Chances of Admission for Fall 2021

It is once again time for my most popular blog post of the year. In this blog post, I will attempt to answer the question:

“What are my chances of receiving an offer of admission to an engineering program?”

This is never an easy question to answer since every applicant is different.  For the purpose of selecting applicants, good grades are the most important consideration but we also look at many other factors including previous employment, volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, skills, and notable achievements.  We use grades as a starting point for any assessment but we look beyond grades to select applicants who we feel 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 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 brochures.  I continued this transition with my blog posts in 2018 (Chances of Admission for Fall 2019) and 2019 (Chances of Admission for Fall 2020).  The graphs in these blog posts are based on admission data from the previous admission cycle. The graphs only consider applicant data from the Ontario Secondary School system. If you are an applicant applying from outside Ontario, the admission offer probabilities may be lower or higher.

Using the Ontario Secondary School applicant data for the Fall 2020 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

These groupings are the same as the previous two cycles. Clearly, not all programs grouped together have exactly the same admission offer probabilities. However, programs included in a particular group tend to have similar admission offer probabilities.

The first graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for Canadians and permanent residents applying from the Ontario Secondary School system.  The admission offer probabilities seem to have decreased slightly this year but this may be an artifact of noisy data and curve fitting. We did see a slight increase in applications from Ontario Secondary School students last year so this might also have contributed to the change. The resulting graph is shown below:

The second graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for visa students applying from the Ontario Secondary School system.  The admission offer probabilities for visa students increased substantially this past year. Due to the global pandemic, we gave out more admission offers in an attempt to meet our admission targets for visa students. The admission offer probabilities are very similar to those for Canadian and permanent resident applicants this year. I expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future.   The resulting graph is shown below:

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 similar approach to the one I used last year. I used a free software add-on to Excel from SRS1 Software to interpolate data points throughout the admission average range of 85% to 100% using a one-way spline function.  This year’s range of admission averages was reduced since we did not accept any student with a decision average below 85% this past year. Using this approach, I was able to produce relatively smooth curves that are monotonically increasing as the admission average increases.

It is important to remember that these graphs may not accurately reflect the Fall 2021 admission cycle as the Fall 2020 admission cycle was highly unusual due to the global pandemic. Until we receive our final application data in February 2021, we won’t know if the application pool is similar to last year’s application pool.  I do expect our application numbers to be slightly lower this year than last year. This will likely mean that applicants will have a higher admission offer probability this year than last year.

We are unable to recruit students the way we normally do. Our best recruitment tool is a visit to our campus. Prospective students often comment that they made their decision to come to our university after visiting the campus. Often, prospective students do not realize how much the Region of Waterloo has to offer. The campus is within walking distance of restaurants and cafes. The ION light rail transit connects our campus to shopping and entertainment venues as well as the vibrant Uptown Waterloo area.

We are known for having state-of-the-art classrooms and the Adel Sedra Student Design Centre. Our engineering buildings are so new, many of them haven’t been named after anyone! We simply call them E5, E6, and E7. Here is an interesting piece of trivia for you. Carl Pollock Hall was previously known as E4 and Douglas Wright Engineering was previously known as E1.

We also find that our students are our best ambassadors. We really wish you could meet them in person. Our university has so much more to offer than just academic programs with a strong reputation. While the co-op program certainly does result in a degree of competitiveness among our students, it is important to remember that our students do find ways to socialize, relax, and have fun. It is a university where everyone finds a way to fit into the community. Our annual Engineering Day is a perfect example of some of the activities unique to our Waterloo Engineering Community.

Applicants should not attempt to not read too much into these admission probabilities. The data can be scary if you don’t fully understand it. It is important to remember that a significant percentage of the applicants not given offers of admission are applicants who did not complete their required Admission Information Form (AIF) or attempt the optional interview. It may also be the case that applicants were not considered for a reason (other than grades) or that applicants withdrew their application for admission prior to an offer being granted. If I eliminated applicants with incomplete applications or withdrawn applications from the data set, the probabilities of admission would shift upward dramatically.

101 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2021”

  1. What do you mean by “It may also be the case that applicants were not considered for a reason (other than grades)” ? Does this usually apply to visa students because we may not get the study permit? I suspect because there are so many risks of accepting a visa student, even though a student may have good grades and ECs, they still may not be considered

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ability of an applicant to get a study permit is irrelevant. This is not factored into an admission decision. Study permits can only be obtained after receiving an offer of admission.

