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.

245 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?


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