Information for Prospective Students

For prospective students thinking of applying to Waterloo Engineering programs, there are two websites that you should definitely check out.

The first website is the Waterloo Virtual Fair Website. This website allows you to register for our university fair on October 3rd. The fair will run from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT. There will be morning and afternoon breakout sessions for the Faculty of Engineering. You will have the ability to talk to faculty (including myself), staff, and students about our engineering programs and the admission process. This event is designed to replace our participation in the annual Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. Please note that you should register soon for this event if you have not already done so.

The second website is the Undergraduate Programs Website that allows you to request faculty and program brochures. You may request printed brochures or electronic brochures. I personally recommend the electronic brochures. Not only are they environmentally friendly but they can also be searched easily. <CTRL-F> can save you time when reading electronic brochures. To request a brochure, you will need to provide your name and an e-mail address. A mailing address is also required if you request a printed brochure.

This is a short post but I thought I would leave you with a bit of history about the University of Waterloo. This past summer, our university was deeply saddened by the passing of Douglas Wright, the founding Dean of Engineering and President Emeritus. Outside the engineering building named after Douglas Wright, you can find the following plaque that describes the importance of the building bearing his name. Douglas Wright will always have a prominent place in the history of our unconventional university.

35 thoughts on “Information for Prospective Students”

  1. Hello Prof !

    Do you think grade 11 marks will be weighed more due to the crazy school year we are having? Or will admissions be as it always is?


    1. I would expect Grade 11 course grades to be used a bit more this year in our admission decisions due to the timing of high school course offerings. Whenever possible, we will use Grade 12 course grades to assess students. If Grade 12 course grades are not yet recorded for required courses, we will use Grade 11 course grades to predict Grade 12 course grades.


  2. Hello Professor,

    As an applicant this year, I can not express in words how helpful your blog has been for both advice and easing my anxiety. I have one question right now, and this is about adjustment factors. I have read that each school has their own adjustment factor, is there any way to see an updated list of the adjustment scores?

    Also, when I was attending the Ontario University Fair last year, a Waterloo representative told me the adjustment factor only can bring your score up or down by 2 points maximum. Does this still apply?


    1. We do not publish our adjustment factors. When we were forced to do so previously, we found that publishing the adjustment factors resulted in applicants, their families, and our current students suffering from stress about something they could not control. It is important to keep in mind the purpose of an adjustment factor. It is designed to level the playing field. In other words, the adjustment factor makes the admission process more fair for all applicants.

      An adjustment factor can have a more significant effect upon admission scores than the value you indicate. However, it is important to remember that admission scores have a much wider range of values than admission averages. The admission scores are designed to make admission as fair as possible for all applicants. Often, applicants are concerned that it is impossible to receive an offer of admission to a highly competitive program if they come from a highly adjusted school. This is not the case since we use individual selection. We do not simply take the highest admission scores. We compare applicants against the entire pool of applicants. We use more than numbers to select our applicants.


  3. Hi professor, I am really grateful that you provide this opportunity to talk to prospective students.
    How do we find you on the sessions on October 3?
    Is there a zoom link on the website? The website is just for registering an event.

    I have prepared a list of questions for you. I am looking forward to speak with you about the admission process under COVID 19 and what to do to prepare for university.

    Have a nice day


    1. If you have registered for the event, I believe you will be sent more information prior to the event. The event is using a system that I have not used yet. I will receive training on it later this week. I believe it is the same system being used by other Ontario universities. I believe I will be in the breakout session for Engineering Admissions. I will be one of many people answering questions that day. We have a large team of volunteers scheduled to help out throughout the event.


  4. Say one had more covid-19 related ECs and other ECs in 2020, could they potentially make up for bad grade 11 marks?

    Thanks so much :0


    1. Yes, extra-curricular activities always improve an applicant’s chances of admission. However, there is a limit to what they can do. We would not, for example, waive our minimum course grade requirements or our minimum average requirements. Provided you meet these requirements, extra-curricular activities will result in higher AIF scores and improve your admission score. If the average score on the AIF is somewhere between 1 and 2 out of 5, a student with strong extra-curricular activities could potentially improve their admission score about about 2 to 3 marks. For engineering programs scored by my team last year, I do not believe we awarded an applicant the maximum AIF grade.


