Frequently Asked Blog Questions

I haven’t been able to answer all of the questions I have been receiving on my blog.  As you can imagine, it is a very busy time of the year.  In addition to my admissions work, I am also teaching an online course for the first time so I am busy learning new tools, developing online course materials, and conducting live tutorial sessions with my students.  Hopefully, this post will address a few of the questions not yet answered.  Shown below are a few images that I took of my new home office campus this past week.  It appears that the only thing harder to predict than the future is the weather.

Have all engineering admission offers been given out?

The most frequently asked question that I have not answered is whether all of the admission offers have been given out for program X where you can replace X with the name of any engineering program (and even some non-engineering programs).  I just sent in the last 7 admission offers to the Registrar’s Office.  These will likely appear on Quest later today.  Certainly, if you do not have an offer on Quest by Tuesday, May 19th, you can safely assume you will receive a rejection letter.

When will rejection letters be sent out?

We will start sending out rejection letters next week.  Rejection letters are a difficult part of our job.  There are some clearly excellent students who have not received offers of admission, sometimes for things they couldn’t reasonably control.  Rejected applicants often wonder what more they could have done.  In the most highly competitive programs, the admission information form and the optional interview can make a big difference.  In some cases, applicants simply didn’t submit the documentation required for admission.  If we are missing an admission information form or a required grade for an applicant, a rejection is automatic.

It is important to remember that we had over 11,000 applicants for approximately 1,800 spaces.  We can’t accept everyone, even if we might like to do so.

Was a particular program more competitive this year?

Another frequently asked question was whether program X was more competitive this year.  The simple answer is “No”.  We gave out more admission offers to programs this year than previous years based on the expectation that our deferral rate may be higher.  Also, our total number of applications was done from last year.  For programs to be more competitive, there would have to be a huge change in the quality of the applicant pool.  This did not happen.  However, this is not to say that all great applicants received admission offers.  Competitive programs always reject great applicants.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be competitive programs.

One reason why engineering programs may seem more competitive this year is that other campus programs increased their admission offer rate much more than we did.  Some programs on campus gave out twice as many offers as they did last year.  In engineering, the increase in the number of offers has been much more modest.  We did not increase all programs uniformly.  Programs that had strong confirmation rates in the early round of admission were subject to smaller increases in the number of admission offers.

Have all scholarships been announced?

We are getting close to finishing our scholarship selections but I do not believe they have been announced on Quest yet.  One thing to keep in mind is that we have very few entrance scholarships beyond the President’s Scholarships and Merit Scholarships.  All applicants receive some form of scholarship provided that they have at least an 85% average and they have not done post-secondary education previously.  In addition to the scholarship grid, entrance scholarships are given out to approximately 85 individuals.  We expect slightly over 1,800 students in the Fall so 85 students represents just 4.7% of all admitted students.  If you consider the fact that we give out more than 1,800 offers of admission, the probability of getting an entrance scholarship is low.

There will be some very happy applicants who will receive significant scholarships.  I believe we will have four Schulich Leader Scholarships valued at $100,000.  The majority of our entrance scholarships are much smaller.  Entrance scholarships typically range from $1,000 to $4,000 for domestic applicants.  Some international applicants will receive $10,000 scholarships which help pay for a portion of their higher tuition costs.

If you receive a scholarship or bursary, a “View Award Offers” link will appear in your Quest account next to the program details.  Clicking on this link will allow you to view the scholarship that you have been given.

Can I upgrade my offer or get a new offer?

In the past, the answer would simply be “No”.  This year, the answer is still “No” but there may be a few exceptions.  We won’t know which programs have spaces available until after June 1st.  You can ask to be put on a waitlist for a program by e-mailing, even if you have not been accepted to any engineering program at the University of Waterloo (provided you were an applicant previously).

If a program has spaces become available, we will contact waitlisted applicants in June, July, and August as spaces become available to inquire whether the applicant still wishes to receive an offer to the program.  If so, an offer can be made.  If not, we will remove the applicant from the waitlist and move on to the next applicant.  We will choose the most qualified applicants from the waitlist first.

In most cases, a deflected applicant is more likely to be chosen over an applicant that did not receive admission at all.  The exception might be an applicant that only applied for a single program and did not list an alternative program.  We will use our admission database to determine which waitlist applicant is “most” qualified for any space that becomes available.

If I receive a waitlist offer, will I miss out on residence?

Some applicants might be worried that a waitlist offer will be too late to be guaranteed a spot in residence.  While our residence guarantee only exists until a particular date, this does not mean that we run out of residence rooms on campus.  Usually, we still have rooms available long after the residence deadline.  You just may not have access to your preferred residence choice.

Also, it is not uncommon for some residence rooms to become available late in the summer due to students deferring admission.  It will be interesting to see how many international students will be able to obtain study permits and visas (if necessary) to start classes in the Fall.  The global pandemic has made predictions very difficult this year.

When will I find out more about my program?

We have a series of Virtual AMA Events starting on May 22nd and running until May 28th.  We will try to answer your questions at these events as we are sure that you will have some.  Admitted students will receive an e-mail invitation to the event for their program in the next week.