      There are many reasons why an applicant with a high average might not receive an offer of admission. Some that come to mind are software applicants lacking software development experience, applicants not providing requested documentation (transcripts, test scores, etc.), or applicants failing an integrity check.

      Over the past two years, I have had a few applicants apply for Software Engineering with very high averages and no programming experience. The Software Engineering program makes it clear that some software development experience is required for admission. An applicant without programming experience will not be offered admission, regardless of average.


      1. Just a follow up
        What do you mean by “failing an integrity check?” There are always some innocent students in the universities who didn’t pass the originality test for their essays simply because they didn’t do the references and bibliography the right way. So I want to ask how should I properly record my ECs to make sure they pass the integrity check? What kind of proof do I have to provide to the admission committee? Do you have any tips?

        Some of the EC I did have very little proof. For example, the results of a competition I did was listed in a huge list on a website with thousands of other international teams. It is very difficult to find our team without the team code. So if I state our prize on AIF, you might not be able to find it on the internet. I emailed and they tell me I don’t have to provide any proof for the ECs I did.

        I also noticed that UW doesn’t have a system to upload reference letters or to record any references. In US, they have a common app system for professors and employees to upload proof and reference letters for a particular activity. Can you provide some suggestions on how to upload proofs and reference letters for my application

        My very best regards


      2. When completing the optional interview, there is a check to ensure that you do not attempt to manipulate the system to extend the duration of the interview or select a question that you prefer. The system records browser refreshes and elapsed time. Using this data, we can tell if an applicant has gained an unfair advantage.

        Our university also checks for falsified information on transcripts, tests, and admission information forms. There are checks and balances to try to ensure that we do not falsely accuse an applicant of misconduct. We are very conservative with our assessments. We must have substantial proof that an applicant has done something wrong.

        We do not use references in our admission processes. It would be impossible for us to verify every extra-curricular activity. We have over 12,000 applicants and most applicants list several activities on their application. We can do spot checks or we can investigate if we are informed of a reason to do so. Ontario universities share information on integrity issues so if one university reports an issue, it can affect an applicant’s chances at all universities. This is a strong motivation to only provide truthful information on your application.

        It is my understanding that there have even been a few students kicked out of programs at universities during their first term of studies due to application integrity issues. The cases often involved the falsification of transcripts and/or test scores.


    1. There are applicants who are accepted without completing the interview. In this sense, the interview is optional.

      Applicants who attempt the interview improve their admission scores. The interview score is added to your admission score. For highly competitive programs, it would be a mistake to not complete the interview.


  2. what are the percentage of international students in the SE program. I heard that the cap for the government is 10% or 15%, but I am not sure. Can you give some details on this?


    1. There is no cap on international student enrollment in our programs to the best of my knowledge. We certainly have a smaller percentage of international students than competing universities. In many respects, our co-op program is the limiting factor for increasing the intake of international students. While we have many co-op placements that will accept both domestic and international students, some co-op employers have positions that are limited only to domestic students. Often, this is either due to security concerns or funding concerns. The government offers grants to co-op employers to subsidize employment of domestic co-op students.

      During the Fall 2020 admission cycle, our target for international students in Software Engineering was set at 15 students. This represented approximately 14% of the incoming class. I believe we exceeded our target but the final numbers are not yet known.


  3. I’ve been trying to ask Waterloo admissions through email but haven’t received a response. I know that Waterloo doesn’t prefer courses taken outside of school, if I took one elective out of school (summer) just for learning and for knowledge, and in terms of percentage marks if it tends to be in my highest 6 average. Is there some way for me to let Waterloo know to look at my next highest mark instead of the elective taken in the summer.


    1. We would automatically calculate your admission average in the way that benefits you most. If we felt we needed to apply an adjustment to a summer school grade, we would use another course in your average if it benefited you. In many cases, we do not apply adjustments to summer school grades. We look at whether the grade is consistent with other course grades when making our assessments. The same is true for courses taken outside of regular day school. We, of course, need to reserve the right to apply an adjustment in cases where we see strong evidence that an applicant has taken a course in the summer, online, or at a private school for the sole purpose of improving the applicant’s average.

      With the ongoing global pandemic, we expect many students to have challenges taking courses during regular day school. Online courses taken through an accredited school or school board will not be subject to any adjustments this year. We will look carefully at summer school courses but most are unlikely to be subject to adjustments. Repeat penalties will be applied in cases where they are warranted for courses that have been retaken.


