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.

199 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2020”

  1. Hi Sir,
    What do you mean when you say that the application deadline is January 31st? I thought that the AIF was due on February 28.

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    1. This admission cycle, the deadline to apply for a Waterloo Engineering program on the OUAC site is January 31st. All supporting documentation including the AIF and the optional interview must be received by February 28th.

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  2. Also, If I want to go into Systems Design Engineering, does my Computer Science mark have an impact on it (ex. if I get an 80 or lower in Computer Science, but I have a better 6th U/M course (97 in 12 U French), will the admission office ignore my Computer Science mark since I have a better 6th U/M course)

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    1. Your final Computer Science course grade will not be used unless it exceeds your French course grade. This would be true regardless of the Waterloo Engineering program that you select.

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      1. Hi,
        So I have a question regarding admissions for engineering. During my grade 11 year I was sick for most of the semester and I wasn’t able to take physics grade 11 during the regular school year. Thus I had to take in summer school. However, now i took grade 12 physics during regular day school but my mark is not “competitive enough” and I might repeat physics again.

        On my AIF, If I write the reason like due to missing physics during regular day school and doing it in summer school, put me at a disadvantage for grade 12 physics and thus will be repeating it.

        If I write this reason down and mention the extenuating circumstances, will my average be deducted by 5%?

        Thank you

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      2. From our perspective, repeating Physics will not improve your admission changes unless your current Grade 12 Physics grade is below 70%. We assess a 5% admission average penalty for retaking a required course. The only situation where repeating a required course would make sense for our application process would be a situation where an applicant is currently ineligible for consideration at all due to a required course grade (in this case, Physics) being below 70%. Even if you achieved 100% on your Physics course when retaking it, a 5% admission average penalty would be equivalent to a reduction in a single course grade of 30% which would mean your effective Physics course grade would still be less than 70%. In most cases, when an applicant repeats a course, we use the original course grade in our admission average calculations since this results in the highest admission average for the applicant.

        However, there may be value in retaking a course when applying to other engineering programs in Ontario. Some universities cannot afford to penalize applicants for repeating courses. If you repeat a course, another university might offer you a scholarship that you would not have received with your original grade.

        There may also be value in retaking a course when applying to Waterloo Engineering to ensure that you are prepared for university courses. While your repeated course grade will not count towards your admission average, the additional knowledge you learn may help you succeed in Waterloo Engineering should you be admitted.

        You can try to provide an explanation on your AIF for your circumstances but I am not sure how much weight will be given to your explanation. A strong explanation might convince us to lower the adjustment for repeating a course but it is unlikely given the circumstances as you have described them.

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  3. Hi,

    This is how I think about my chances. I basically have only 2 extracurricular activities so far. I want to join more, (specifically the Waterloo chem contest and a sports team) because I see so many other students joining alot of extracurricular activities. So the question is: Can I list any future extracurricular activities(the extracurricular activities occur after I submit my application). I think my projected average will be around 90-91 and I’m likely applying for the civil engineering program. I also think there will be a slight deduction in my average because the English mark in grade 11 was 56(wasn’t really doing the work) but in grade 12 english I decided to take private school english and got an 80. I’m currently thinking I’m nowhere near a good chance of getting in.

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. Extracurricular activities play a greater role in highly competitive programs such as Software Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. For Civil Engineering, a student with some extracurricular activity and a low 90’s average has a very good chance of being admitted. While the English mark that you indicated is a concern, it is not enough of a concern to cause you to be denied an offer of admission.

      With respect to listing future extracurricular activities, this is a possibility but keep in mind that we will not give significant weight to the activities. Also, if you do not follow through with the activities, you run the risk of losing an offer of admission for falsifying application information. In other words, if you decide to put future activities on your AIF, make sure you follow through with them.

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  4. Hi,
    Thank you for answering my question. I have 2 more.
    My counsellor has already sent my transcript to UWaterloo. But I’m expecting a grade change for one of my courses for Semester 1 because that assignment was incorrectly weighed on the transcript. Is it possible for my counsellor to submit the updated transcript to the university?
    Second, the extra-curricular section on the AIF gives you a chance to fill your hours for community service. But it only gives an option for grade 10,11 and 12. I’ve been involved with the programme since grade 9. How do I make sure that those hours are accounted for? Can I take an overall average and spread it over the 3 years.

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    1. It is definitely possible to update transcripts. If you have any problems updating the transcripts, you can always talk to one of our Admissions Officers. In some situations, it may be necessary to send the updated transcript via e-mail.

      With respect to listing your extracurricular activities on your AIF, we only want you to list your involvement over the past 3 years. The hours should reflect the work you have done over the past 3 years. If you wish to an activity that happened in Grade 9 or earlier, you have the ability to do so but there should be no hours shown for the activity over the past 3 years. Quite honestly, activities outside the 3 year window are unlikely to significantly affect your AIF assessment.

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  5. Hello Prof. Bishop,
    are Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering combined for admissions purposes? Or are they seperate?