  5. Hi, prof Bishop, I really appreciate your blog. It has been a great resource for us to learn about waterloo’s admission process.
    I am planning to apply to SE.
    I wonder if there’s any negative impact if you can’t access my English 4U mark due to the quadmester model? I have English 4U in the last quadmester (mid April to late June). This means that my “mid-term” mark will be available at mid to late May. I am assuming my school won’t upload grades unless it’s mid-term or final because it is a lot of work for the staff. Due to the “Implementation lag” in your previous response, the my 4U English mark could be delayed to late May to be downloaded into Quest. Since the final round usually take place in early to mid-May, you won’t be able to have my English 4U mark. I take English 4U in the last quadmester because my school is very small and there’s not much demand for university-prep courses, so 4U English in the last quad is my only chance in order to accommodate the schedule.

    Would I be rejected simply because you don’t have my 4U English? I know SE is highly competitive and a different system could be used to compare applicants.



    1. In previous admission cycles, if we did not have an English 4U (or equivalent) grade recorded for an applicant at the time of the final round of admission, the applicant would have been rejected. By the final round, we would normally have at least interim (midterm) grades or predicted grades for all required courses for all applicants.

      This is not the case this year. We have been informed that high schools will tell us if students have enrolled in courses but not yet received grades for them. As long as you are enrolled in English 4U (or equivalent), you will be eligible. We will use the English 3U (or equivalent) grade to predict the English 4U (equivalent) grade if we do not have a final grade or an interim (midterm) grade for English 4U (or equivalent).

      If high schools are unable to tell us if students have enrolled in courses, we will move forward with conditional admission offers for applicants using predicted grades. This may mean that we have more applicants failing to meet conditions but we will plan for this situation accordingly.

      I should point out that we are aware that some grades will likely be reported late due to issues related to the ongoing global pandemic. We will do our best to work with schools and school boards to ensure that all applicants are assessed as fairly as circumstances allow.


  6. Hi, professor, thanks for your informative blog.
    The competitiveness of SE reminds me that English Language Test may be a factor in selecting visa applicants.

    Do international students who have completed all 4 years of high school in English have an advantage over international students who transferred to Canada on admission to SE since they don’t need to submit a language test report?

    Do you compare English Language Test scores to select applicants in SE? For example, if two applicants all meet the requirements, do you make a decision based on whether an applicant has higher English Test scores?

    I completed my test last October which is over a year old but it was within the two years limit of UW. The score is a little outdated because my English skills have drastically improved over the past year. With the ongoing pandemic, I am not able to find a place to retake the test and upgrade my score.

    I don’t want my years of preparation for SE in terms of technical skills and competitions to go to waste all because of an “outdated” English Language Test mark


    1. English Language Test scores are only used to ensure that applicants meet our entrance requirements. We do not assess applicants on the basis of their English Language Test scores.

      We do not give a preference to applicants who have completed high school in English.

      However, international students who studied high school in Ontario are assessed directly against other international students who studied high school in Ontario. Internationals students who studied high school outside of Ontario are assessed directly against other international students who studied high school outside of Ontario. This is a side-effect of the application process which makes a distinction between Ontario applicants and non-Ontario applicants. We do our best to ensure that we use the same standards for each pool of applicants.

      As long as your test meets our entrance requirements for engineering programs, I would not recommend retaking it. Your improved English language proficiency will be evident in the interview and on your AIF.


  7. When considering extracurriculars, do you guys consider volunteer hours? I have only submitted 40 hours into the school system because that is all I needed to graduate, but I do have a lot more hours from extracurriculars just not recorded into the school system. If I mention them on the AIF, will that be okay? Or are only the hours submitted to the school count?


    1. We do not look at the hours reported on the school system. We use your AIF to assess your extra-curricular activities. Volunteer hours can certainly represent extra-curricular activity, particularly if the time commitment exceeds that required for a high school diploma.

      Applicants should also keep in mind that we do sometimes verify participation in extra-curricular activities mentioned on the AIF. Many activities can be easily verified by performing a quick search on the internet.


  8. Before my grade 12 year, I always took the “enriched” courses that my school had offered. For grade 12, partly because of the COVID pandemic (i.e. my school can’t offer enriched courses online and I was not sure whether I would be comfortable with going in person) and partially because of the tons of extra stress that taking enriched courses had on me, I decided to switch into the normal “academic” courses. Will this be looked down upon for admissions?


    1. This will not be viewed negatively, particularly in the current context. We typically do not give much weight, if any, to “enriched” course offerings. These “enriched” course offerings tend to only be available to a small subset of applicants lucky enough to attend one of the few schools that offer them.

