2021 Admission Cycle

The 2021 Admission Cycle has officially begun. I just received word that applicants from outside the Ontario secondary school system may now start the OUAC 105 application process for admission to the University of Waterloo in Fall 2021. Ontario secondary school applicants will need to wait a few more weeks until early October to start the OUAC 101 application process. It is my understanding that the start dates of the application process are staggered by the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) to help distribute the load on their servers.

Normally, our admission cycle starts with the Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) which would have been held this past weekend. This event was not held this year due to restrictions on event sizes imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the Province of Ontario. It is one of many recruiting events that will likely be cancelled or redesigned this year. Our Fall Open House has also been cancelled. We have replaced these recruiting events with several online events that have been designed to answer many of your questions about Waterloo Engineering.

The Faculty of Engineering has online events planned for the months of October, November, December, and January for those wishing to speak with representatives of the university about our programs. I have a number of dates saved on my calendar for recruiting events but the most important one is currently October 3rd. On that day, we will be holding on online event from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm to answer your questions about the University of Waterloo and its many programs. This online event replaces the Ontario Universities Fair.

I look forward to chatting with as many prospective students as possible on October 3rd. More details on this event will be announced soon. If for any reason, you cannot participate in the event on October 3rd, there will be other opportunities to get your questions answered by our faculty, staff, and students.

I am also thinking about running some live sessions of my own in November as time permits, provided there is interest in doing so. The goal of these events would be to provide more information on Waterloo Engineering, to discuss our programs, and to answer common questions about the application process.

Since it is the Fall, I thought I would share with you one of my photographs of Engineering 2 in the Fall. I believe I took this photograph in 1996. It is a bit difficult to date exactly as it was taken on a film camera. It was a photograph that was part of a set for a virtual campus tour that I implemented for graduate students at the time.

Engineering 2 in the Fall of 1996

I will update my blog as I learn more about recruiting events that are planned over the coming months.

Stay safe and healthy!

25 thoughts on “2021 Admission Cycle”

  1. Woww, That engineering building photo feels very nostalgic even though I wasn’t around at that time. The structure looks so vintage and reminds me of simpler times!

    Also, I absolutely looove the idea of live sessions in November! Looking forward to the October 3rd event.


    1. I like the design of Engineering 2. The Computer Engineering students that I teach have their labs in Engineering 2 so I have spent quite a bit of time in that building. The building is also home to many faculty and staff members from Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Geological Engineering. In front of the building, there is a decorative fountain which is operational during the warmer months of the year.

      The building also has the most interesting elevators in the entire university. There is one elevator that is only used to travel the height of 8 stairs. This elevator is for accessibility as you travel from Engineering 2 to Rod Coutts Hall. There is another elevator that was designed in simpler times that has a cage similar to ones you might see in old movies. This elevator also has incremental up (IU) and incremental down (ID) buttons for precisely positioning the elevator car at the right height relative to the floor. This allows heavy equipment to be transported easily.

      Once I know when I will run live sessions, I will post it on my blog. Thanks for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice to know the building includes folks from other Eng fields

        Although its not an attraction, the elevator and the fountain will be definitely be on my visit list, thanksss for mentioning them 🙂

        All of this really makes me wish the university would open up so we can get a feel for what its like to study here haha. Reaaalllly hoping we have live classes next year!!


    1. I intend to do so as soon as time permits. The computer I am currently using is not setup to do the analysis so I either need to install some software on this computer or arrange a time to work on the computer I used last year.


    1. There may be a few spots left for students to volunteer. I would recommend e-mailing Ryan Pyear to inquire about volunteering. You should be able to find his e-mail address on the Faculty of Engineering website.


  2. Given that Covid19 has caused huge changes in high schools this year, will admissions be modified in any way? A lot of people have who had in-school extracurriculars (clubs, sports, competitions) won’t be able to do them this year. Will Waterloo be more lenient this year? Maybe weighing Grade 10 and 11 more?

    I’m sure you’re being bombarded with questions right now, and I don’t want to add to your workload, but any insight is greatly appreciated.


    1. We expect applicants to list fewer extra-curricular activities this year on their applications. We also expect most extra-curricular activities to end prior to 2020. We do not have an absolute expectation of our applicants. The admission process is always about comparing an applicant to the other applicants in the pool. If the applicant pool is strong, our expectations will be high. If the applicant pool is not strong, our expectations will be low.