    Thank you.

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    1. While we list targets for each program individually, we have been instructed by the ECE Department to adjust the targets accordingly to ensure that the quality of students in both EE and COMPE are comparable. The ECE Department is interested in accepting the best students, regardless of ECE program. In this sense, the applicant pools are combined for the purpose of admission.

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  6. Hello,
    Regarding the averages displayed on the graph, are the averages being used taken before the adjustment factor was used or after?
    Thank you

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  7. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    If I am currently taking the IB diploma program and did not take either Physics SL or HL, will any of my other IB grades be considered when applying? (For reference, I took BIology, Math and Chinese B SL, and Chemistry, English and History of the Americas HL) Or will only my percentage grades from the provincial level be considered?

    Thanks

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    1. I am a bit confused by your question. You must take a Physics course to be eligible for admission. IB Physics HL is the preferred course in the IB curriculum. We would not substitute another IB course for Physics if this is what you are asking. If you have a Physics grade from a non-IB course offered by your province, this grade would be used for Physics.

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      1. Is it possible for a combination of IB grades and provincial grades can be used to calculate an applicant’s admission average? For example, if all my provincial grades are higher except for my higher English predicted IB grade, will Waterloo use what’s most beneficial for me? Additionally, I recently came across a spreadsheet that listed IB diploma students having a lower adjustment factor than normal students. If it is possible to mix and match my grades, (Let’s say for example Waterloo uses 4 provincial grades and 1 predicted IB grade) which adjustment factor will my application be placed under?

        Sorry for the long-winded questions, hope to hear back soon!

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      2. I know we do this for some applicants. We often have applicants who have taken courses in multiple school systems. In such cases, we can do weighted average that takes into account all of the relevant courses. For adjustment factors, we can do a weighted average as well to produce a custom adjustment factor for an applicant.

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      3. In your reply, you mentioned that my average would be “weighted”. Could you elaborate more on what this means?

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      4. The weights would be proportional to the percentage of courses taken in each system. In the case of the admission average, the courses can just be given equal weight since the percentage of courses taken in each system is proportional to the number of courses taken in each system. In the case of the adjustment factor average, the weights associated with the adjustment factors are proportional to the percentage of courses taken in each system.

        If you have 6 courses with 2 courses taken in one system and 4 courses taken in another system, the first two courses are worth 33.3% of your average and the last 4 courses are worth 66.7% of your average. The first adjustment factor would be given a weight of 33.3% and the second adjustment factor would be given a weight of 66.7%.

        We would only do this calculation if we felt it was necessary. It would be important if there were significant differences between one system and another. However, our data typically shows that there is very little difference in outcomes between students who take IB courses and those who do not.

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      1. The weights would be proportional to the percentage of courses taken in each system. In the case of the admission average, the courses can just be given equal weight since the percentage of courses taken in each system is proportional to the number of courses taken in each system. In the case of the adjustment factor average, the weights associated with the adjustment factors are proportional to the percentage of courses taken in each system.

        If you have 6 courses with 2 courses taken in one system and 4 courses taken in another system, the first two courses are worth 33.3% of your average and the last 4 courses are worth 66.7% of your average. The first adjustment factor would be given a weight of 33.3% and the second adjustment factor would be given a weight of 66.7%.

        We would only do this calculation if we felt it was necessary. It would be important if there were significant differences between one system and another. However, our data typically shows that there is very little difference in outcomes between students who take IB courses and those who do not.

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  8. Hi,

    I realized that I’m going to get a low mark in data management (around 60-70) this semester but I’m currently taking two other courses next semester (aside from the 5 courses required) that may potentially make up for my top 6. The question is, will the admissions committee look upon the lowest mark like data management?

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. This is a difficult question to answer.

      Your admission average will use the 5 required courses plus your highest 6th course grade that meets our requirements. In Ontario, any 4U or 4M course would be suitable as your 6th course. If you take a course in the next semester and you have a higher course grade than your Data Management course, the higher course grade would be used in your admission average.

      However, we do track low grades in all courses reported to us. A low grade in a course could be sufficient reason for not receiving an offer of admission to a highly competitive program. Certainly, if you were applying to a program where the Data Management course would be relevant and you did very poorly in the course, we might question offering you admission to the program. We would look at your AIF (Admission Information Form) for an explanation of the poor course grade to determine if it is a potential concern. In some cases, there might be very legitimate reasons for a low course grade. In such cases, the low grade would be ignored.

      Any grade of less than 70% could be flagged as a low grade since 70% is the minimum grade threshold specified in our engineering brochure.

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  9. Hello Prof. Bishop,

    I have applied for Electrical Engineering and want to be considered for Early Admission, however I am unsure if I will have access to my final marks to list on the AIF before the Early Admission deadline. Should I simply list my projected averages instead?

    Thank you.

