the extracurriculars on the AIF from most recent to least recent, as some of the activities might be truncated when imported to your database. However, I did not know this previously. I have around 20 entries listed from least recent to most recent. Should I make an amendment as to prevent the loss of data?


  8. Dear Prof BIshop,

    I applied to electrical engineering and was wondering about the overall competitiveness of the program in terms of admission. According to OUinfo, the target enrollment is 110, which is lower than SE (124) and CE (230), but I’ve also heard from EE students last year getting accepted with relatively lower averages (93-94, which may not be enough for SE, however, for a high probability of an offer) with decent AIF’s and interviews. Evidently it is my best interest to obtain a high average and aim for a great AIF/interview regardless, however I was curious if it it’s just the case that not many people apply to this program? Thank you.


    1. It is definitely true that more applicants choose Software Engineering than Electrical Engineering as their first choice program. There are roughly twice as many first choice applicants per available space for Software Engineering when compared to Electrical Engineering.

      The Software Engineering remains our most competitive program from an admissions perspective. Electrical Engineering is somewhere in the middle of the pack with respect to our other engineering programs. A mid 90’s average with a strong AIF and a decent interview is often required to receive an offer of admission to Software Engineering. A high 80’s average with a decent AIF and a decent interview is likely good enough to receive an offer of admission to Electrical Engineering.


  9. Hi Professor,

    On the AIF there’s a section for the size of the competition. I played piano at the OMFA provincial finals. To attend the provincial competition, each festival (size ~60-80 people/grade) can only nominate up to 2 people to go and compete at the provincial level.

    I won 2nd at the provincial competition against the other provincial finalists but the size of the competition was small since only a few people made it to this level (2/14). Would the size of my competition be 2 out of the 12 provincial contestants? Or would it be ~#2/800 (the contestants that didn’t even make it to the provincial level)?

    Thank you so much!


    1. When assessing the size of the competition pool, you should consider all potential competitors in all regions leading up to the competition. For a provincial competition such as the one you mention, the right pool size would likely be the 800 number. The good news for applicants is that admissions officers are often smart enough to know the size of the competition pools for common competitions. If you fill in the AIF incorrectly, it won’t hurt your application much. In the absence of hard data otherwise, we typically assume that competitiveness can be summarized as follows:

      international competitions >> national competitions >> provincial competitions >> regional competitions >> school competitions.


  10. I am an Indian applicant with a predicted average of 97.4%. I have 2 years of experience in robotics and also I had my own start-up business when I was in grade 10 which failed due to some financial reasons after 6 months. I have many more EC’s. I have taken pre-university level Physics Chemistry Maths courses along with a high school for preparation of the IIT JEE exam for one and a half years. What do you think do I have a fair chance of getting in SE?


    1. An assessment for SE cannot be made easily. We will review your application and give it full consideration. You may have a good chance but there are many factors beyond grades for the SE program. It is the most competitive program, from an admissions perspective.


  11. Hello Mr. Bishop,

    I had a question regarding the AIF, more specifically question number 1. Although it states that the applicant should state their interests in each program if they applied to more than one, it has been very difficult to fit the content I would like to present into a 900 character paragraph. How detrimental would it be to the acceptance chances of the other programs if you were to only talk about one in the response? Furthermore, if there is some overlap between the qualities between the programs (say computer science and computer engineering), would that be something the admissions committee considers as well?

    Thank you.


    1. There is no one best answer to your question. Some programs on campus might not fully consider your application if you do not mention their program specifically. This is not typically the case for most engineering programs. I often see students applying to CS + Engineering or AFM + Engineering or Math + Engineering. According to a survey we conduct, CS at the University of Waterloo happens to be the third most popular destination for applicants who turn down offers of admission to Waterloo Engineering programs. For those interested, the most popular destination is the University of Toronto for Engineering and the second most popular destination is Queen’s University for Engineering. None of this should come as a surprise.

      There is often a natural overlap between other programs and Engineering programs. The skills required to be successful in another program may be very similar to those needed to be successful in Engineering. Programs other than Engineering programs are not a consideration in our admission decisions. We do not confer with other faculties or schools to determine how to proceed with an application. We make our admission decisions independent of other groups on campus. If you have applied to Waterloo Engineering, we owe it to you to consider your application fully.


  12. Hello again, Professor Bishop,

    I was a bit confused about one of your recent answers where you said that a high 80’s with a decent AIF and interview would likely be enough to receive an offer to electrical engineering. According to the graph, the chances of receiving an offer for the program would be around 20-30% with that average. Is the graph perhaps inaccurate in this case? Also, would the chances of receiving an offer for computer and electrical engineering be the same with a high 80’s?

    Thank you very much for answering my questions up to now!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Overall application numbers are down slightly from the previous year. This will likely cause some of our grade ranges to drop slightly. However, the key difference is the use of the term “decent” to describe both the AIF and the interview. I would say that the average AIF and the average interview are typically somewhat less than “decent”. If you were to look at the probabilities for the grade ranges, it is important to remember that these numbers include applications where AIFs were not submitted and AIFs that were essentially blank. A surprisingly large number of applicants do not submit an AIF and get eliminated from admission consideration. If you were to eliminate these applications from the data, the probabilities would likely improve by 20% to 30% in the bottom grade range.

      For an applicant that submits a decent AIF and completes the optional interview with a high 80’s (88% or 89%) average, that applicant would likely have about a 30% to 40% chance of being admitted to Electrical Engineering this year. Of course, I won’t know the exact numbers until the admission cycle ends. These are just estimates.

      Computer Engineering appears (at first glance) to be slightly more competitive than Electrical Engineering this year but I suspect the difference will be small.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s