      I think it is fair to say that we will look a bit more seriously at activities from earlier grades. We may also look a bit more carefully at course grades prior to Grade 12. The one thing to keep in mind is that students who would be admitted in a “normal” admission year will very likely be admitted in this unusual admission year. In general, the odds of receiving an offer of admission are much higher than most applicants suspect. We have to give out many more offers than available spaces to meet our admission targets.

      The only applicants that should feel disadvantaged by the pandemic are those that were coasting through high school and planning to start working really hard in Grade 12 to do well in a few prestigious competitions. The likelihood of an applicant being successfully admitted using this strategy in previous admission cycles was fairly low. We prefer to admit students who consistently perform well than those who excel at one particular task.


      1. Yes, grades for courses taken in previous years may have some impact upon admission decisions. This has always been the case but the situation is more likely this year. During our early admission round, most applicants will likely have one or more Grade 11 course grades factored into their admission average and their admission score. By the final admission round, Grade 11 course grades are less likely to be used but in some circumstances, we may still need to predict a required course grade.

        I should point out that the University of Waterloo has long been an outlier in the use of Grade 11 course grades. Many universities have used Grade 11 course grades for quite some time. In the U.S., it is my understanding that some universities even look at all high school grades when making admission decisions. We have traditionally focused on Grade 12 course grades for making our admission decisions.


    1. First Robotics is considered a highly relevant extra-curricular activity for many engineering programs including Computer Engineering.

      Of course, it is important to remember that we are most interested in the time you spend on extra-curricular activities (regardless of relevance) and the skills (hard skills or soft skills) you gain from participating in extra-curricular activities. We realize that many students may not have the ability to participate in a particular extra-curricular activity so we do not expect all applicants to participate in a particular extra-curricular activity. This is even more true this admission cycle due to the ongoing pandemic.

      Also note that we define extra-curricular activities broadly. An extra-curricular activity does not need to be something organized by a school. Volunteering time outside of school, participating in sports, attending summer camps, working a part-time job, and many other things can be considered extra-curricular activities. There are always opportunities available. Sometimes applicants just need to seek them out.

      This year will be an unusual one for extra-curricular activities. I expect most applicants to have far fewer activities listed on their applications. Most activities listed will likely be ones completed prior to 2020. There are probably volunteering activities that could be created as a result of the pandemic. I imagine some teachers could greatly benefit from help from high school students. High school students likely understand technologies better than many of their teachers.


  3. Hello. I’m a prospective transfer student. Is it better to apply as soon as possible? Some universities encourage students to apply early so that their applications can be evaluated first and they might get a conditional acceptance letter early. However, as department of engineering at University of Waterloo releases the acceptance letters in March and May, I assume that the applicants are evaluated fairly no matter how early they submit the applications. Is this correct? Or should I apply for the program early? Thank you.


  4. Hi, I noticed that you said
    “The only applicants that should feel disadvantaged by the pandemic are those that were coasting through high school and planning to start working really hard in Grade 12 to do well in a few prestigious competitions. The likelihood of an applicant being successfully admitted using this strategy in previous admission cycles was fairly low. We prefer to admit students who consistently perform well than those who excel at one particular task.”

    Does this refer to grades in g10 and g11? Or does this pertain to one’s extracurriculars during these grades?

    Thanks so much


    1. The comment really applies to the combination of grades and extra-curricular activities. If an applicant has not obtained reasonably good grades and has not been using time for other activities in grades prior to Grade 12, they might not be able to demonstrate sufficiently that they can be successful in an engineering program. This will be particularly true for highly competitive programs.

      We often have applicants with Grade 11 averages in 70’s that work really hard in Grade 12 to raise their averages to meet our requirements and attempt to win competitions to find an alternate path into our engineering programs. While this might have been possible (although unlikely) in previous admission cycles, this approach is unlikely to work given the new scheduling approaches being used by high schools. We do not expect to have access to as many Grade 12 course grades by our assessment periods so the Grade 11 course grades may carry slightly more weight than they have in previous admission cycles.

      I believe most applicants will be unaffected by the changes implemented by high schools and the lack of extra-curricular opportunities. Any change to the system means that some applicants will benefit and some will not. Based on what I have seen, I expect the fraction of applicants directly affected will be small.