    Like

    1. Final grades are not required at the time of application. Projected grades can be reported on the AIF. All applicants are automatically considered for our early round of admission offers. We do not offer early admission. All students are admitted in the Fall term. The earliest applicants could expect an offer of admission this year is the last day in March. Most applicants will receive their offers of admission in May.

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  10. Good Day Mr.Bishop,

    I am an OUAC 105F applicant.I have submitted my AIF as well as completed my interview for Waterloo CE and Tron. I have uploaded the transcript as well.

    So, what is next? When does the admission committee begin reviewing applicants? And, when does the first admissions come out? Is there any possibility of getting an early admission?

    P.S Your post gave me a lot of insight into the process. Much appreciated.

    Kind regards.

    Like

    1. From your perspective, there is nothing else for you to do at this time.

      Our Admissions Officers might already be entering your grades from your transcripts into our database. This is (unfortunately) a manual process that takes some time. The Admissions Officers need to review the transcripts and supporting documents, verify their authenticity, convert grades into ones suitable for comparison with other applicants, and enter other relevant data such as SAT scores, ACT scores, IELTS scores, etc.

      Interview assessments have already begun. We hope to conclude interview and AIF assessments by the end of March. I will be reviewing applications in March to select applications for our first round of admission offers. Our first round of admission offers will go out at the end of March. We do not have early admission but some students will receive their offers earlier than others. Our final round of admission offers will go out in May. All students start in the Fall term.

      I look forward to reviewing your application.

      Like

  11. Hi Professor, /
    Does the chances graph already account for adjustment factors? Or are the values not adjusted?
    Thanks!

    Like

  12. Hello Professor Bishop,

    Do you have access to CS admission statistics/chances? If so, is it possible to share the data? If not, is there a reason why they aren’t available?

    Thank You

    Like

  13. Good Day Mr.Bishop,

    I am OUAC 105F applicant for CE and Tron undegraduate. Is it possible to send a research paper as a part of AIF?

    Kind regards.

    Like

    1. You can always put a link to other work (e.g., research papers, YouTube videos, GitHub sites, etc.) in the section of your AIF that asks if there is anything else that you would like to tell us.

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  14. Hi,

    I was the same person before who said will obtain an extremely low data management grade(50-60), but I plan to apply for civ. engineering. But I know that the 6th course would have a course that is acceptable to get a projected average of 90-91. Question is, will having a bad data mark have any effect on the application decision.

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. As I indicated previously, a low grade can be a concern if the course is deemed relevant to the discipline selected and there is no suitable explanation for the low grade provided on the AIF (Admission Information Form). All other things being equal, it is a reasonable way to select applicants for programs that are highly competitive.

      In general, a low grade is less likely to have impact on application decisions for programs with fewer applicants per available space. The programs with the fewest number of applicants per available space are typically those that have the highest probabilities of admission offers. Looking at our engineering brochure, these programs (in alphabetic order) include Architectural Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Geological Engineering, Management Engineering, and Nanotechnology Engineering. For these programs, low grades outside of the six grades used in the admission average are unlikely to have any impact on admission decisions.

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  15. Hi Mr. Bishop,
    I have applied to Mechatronics Engineering and I’m filling out my AIF and I have 2 questions.
    1. I have not had any job experience, how much do you think this could affect me? (I have plenty of extracurriculars but 0 job experience)
    2.On the section that allows me to choose my alternative choices, the form instructions tells me to select ONE alternative however it lets me add a second one therefore allowing me to choose TWO alternatives, should I put down both alternatives or just one?
    Thank you.

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    1. Work experience is a desirable extracurricular activity but not a requirement for admission to any engineering program. Work experience, volunteer experience, and other extracurricular activities are essentially treated the same. It should be noted that there are several countries that do not allow individuals under the age of 18 to work. Quite a few admitted students have no practical work experience prior to enrolling at the University of Waterloo.

      With respect to listing alternative choices, only your first alternate may be used. The second alternate will not be used. The second alternate was found to be rarely used so the decision was made several years ago to remove it. We are clear in our brochures and our recruiting events that you only have the ability to specify one alternate engineering program. The Admission Information Form has not yet been updated to reflect the change.

      Again, it is important to emphasize that our goal is to admit applicants to their first choice of program, if possible. Alternate choices are only used when applicants are unable to receive an offer of admission to their first choice of program.

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  16. Hi,

    I don’t think I’ll get in with a projected 89 average to the group 3 programs (specifically chemical engineering) because I took private school English but ended with an 80 percent. However, I disclosed a reason related to my good experiences there. I also have 1-2 extracurricular activities. I don’t even think applicants have even gotten in to group three programs in the past with 89-90 average. What do you think of my chances based on your experience?

    Thank you so much,

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    1. It is not appropriate for me to comment on individual applicants as the purpose of the application process is to have your application fully assessed. A partial assessment based on a few lines of text might give the wrong impression.

      However, I will say that a strong majority of applicants with an 89% average to Chemical Engineering are accepted. I fully expect this to be the case this year. A grade of 80% in English is well above our minimum requirement of 70%. We also have other approaches for evaluating English proficiency. Most notably, we read your Admission Information Form and assess your online interview.