      We recognize that the global pandemic has had a profound impact upon the educational opportunities available to high school students as they prepare to apply to university. In many regions, access to courses, educational activities, testing, and extra-curricular activities have been limited. We will consider all applicants in the context of the current situation and endeavour to assess each applicant fairly.


  9. Hi Professor,
    Thank you for such an insightful blog. I am a grade 11 student and will be applying to Waterloo next year for computer engineering. I got one of my poems published in a national anthology back in late 2018 and was wondering if that will boost up my AIF score in any way. Also, I work at Kumon Math and Reading center; does that count as valid work experience? If not, does a retail store experience or anything in customer service make a difference especially if it is during the school year?
    Thank you.


    1. We look carefully at all activities listed on the AIF. Activities do not need to be directly related to a program of study. Publishing a poem in a national anthology certainly would distinguish you from other applicants. Anything unique or unusual will often result in a higher AIF score. Experience working for a Kumon Centre is common but I would still list it. There is never any harm in listing things on your AIF provided you have space to do so. Experience working in a retail store or a fast food restaurant demonstrate soft skills that are deemed relevant to our engineering co-op program. Work (or volunteer) experience also makes the process of finding a first co-op position easier.

      The only time an applicant should make a decision about what to report on their AIF is when an applicant is running out of space on the form. I also recommend listing most significant activities first as the first few items listed likely receive more attention than items further down on a list. Much like a resume, you want to highlight the most important things first.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. When you say you’re using Grade 11 marks to predict Grade 12 marks, do you mean you take the Grade 11 average and just sub it in? Or is there like a formula you use to modify the mark?


    1. In previous admission cycles, if we had a grade for a previous course on the same topic, we would use that grade to predict the missing grade. For example, if a student was missing a Grade 12 English grade, we would use the Grade 11 English grade to predict the Grade 12 English grade. Of course, this approach does not work for Grade 12 Calculus since there is no equivalent to this course in Grade 11. We would typically replace the Grade 12 Calculus grade with another math course grade.

      However, we may need to use a different approach this year, depending upon the information that we have available. Obviously, we want whatever approach we use to avoid placing too much weight on a single course and to avoid placing too much weight on Grade 11 courses. The decision on how to compute admission averages will be one that is made once we can assess the quality of the information that we have.


      1. I have the same concerns. You replied to me above that if I am taking the English 4U in the last quadmester, the 3U English mark will be used to predict the 4U mark. What does “predict” mean in this case? I am assuming my average is going to be (my five completed 4U courses + English 3U mark) / 6. Can you elaborate on the mechanisms used to predict a 4U mark? Do you just substitute the 4U English mark with 3U English or is there mechanisms to apply a deduction on the 3U mark?

        You commented in the last admission cycle that “An adjustment factor is only applied when there is statistically significant data that shows recent students from a particular high school (or jurisdiction) do substantially better or worse than the typical applicant to Waterloo Engineering.” So I am assuming “predict” means substituting the 4U English with 3U English, at least for the case of English marks.

        If I am only missing 3U English, does it mean “too much weight on Grade 11 courses?”

        What mechanism you apply could potentially bring collateral damages to students who work hard but had a messed up schedule. I really hope you could shed some light on this as I can still try to convince my advisor to move English earlier to this semester, although it is very unlikely since we are a small school. If I wait after October or November, there could be no chance that I can move my English class to the fall semester since the second quad has already started.


      2. In the example you provide above, since your English 4U grade would not be known, we would predict your English 4U grade using your English 3U grade. There is no way of knowing what your actual English 4U grade will be since we will not have any English 4U grade information at the time of assessment. The best we can do is predict what you would get based on your previous grades.

        Adjustment factors are not applied to individual grades. They are only applied to admission scores which are based on your admission average.

        We wish to avoid placing too much weight on a single Grade 11 course. I wouldn’t want, for example, a single Grade 11 math course being used to predict two (or more) Grade 12 math course grades. I doubt this will be an issue but if we find that it is, we may modify the way that we predict grades to ensure that one grade does not significantly increase or reduce the probability of an admission offer. One potential mechanism for preventing this from occurring would be to use a Grade 11 average instead of a grade from a single Grade 11 course. We will examine the data we have at various stages of our assessment process to make the best possible assessments at the time.

        It is important to remember that all offers of admission to Waterloo Engineering are conditional offers. If we predict that you will get an 85% in English 4U (using your English 3U grade) and you actually receive a grade of 65%, the admission offer would be revoked.

        An applicant’s schedule will have no significant effect upon our admissions decisions given all of the steps we are taking. We will work with applicants, schools, and school boards to ensure that all applicants are assessed fairly.