  5. I have read that you will be placing a higher focus on previous year grades this year, I was wondering that if I had mostly 90s in Grade 11, but one 70 in a non-prequisite course, will that one course put me at a disadvantage? This is assuming I have a mid 90s average for my Grade 12 top 6.


    1. If I understand your questions correctly, the grade of 70% was obtained in a course that is not one of the 5 required courses. If this is true, it would have no impact upon your admission decision at all.

      Grade 11 course grades will only be used when we do not have a Grade 12 course grade for a required course. This means that during the early round assessments, more Grade 11 course grades will be used. By the final round assessments, we hope to have Grade 12 course grades for most required courses. This change is one that benefits most applicants. In previous admission cycles, if we were missing a required grade, we would be much less likely to provide an offer of admission. This year, we will be predicting Grade 12 course grades using Grade 11 course grades which will allow us to extend early admission offers to applicants who might not have received them in previous years.

      As long as we expect a student to be able to complete our required courses, we will be able to extend an offer of admission. In previous years, we would not extend an offer of admission in the final round if we did not have a grade for all required Grade 12 courses. This might mean that we have a few more students who fail to meet our required course conditions but it is a risk that we need to take given the circumstances.


  6. Hi professor, thanks for making this blog to give us directions?
    Regarding you said about marks and activities from previous grades, will grade 11 and 10 marks used to calculate the average? I have very consistent grades with an exception of grade 10 English with 82, all others are in high 90s. Will grade 10 English used to calculate average? I wonder if this will be an disadvantage if I am applying to SE.

    What do you mean by “We do not expect to have access to as many Grade 12 course grades by our assessment periods so the Grade 11 course grades may carry slightly more weight than they have in previous admission cycles.” ? If a 4U course mark is available, will the corresponding 3U mark still be used to calculate the average.

    Sorry I got very confused with the admission process under the pandemic, I hope you can shed some light on this.

    I hope you have a great weekend.


    1. Grade 10 course grades will not be used. Although we can access them, we do not download them to our admissions database. If a 4U grade is available for a required course, we will not use the 3U grade at all. It won’t matter if the 4U grade is a final grade or an interim (midterm) grade. If we have a 4U grade, it will be used.


  7. Will the admissions office take a look at grade 11 (uni prerequisites courses) marks if they already have grade 12 midterm marks? I scored a low 80 in physics in grade 11 and I have it this year in the 3rd quad which ends on April 23rd. Secondly, around what dates do you take a look at the final, most updated marks?


    1. If we have a midterm or final grade for a required Grade 12 course, we will not use the Grade 11 course grade. It is not clear whether we will have the grades from April 23rd when we make our final round decisions. If everything happens as planned, we will have them but sometimes grades are delayed. When a course ends, it takes time for grades to be recorded and approved within the high school. These grades then need to be uploaded to the Ontario Universities Application Centre. Then, these grades need to be downloaded into our central database system known as Quest. Finally, the grades need to be transferred over to our admission system used for making admission decisions. The entire process can take many days (and sometimes weeks) to complete from start to finish.

      I hope that we will have as many Grade 12 course grades as possible.


  8. Hi Prof. Bishop, First of all I would like to thank you very much for having this Blog and providing timely updates .It’s been most helpful. I have been following your posts for the last couple of years and used the information for my daughter’s UW application. She was accepted into Mechatronics Engineering, which was her dream. She will be an engineer like myself. So that mission was accomplished successfully. Now I have another mission for my son. Unfortunately he is not interested in engineering. I was wondering if you know of any professors in UW Business and Accounting and Finance departments who might have a Blog like yours to help with admission information. Thanks and Best Regards


    1. I am glad that your daughter is following her dream and pursuing Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. It is a great program that prepares students for some great careers after graduation.

      I am not aware of a blog like mine from anyone within the School of Accounting and Finance, unfortunately. I did manage to find the Admissions Brochure for the School of Accounting and Finance. It lists a number of e-mail addresses and social media accounts on the last page of the brochure that may be useful. I would suggest e-mailing afm@uwaterloo.ca as a starting point for your search.

      I will say that Accounting is a very good profession to pursue. My dad was a management accountant so accounting was something I also considered prior to studying engineering.


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