      There is an incorrect perception that all Waterloo Engineering programs require an average of 90% or higher to get an offer of admission. This is simply not the case. All programs, including Biomedical Engineering and Software Engineering admitted applicants with admission averages of less than 90% during our last admission cycle. For Chemical Engineering, one fifth of all admission offers were given out to students with averages of less than 90%.

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  17. Hello Mr. Bishop,
    If you have the time, I have a couple questions regarding the engineering admission process. I am applying to SE as a 101 applicant.

    My first question is regarding the adjustment factors. How are these accounted for specifically? Say, for example, my school had an adjustment factor of 13, but there was only data for one year over the past three years. Is that number weighed over the 3 years (i.e. 16.3 is assumed for the other 2 years, and an average adjustment factor calculated), or would you just take the 13 and use it as the adjustment factor?

    In regards to fast-tracking/taking AP courses, does this have any weight in admissions decisions? If I took AP courses at my school and took the most vigorous program available to me, would it be wise to write about that specifically, or would admission officers have access to all my courses and be able to deduce this? Would this consideration be awarded extra credit in any form?

    Finally, in the admissions process, is the number of students admitted from the same school a factor of consideration? If multiple students from a particular school were deemed excellent candidates for the program, would Waterloo favor students from other schools if some of these students were near the cutoff scores for admission?

    Thanks for your time and for providing some clarity!

    Like

    1. Adjustment factors are only used if we have statistically significant data for a particular school. If we only have one year of data for a school, it is highly unlikely that a statistically significant adjustment factor can be calculated for your school. Also, we calculate the adjustment factor using six years of data. We do not average over a 3 year period. We calculate adjustment factors for a particular admission cycle using the previous six full years of grade data available to us. This year’s adjustment factors are based on students who started in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, and Fall 2018.

      It is always a good idea to point out AP courses on your Admission Information Form. Not all transcripts clearly identify AP courses.

      The number of students admitted to a program from a single school is a concern but not a consideration. Let me explain. We do not set an upper bound on the number of students admitted to a program from a single school. If 20 students qualify for admission to Software Engineering, we will provide offers of admission to all 20. However, we would certainly be concerned if this was the case. There are over 740 secondary schools in Ontario alone. If you are lucky, you may find that you know a few students in your classes at university. There are many great programs and great universities available to highly qualified students. It would be surprising for a large group of students from a particular school to choose one program offered by Waterloo Engineering.

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  18. Hello Professor Bishop,

    This semester, I have only taken 3 courses because I had more than enough credits to graduate high school. However, I recently read somewhere that the Waterloo admissions committee favour students who takes 4 courses a semester to show that they can take on all of the work. I was wondering if it would help me prove that I can handle a full course semester if I take 4 classes next semester, or if it doesn’t really matter.

    Thanks

    Like

    1. I got my offer of admission to Waterloo Engineering taking only 1 course in my final semester.

      The key is to show that you are using your time productively. If you have a light course load, you are presumably spending time on extracurricular activities. Just make sure you indicate these activities on your Admission Information Form. A course load of 3 instead of 4 is only slightly lighter than normal. We have applicants with much lighter course loads, particularly if the applicants are doing a victory lap.

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  19. Hello,

    First off, thanks for all the insightful information you provide. It has been very helpful during a stressful time.

    I was wondering if there is a general date that AIF + video interview need to be submitted by in order to be considered for the March round of admissions (other than the February 28th deadline). I remember in one of your blog comments from last year’s admissions, that this date was February 22nd in the previous year. Would a similar date apply this year?

    Thanks for your time!

    Like

    1. This year, all supporting documentation is due by February 28th. We have pushed back our March round of admissions to allow for consideration of all completed applications. We also hope to give out more offers of admission earlier this year.

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  20. Hello Mr. Bishop,
    I just recently read somewhere that taking courses outside of your regular day school can cause you to be penalized in the application process, I wanted to know if i’d be penalized for taking an online course. My situation is that my school no longer offers Grade 12 computer science so I had to take it as an online course. My semester right now consists of 3 courses and a spare (advanced functions, chemistry, english), my courses next semester are going to be 3 courses and a spare as well, (calculus and vectors, physics, computer science online). Do you think I will get penalized for this? I really don’t know what else I could’ve done because I applied to Engineering and love coding.
    Thank you.

    Like

    1. Taking a required course outside of regular day school without a reason for doing so can result in the assessment of a penalty.

      However, the computer science course is not a required course. Also, you have a clear reason for taking this course online since it is not offered by your school. It will not matter that you have taken this course outside of regular day school. You will not be penalized.

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  21. Dear Prof Bishop,

    I am currently in the process of completing my AIF and plan to finish my interview in the next couple weeks. I was wondering if there is any detriment to handing in my AIF closer to the deadline, or does this simply not matter as long as it is handed in before the deadline? Also, what may allow a student to receive an admission in March, are high Grade 11 marks the only way this is possible?