  11. Hi Professor Bishop!

    Is it possible to receive offers from two programs (e.g. Computer Science and Software Engineering)?


    1. Yes, if you apply to both Computer Science and Software Engineering, you may receive offers from both of the programs, one of the programs or neither of the programs.

      Applicants will only receive one offer to engineering programs. The Computer Science program is offered by the School of Computer Science which is not a part of the Faculty of Engineering.


  12. Hello Professor!

    I have two questions if you are not too busy.

    1. Is your admissions team still planning on sending out 50% of offers in the march round this year?
    2. If I have interpreted what you have said so far correctly if I have Physics in my last quadmester and the mark is not sent in time. You will use my Grade 11 physics mark as a placeholder? Is this true?

    Thank you


    1. Our early round goal will likely be 50% of all admission offers. In some programs, we can hit this target reasonably well. In other programs, it is more challenging to achieve.

      You are correct that we would use your Grade 11 Physics grade as the prediction for your Grade 12 Physics grade if we do not have an interim or final grade for Grade 12 Physics.


  13. Hey Professor Bishop!

    I have heard that you are only able to list ec’s on the AIF that have been done in grade 10 or later. During the summer between grade 9 and 10 I did a lot of volunteer work. Would I still be able to list it?



    1. We will take into account all information listed on the AIF. We generally give less weight to activities that are older but if the activities are significant, they may still help improve your AIF score.

      I typically encourage students to list most recent activities and most significant activities first on the AIF to ensure that they get the attention they deserve.


  14. Hi, professor,
    I have a question on your comment above “If we predict that you will get an 85% in English 4U (using your English 3U grade) and you actually receive a grade of 65%, the admission offer would be revoked.”

    Does it mean my 4U mark must be HIGHER than 3U mark to ensure the offer is not revoked?
    I currently have 96 in 3U English, does it mean if I get 85 or 90 in 4U English, my offer will be revoked?
    4U English is much harder than 3U English, so it is usually common to get a grade lower than 3U English.

    In this case, can you specify a RANGE that my 4U English has to reach to ensure the offer is not revoked? From what I heard from current engineering students, your 4U mark must be higher than 80 or 85, but they are not sure.

    Can you provide some details on this? It will be very disappointing to get an offer revoked.



    1. I simply meant that your offer would be revoked if your official 4U grade falls below the 70% minimum grade requirement. If we used 85% as your predicted grade and your official 4U grade is 70%, your offer would stand (provided you meet the average requirement and any other conditional requirements).

      The minimum grade in any required secondary school course for an engineering program is 70%. The minimum admission average for a secondary school program is 85%. We sometimes elect to not revoke offers for students who fail to meet one of our conditions but there must usually be extenuating circumstances. For example, if a student received a grade of 69% in English 4U due to missing classes for a surgery, we would likely waive the condition.

      Every year, we have a handful of offers that we revoke. We do not extend many offers to students that are just barely meeting our requirements so it is rare for students to fail to meet our conditions. We do keep them in place in case students drop out of a required course or simply stop studying. Students who have not obtained 70% in a required course are simply not prepared for our undergraduate program.

      We also waive conditions for a handful of students but there must be clear evidence of extenuating circumstances.


  15. Hi Professor,

    Thank you for updating us! When I changed my timetable it shifted my courses around, and there is no availability for English at my school right now. Would taking a required course through an online program (ILC, Virtual High School, etc) or night school result in an adjustment in my average? Would I have to explain on the AIF if I do?

    Thanks so much!


  16. Hello professor
    Software engineering is so competitive to get admission, but few of those get transferred to CS before graduating (and take advantage of credits earned). Is this not unfair to those who tried initially but couldn’t get through.
    During these unprecedented times do you think admission average might come down a bit?


    1. I will start by pointing out that very few students transfer out of SE. The percentage of students that transfer out is similar to the percentage of students that transfer out of any engineering program.

      We have no way of preventing students from transferring out of a program after starting the program. At first, it might seem slightly unfair that students apply for a competitive program and then transfer out. However, we shouldn’t blame students for changing their minds about their studies. The whole purpose of university is to prepare students for their future. Often, this involves discovering interests and making difficult decisions.

      In many ways, one could argue the same problem exists in the working world. Applicants apply for a very popular job. One applicant is given the job. After working in the company for a month or two, the applicant quits upon realizing the job was not a good fit. Is this unfair to the other job applicants? Perhaps, but it would not be more fair to anyone to require an unhappy employee to continue working in a job they do not like.


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