Will courses be online in the Fall?

To the best of my knowledge, the University of Waterloo has not made a decision on the Fall term.  However, it is my understanding that the university will make a decision about the Fall term prior to the June 1st so that admitted students will know how the Fall term will run and so that teaching staff may prepare accordingly.  Many (top) universities are moving in the direction of online education for the Fall term out of an abundance of caution.

Online education is not new to universities.  The University of Waterloo is currently running a full term of online studies for our students.  By the Fall, should we be required to offer our courses online, we will be well prepared.  Also, if ever there was a term that made sense to do online, the first term is the most logical one.  Upper-year courses have highly-specialized lab work which is difficult to complete remotely.  First year courses on Calculus, Physics, and Programming are a bit easier to learn online.

Will there be a summer program?

Some universities have already announced that they will be running summer programs to help students transition into university.  These programs are particularly important given that the previous year of school abruptly ended.  I know there are several plans being developed for a summer program.  I expect an announcement in the near future.  We certainly will do our best to ensure that our students are successful in the Fall term.

Can I defer my offer until Fall 2021?

We have always allowed admitted students to defer their offer until Fall 2021.  Many students may be thinking that this is a good idea this year.  This is not a decision that should be made prematurely.  You will likely have until the end of July to make a decision on deferring studies.  I would recommend waiting until closer to the deadline to make a decision.  By the end of July, you will have likely had an opportunity to participate in an online summer program and you will have greater clarity about the operation of the Fall term.

One thing I will say is that there are pros and cons to deferring a degree program.  The pros are likely obvious so I will focus on the cons:

  1. From a financial perspective, it is likely in your best interest to not defer your program.  University costs have been increasing at a rate well above inflation over the past two decades.  If this trend continues, deferring your studies may mean that your university education costs you more, even if you factor inflation.
  2. From a career perspective, deferring your program means that you will presumably start your career one year later which may mean missing an important career opportunity.
  3. From the perspective of a co-op student, you would rather be looking for co-op positions when fewer other students are looking for them.  Generally, this means you will find a better co-op position or have a better chance of getting the co-op position you really want.  Deferring might mean that you are in a slightly larger class in Fall 2021.

Personally, if I were faced with making a similar decision as a prospective student, I would want to wait as long as possible to get greater certainty about the future.

Should I accept my offer of admission to engineering?


119 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Blog Questions”

  1. Hey – Is there any suggestions you can provide me for which programs to request to be waitlisted for? I ask this because I feel as though I must have been close to receiving an offer (because I got a deference) and that I would obviously prefer to receive an offer to any UW Eng program than to not receive one at all. Do you have any data or analysis that would suggest some programs being more likely to have openings than others? I don’t want to potentially miss out on a spot because I picked the most competitive/ “filled” program blindly.



    1. Right now, it is looking like we will meet our targets in most programs by our deadline tonight. I do not feel it would be appropriate to suggest a program. You really need to select the program(s) that you want, not simply ones that are likely to get you into Waterloo Engineering. Transfers between programs are extremely rare. No good can come from spending 5 years in a program you don’t really like.


  2. Hello.
    I am a first year student in Alberta. I’m planning to apply for computer engineering for fall 2021. Are transfer students competing fairly with high school students? Or is the number of seats given to transfer students based on the number of acceptances given to high school students first? What is the competitive GPA? I’m aware that I have to start from the first year. Thank you.


    1. Transfer students compete directly with high school students. We typically use the most recent grades in the required subjects to compute an admission average for transfer students. This can be a combination of your high school grades and your university grades. We apply an adjustment factor for your university grades to allow for a more fair assessment.

      In general, we do not encourage students to transfer into our programs from other university programs. Transfer students usually start in September alongside all of the incoming high school students. Due to the cohort nature of our engineering co-op program, it is practically impossible for students to start in any term other than the first term of our programs.

      We generally look for a reason for a transfer to be approved. Simply wanting to study at the University of Waterloo is not enough, particularly if you are already enrolled in an accredited engineering program elsewhere in Canada. Compassionate grounds are good grounds for consideration. Also, if a student is transferring into engineering from a non-engineering program, there might be slightly more reason for doing so.

      Your university courses should be 80% or higher to have a reasonable chance of transferring into a competitive program. I would say that a grade of 75% in a required course such as Calculus or Physics is realistically the lowest that would give you a chance of admission to any engineering program. A GPA of 85% or higher would be very competitive. It is impossible to give you any meaningful data on acceptance rates for transfer students. There are simply too few transfer students in our applicant pool to make a meaningful assessment of acceptance rates. Each transfer applicant is individually assessed so aggregate data is not very useful.

      The probability of receiving an offer is much higher than you would probably expect but the probability of a student accepting our offer would be much lower than you would probably expect. In any given year, we only see a small number of students transferring into Waterloo Engineering programs from other universities. Next year might be an unusual year since we anticipate fewer applications to our engineering programs given the ongoing pandemic.


      1. Thank you so much for your comment. It’s really good to hear that each transfer student is assessed individually. I really hope to attend University of Waterloo Engineering next year 🙂


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