    Thank you.

    Like

    1. As long as you submit all of your supporting documentation by the February 28th deadline, you will be considered for admission. Our first round of offers will be given out in March to applicants who are clearly top students, both academically and in terms of extra-curricular participation. When we do not know a Grade 12 mark for a particular required course, we will use your Grade 11 marks to predict your missing Grade 12 mark. In this sense, Grade 11 marks can be important.

      There is no significant advantage to receiving an offer of admission to a program early. Scholarship decisions are made in May when the final round of offers go out. Also, all Waterloo Engineering admission offers are conditional upon continued success in your Grade 12 courses. In other words, you cannot get an offer in March and then stop going to your Grade 12 classes. You still need to write your final exams and do well in your course work.

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  22. Hello Prof. Bishop, I have a question. Will taking a course outside of day school cause any deductions toward my application if it isn’t a requirement for Engineering? The reason I am taking this course outside of school is that my school does not offer it. Thanks.

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  23. HI Prof. Bishop,

    I appreciate you answering my question from before, but I have another one. During the summer I took an online Religion course (HRE 4ME) to satisfy the requirement of me to take the Grade 12 Religion course (HRE 4M1) since I was attending a catholic school, Bishop Reding. I did this since I was keen on taking electives that wouldn’t fit otherwise, which were International Business (BBB4M1), Weight-Training (PAF4OM), and AP Computer Science (ICS 4UA) . Since I wanted to take these courses in addition to the 5 required courses for Engineering, I decided to take the compulsory Religion course in summer school to make this possible. Would this result in me being penalized?

    Thank you.

    Like

    1. HRE 4M1 is only required by your secondary school. It is not a required course for admission to an engineering program. The course will not be factored into your admission average or your admission decision.

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  24. Hi Mr.Bishop,
    I have applied to Software Engineering(first choice) and Computer Engineering(second choice). Currently, my top six grade 12 courses make an overall of 94.5% average. I have 3 years of experience in Python and have been taking Computer Science at my school since grade 10. In grade 11 Computer Science(ICS-3UI) I got 95% and I feel comfortable with programming in general. Next semester I will be taking grade 12 Computer Science offered at my high school in which I will learn more languages including Java. Also, the course bringing my average down is English as I immigrated to Canada 3 years ago and English is my second language. Although I have tried improving my mark over the course of 3 years from 75% in grade 9 to a current 85% in grade 12. Also, I have a few extracurriculars such as academic clubs, sports clubs, an internship in Computer Science, and I worked on a research project at the University of Waterloo. I have taken and am taking all academic(university level-UI) courses in regular day school. Considering my grades and circumstances do I have a chance to get accepted into SE or CE as both a really competitive? Should I even apply in SE considering my grades or put CE as my first choice? Should I pick an alternate engineering program for my second choice? Will the admission committee understand my situation with the English marks? Which engineering program should I choose to be on the safe side?

    Like

    1. You have quite a few things that we seek in our applicants to Software Engineering (SE) and Computer Engineering (COMPE). The SE selection process is the most highly selective one. It is impossible to estimate your chances to this program. There may be other factors that come into play such as your secondary school’s adjustment factor, your extra-curricular activities, and awards. One thing that may work (slightly) to your benefit is the fact that you are from a local school and you have worked on a research project at the University of Waterloo. We sometimes break ties by giving a very slight preference to students from Waterloo Region with known ties to the university.

      If you were to apply to COMPE as your first choice program, the odds of getting an offer would be very good. The odds decrease only slightly by applying to SE as your first choice and COMPE as your second choice since we often give out quite a few offers to alternate programs to SE applicants. Students from local schools are also slightly more likely to receive an offer to an alternate program when not given an offer to their first choice program.

      The English grade is only a factor in the sense that it lowers your admission average. A grade of 85% in Grade 12 English is still a very good grade and certainly we have accepted students with similar English grades into all of our engineering programs in the past. It is not a point of concern for us.

      I always tell applicants to choose the program they really want to study. You will not be happy otherwise. The SE and COMPE programs are quite a bit different. You should only apply to COMPE if you have a desire to learn about both computer software and computer hardware. The SE program is best suited for students who are most interested in software design and analysis.

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  25. Hi Prof. Bishop,

    Thank you for response, but what if HRE 4ME did become part of my top 6, would it still be factored into my admission average, or would the next highest regular day course be used instead?
    Thank you!

    Like

    1. In general, we compute the admission average that gives you the best possible chance of selection. If we can compute an average for you without assessing a penalty, we do so. If you had a grade of 99% in HRE 4ME but your next highest grade was 96% in another 4U or 4M course, we would use the other course if we felt we could only use HRE 4ME by assigning a penalty. Since the penalty would likely be larger than 3% in one course, we would use your next highest course (96%) in your admission average to compute the best possible average for you.

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  26. Hello Professor Bishop,

    You mentioned earlier that a slight preference is given to local students with ties to the University. I have visited the University six times for field trips during grades 11 and 12, and I have seen the school on other occasions such as the annual Canada Day event. My parents both graduated from Waterloo. Is this sufficient proof of a tie to the University?

    Also, I list Fed-Prov as one of my extracurriculars on the AIF. I am unsure whether admissions officers will know what Fed-Prov is all about because it is hosted by Waterloo’s Department of Political Science. Do I need to explain this club and others that have less self-explanatory names?

    Thank you for providing such an informative blog and taking the time to answer students’ questions!

    Like

    1. The key to a strong application is a strong Admission Information Form. Make sure your activities are clearly explained. Fed-Prov is not a commonly known activity like FIRST Robotics so I would suggest providing a brief description for this activity. Our Admissions Officers know most international, national, and provincial activities. Local activities are less well known.

      Also, I thought Fed-Prov was cancelled this year due to a scheduling conflict with the ongoing teacher union strikes…

      Like

  27. Hello Professor Bishop,

    Due to some scheduling circumstances at my school, I am going to take Physics 12 (at BC) online. Will that affect my chances?

    Also, since I just started the online course, when do I need to have a grade for UW? I put downn the online school on my OUAC, and in QUEST it asks me to submit a transcript for the online school (which I don’t have as I just started the course). Someone told me that I must have a transcript by the document deadline, which I probably can’t complete as the midterm grade only comes out after I am done 50% of the course, and I can’t finish 50% in one month. Can UW consider my grade 11 physics marks until my physics 12 mark comes out?

    By the way, I am in a semester system, so I won’t be starting my new semester until next week, and won’t get grades until April.

    Let me know if that was confusing, and thanks!

    Like

    1. Taking the course online given scheduling issues is not a problem. I recommend indicating the reason for taking the course online on your Admission Information Form. This year, quite a few applicants are taking Physics online for scheduling reasons.

      As long as you in the process of completing all of your required courses, you are eligible for admission. You do not need to have grades for all courses prior to the supporting document deadline. We will estimate grades in courses where grades do not currently exist. You can submit midterm grades by e-mailing an Admissions Officer once you know your midterm grades. All admission offers for Waterloo Engineering programs are conditional. We will require proof of your final grades in all of your required courses prior to allowing you to register for the Fall term. Usually, we receive grades at the end of June or early July. Last year, grades from BC were delayed and we waited until almost August for some final grades as I recall.

      In general, if your application is incomplete, we always make an attempt to remind you of any missing documents necessary for consideration of your application. All applicants should verify that their e-mail addresses have been set correctly and all applicants should regularly check their e-mail for important messages.

      Many applicants will be in your situation. They will all be given full consideration for admission. It will not have any effect on their chances of admission.

      Like

      1. Thanks for your reply!

        Just to clarify: in my case, is it okay to leave a document/transcript upload blank since I won’t have the transcript for online school until after the document deadline? Should I comment on that in the additional information section of the AIF?

        Like

      2. Yes, if you are missing information, you would simply leave it blank and comment on the reason for leaving it blank on your Admission Information Form in the additional information section.

        Like

  28. Dear Professor Bishop,

    Thank you so much for answering all of our questions on the blog!

    Due to timetable conflicts, I had the option of taking Gr.12 Chemistry either online during the school year or in summer school. As I was working a full time job over the summer, I decided that I would be able to take Gr. 12 Chemistry online. Does this mean that my Gr. 12 Chemistry mark will undergo twice the amount of grade adjustments? (Like 10% for taking it in summer school and an additional 10% for taking it online) Or will my overall admission average be adjusted?

    Like

    1. An adjustment may be applied to any course taken outside of regular day school. However, if there is an acceptable reason for taking an online course, taking a course during summer school, or taking a course at a different institution, we do not apply an adjustment.

      When applicable, adjustments are applied to the overall admission average. These adjustments range from a low of 0% to a high of 5%, depending upon the circumstances. A 5% adjustment to the overall admission average is equivalent to a 30% adjustment to a single course grade.

      Assuming you clearly explain your reason for taking the course the way you did, your overall admission average is unlikely to be subject to an adjustment.

      Like

      1. In my case, should I expect an overall admission average adjustment? In what cases are overall admission averages adjusted?

        Like

      2. We will need to review your Admission Information Form to make an informed assessment of your situation. I cannot make an informed assessment of your situation at this time. Depending upon the results of the assessment, an overall average adjustment of 0% to 5% would apply.

        Like

  29. Hello Mr. Bishop, for the programming experience section of our AIF do we have to include a link to our side projects along with a description with our project? Or is a description of the project fine by itself? I have a website that I have been working on in the summer, but it is unfinished and I don’t think I will get a chance to finish it due to the heavy school workload this year. Should I still mention it in my AIF?

    Like

    1. Programming experience can be established in various ways. Some applicants simply take programming courses at their local high school. Other applicants may have interesting projects that they can reference. Some applicants will provide links to videos on YouTube or source code on GitHub. When applicants provide links, I do try to take a quick look at the links. In general, applicants should only provide links to something they feel will enhance the overall quality of their application. This may be a partially-finished project if it is a sufficiently complex project.

      I have some knowledge of software design. I generally understand the jargon associated with programming and I am reasonably aware of the various tools, technologies, and competitions associated with computer programming and software construction. When explaining your programming experience, feel free to mention the tools and technologies used.

      As an applicant, you need to decide whether a link to your website is likely to improve your chances or not. This is something I (unfortunately) cannot answer for you.

      Like

  30. Hello Mr. Bishop, I am a grade 12 student applying for the software engineering program at the University of Waterloo. From my research, I have realized the importance of having programming experience in order to be admitted into this program. So I was wondering if you have any recommendations on what type of side projects the admission team is looking for that will aid our application? How many side projects and how much programming experience do students who received an offer from SE normally have? I understand that the student pool differs from year to year, but if you could give me an approximation that would be very helpful! Thank you for writing such an informative blog!

    Like

    1. There is no “magic” software project that maximizes the quality of your application. When considering projects completed by applicants, we look at the scope of the project (i.e., how much work did it require?), the complexity of the project (i.e., how difficult was the project?), and the elegance of the project (i.e., how well designed was the project?). We also consider the tools and technologies used.

      The typical successful SE applicant will have been introduced to programming in two or more courses, have used more than one programming language, and have developed one or more programs outside of their formal education. However, the minimum programming experience requirement is at least one programming course of experience or equivalent experience demonstrated through project work.

      At the high end of the applicant pool, we will have a few applicants with two or more years of industrial programming experience, applicants that have competed successfully in national and international programming competitions, and an applicants that have formal programming education at the post-secondary level.

      I have no idea what the pool looks like this year. I haven’t begun my review of AIFs yet. I will start working on this task in February.

      Like

  31. Good morning,

    Thank you for answering all these questions. It is very helpful.

    1. If my school is listed with 13% grade inflation, while average ON school is showing 16%, does it mean an adjustment factor for my HS average would be +3%? i.e. 16-3, the numbers are from globalnews.ca

    2. How do my EC stack up? I play a team sport at provincial level, another sport at rep level (both since age 9) and work part time as a swimming instructor and a lifeguard at a local pool since age 16 (when it’s legal). Should I also join a school club?

    Like

    1. The adjustment factors indicated in the media reports from 2018 are unlikely to be accurate today. Our adjustment factors change every year. Applicants should always assume an average adjustment factor as this is true for approximately 90% of all secondary schools in Ontario.

      If a school has a low adjustment factor, applicants from that school will have slightly higher overall admission scores making applicants from that school slightly more likely to be accepted into highly competitive programs. Adjustment factors do not mean much at all for less competitive programs. We have quite a few programs where applicants meeting the minimum requirements will be given an offer of admission, regardless of the adjustment factor of their secondary school.

      The extracurricular activities that you list are generally good for most engineering programs. For our top programs (Biomedical Engineering and Software Engineering), some discipine-specific extracurricular activities would be likely expected of the typical applicant. Your extracurricular activities would be sufficient for serious consideration for most engineering programs.

      If you are in Grade 9, 10, or 11, there would certainly be no harm in joining a school club or some other extracurricular activity. If you are already in Grade 12, any activity started now would carry very little weight on the Admission Information Form. We look not only at the quality of the activity but the amount of effort put into the activity. A week or two of volunteer work for an activity will not carry much weight. However, it would be much better than doing nothing at all.

      In general, you should not be doing extracurricular activities in the hopes of gaining admission to Waterloo Engineering. Extracurricular activities are things you choose to do because you like to do them. It just turns out that they may also be useful to you. When I was in high school, I didn’t do extracurricular activities because I wanted to get into Waterloo Engineering. I did extracurricular activities because they interested me and I could do them without hurting my grades in my courses. I also was very lucky to have the means for doing the activities (in terms of funding, support, and time). Not all applicants will have the same ability to participate in extracurricular activities. This is particularly true today given some of the job actions taking place at secondary schools in the Province of Ontario.

      Like

  32. Hello Mr. Bishop, because opportunities can be different for everyone, would the admission office take geographical location into consideration when making admission decisions? For example, a student living in BC or Ontario will most likely have more opportunities to participate in different extracurriculars or more variety of courses than a student from PEI. Does that mean the PEI student is less likely to receive an offer?

    Like

    1. Yes, we often need to take geographical location into consideration. For example, a student applying to Biomedical Engineering from a small town would not necessarily have the ability to volunteer at a local hospital. The nearest hospital might be too far away. We look for participation in activities appropriate to the community from which you are applying. Applicants from large cities often have access to larger range of extracurricular activities. We try to take this into account, when comparing applicants. The admission process is a difficult process of selection. We are always faced with comparing “apples to oranges”. In reality, both apples and oranges are valued.

      I think most universities try to ensure geographical diversity within their student population, if possible. There is great value in having applicants from all areas of the country (and the world) represented.

      Like

  33. Hi Mr.Bishop,
    At this point in time do you know if the statistics posted on this graph will be accurate for this year based on the number of applications you have received? I am specifically applying for Management Eng.
    Thanks

    Like

    1. We have not seen any large spikes in the number of applications to any of our programs so I would expect the graphs to be reasonably accurate. If anything, it is likely that it may be slightly easier for applicants to get an offer of admission into Waterloo Engineering this year.

      One noticeable change is that for international applicants, I currently expect all Waterloo Engineering programs (with the exception of Software Engineering) to be easier to get into this year than last year. Our international application numbers are down by 18% from last year at this time. While there is still time for international applicants to apply to our programs, I would be very surprised if the numbers changed significantly from now until the end of our application period.

      Like

  34. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    Do you think an 87-88 average yields a reliable chance to get into any of the group 3 programs? (Based on past data or this year only). I participated in 2 extracurriculars.

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. There are some “group 3” programs (using your terminology) where an 87% average would be guaranteed admission, assuming the application is complete and free of red flags. I suspect there are about 4 Waterloo Engineering programs where this would be the case. There are also a few “group 3” programs where an 87% average might only have about a 50% chance of receiving an offer of admission.

      There are many factors to consider. A low adjustment factor increases the chances of admission. A strong interview increases the chances of admission. Extracurricular activities increase the chance of admission if the activities are viewed as significant. A low mark in a course decreases the chances of admission. The chances of admission may also be slightly affected by your citizenship. Canadians and permanent resident applicants compete in a different applicant pool from visa applicants. Usually, visa applicants have a slightly lower chance of admission due to the number of applications relative to the number of available spaces.

      As Wayne Gretzky is often quoted as saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take”. The only way to know if you will receive an offer of admission is to apply.

      Like

  35. Hello Professor Bishop,

    I read in one of your replies that adjustment factors have a greater impact on our admission if we are applying to a more competitive program, and that it does not matter as much for less competitive programs. Could you explain why this is?

    Thanks,

    Sejune

    Like

    1. For less competitive programs, we give offers of admission to many, if not all, applicants that meet our minimum admission requirements. These programs tend to have a much larger variance with respect to admission averages (and admission scores). The larger variation between the top admission average accepted and the bottom admission average accepted generally allows for greater tolerance of high adjustment factors.

      For highly competitive programs, an applicant must score well on the Admission Information Form (AIF) and the interview to receive an offer of admission if the applicant comes from a high adjustment factor school.

      Having examined quite a few applications as well as several reviews of the adjustment factor system over 3 decades of use, I can say with confidence that the adjustment factors used by Waterloo Engineering help to level the playing field. In many cases, students from low adjustment factor schools will have lower admission averages and students from high adjustment factor schools will have higher admission averages. The system we use yields consistently good results in terms of student success.

      Like

  36. Hi,

    I am the same person above. You indicated above that there are 4 programs in group 3 for guaranteed admission. Would one of them be Civil Engineering? I private schooled an English course but got an 80 flat (I wasn’t trying to get a mark booster) but in grade 11 I got a 56 which was due to poor studying but I managed to step up for an 80 this year. I explained this on the AIF. My projected mark is an 87-88. I also joined 2 extracurricular activities within the two years. Do I still have the guaranteed chance? (If Civil Engineering is one of the 4 programs)

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. Unfortunately, I am unable to publicly disclose the programs. However, I will point out that there are only seven “group 3” programs so four programs represents a majority of the group.

      One key thing to realize is that some Waterloo Engineering programs do give out frequent offers of admission to students with 85+ averages. Furthermore, I believe all of our engineering programs offer good value to students. Our engineering programs provide our graduates with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Our engineering programs challenge students with interesting design problems. I am always surprised by the fact that certain engineering programs are less popular than others. In my opinion, they are all interesting in their own way and they all open doors to great careers.

      One other point I will make is that the popularity of a program is often disconnected from the quality of the program or the prospects it offers. Popularity is often a function of things that we cannot control. For example, pop culture references can significantly affect applications to programs. Regardless of the popularity of an engineering program, there will always be jobs for engineers to do. The demand for engineers in North America is expected to exceed the supply of qualified engineers into the foreseeable future.

      Like

  37. Hi,

    I just have one more question. My mark in data management is low and is projected to be around 60-70. Will the admissions committee take this into account. I know I will gain a higher mark next semester in another elective course (disregarding the 5 required courses) I’m also applying for Civil Engineering. The projected average will be around 87-88.

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. For most of our programs, we focus on grades in the required courses and the highest 6th course at the 4U or 4M level. We can afford to be much more selective with applications to programs where the ratio of applicants to available spaces is larger. In such situations, when we have many applicants with similar qualifications, we may look to other factors to provide insight into fit.

      Like

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