  4. Followup on the integrity issue.

    Let’s say it was an honest mistake, and I misremembered what I had scored on a contest (ex. Waterloo math contest) and wrote a number that was not my actual score on the AIF. If it was checked that the numbers didn’t match up, would my application be discarded immediately/suspended immediately? Or would I have a chance to explain myself?


    1. We would typically look for a pattern of significant mistakes. Honest mistakes happen. Typographical errors happen. Of course, if you said you were the top student on the Euclid Competition and we found out you didn’t even participate, that might be a problem. Code of conduct issues can also be a problem these days. There have been cases in both Canada and the U.S. where admitted students have had offers revoked due to conducting unbecoming of a student.

      In most cases, the types of things that catch our attention are things like forged transcripts and forged English language tests. Extra-curriculars have an impact on admission but the impact is still relatively minor. Forged grades on a transcript could have a major impact on an admission decision. We try to look for anything that would make a big difference.

      Also, while I mentioned the Euclid Competition, it is only an example. In practice, we don’t get to see the scores prior to making our admission decisions in the Faculty of Engineering. We can only view scores from previous years.


  5. Why do you believe the averages jumped so high this year? Do you think it has to do with the fact that high school grades couldn’t drop after march of last year during the lockdown?


    1. The averages reported on the graphs are decision averages, not final averages. The global pandemic would have had at most a small impact on most of the averages reported. The final averages would likely have been higher.

      Also, I would not characterize the increase in averages as high. The slope of the curve is steep in the range of interest. A 1% increase in average can often result in a 10% to 20% increase in the probability of admission.

      I also think it is important to understand that while the admission probability for higher averages seemed to drop, the admission probability for lower averages was largely unchanged. What this shows is that we are placing less emphasis on grades and more emphasis on other things. As I indicated, we always have a number of high average applicants who do not feel the need to complete the Admission Information Form or attempt the optional interview. We do not consider applicants that have not submitted an Admission Information Form.


  6. Great Blog. Have you seen a drop of in applications for the 2020 year due to students deciding to take a gap year due to Covid? Do you anticipate higher competition for acceptance for 2021 admissions due to this? Any advice on adapting to these circumstances?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. During the 2020 admission cycle, we saw a slight increase in domestic applications and a decrease in visa applications. Overall, the total number of applications was similar to the previous year.

      It is very difficult to predict the future but my current expectation is that we will likely see a decline in the total number of applications for the 2021 admission cycle. I think it is likely that visa applications will decrease substantially since we are unable to recruit internationally. I think it is also likely that domestic applications will decrease slightly as more Grade 12 students decide to take a “victory lap” to avoid the possibility of starting their undergraduate studies during a pandemic.

      Also, it is important to understand demand from another perspective. Many universities missed their admission targets for Fall 2020. Demand for students will be high in Fall 2021. This essentially means that the 2021 admission cycle may be a very good one for applicants looking to get into university.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Mr. Bishop,
    I am writing to ask one question about admissions.

    I attained almost a 95% overall average in grade 11, and I have perfect results in grade 12 so far. Also, I have lots of volunteering experience and I participate in community events. I also plan to complete the AIF, optional interview and participate in some Waterloo contests.

    Based on my description above, do you think I have high chances to get admission into computer engineering or computer science at the University of Waterloo?

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on what you have described, I would expect the chance of receiving an offer of admission for Computer Engineering to be very good. An applicant with a 95% average and some extra-curricular activities would typically receive an offer of admission. Last year, we admitted many applicants to Computer Engineering with averages below 95%. If you complete your admission information form (AIF) and attempt the optional interview, an offer would be highly likely.

      I cannot comment on the chances of acceptance into Computer Science. The Computer Science program is offered by the School of Computer Science within the Faculty of Mathematics. I only review applications for engineering programs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Mr. Bishop,
    I currently do not have calculus on my grade 12 timetable but am wait listed to get it. I am a tdsb student so I am also doing quadsemesters. My question is will I be able to apply to engineering without technically have calculus on my timetable?


    1. The system will allow you to apply for any program, regardless of your qualifications and the courses you are taking. This being said, you should only apply to programs where you are expected to meet the qualifications. All of our engineering programs require Grade 12 Calculus. When we do our final round of admissions, if we determine that an applicant is missing a required course and the applicant has not registered for the course in their final term, the applicant will be ineligible for admission. I would suggest trying to take the course online if it does not fit into your timetable. Many school boards offer our required courses online.

      If for any reason, you are unable to take Grade 12 Calculus this year, another option is to take another year to finish your Grade 12 courses. Many applicants take an extra year to finish their studies. Taking an extra year is unlikely to affect your chances of admission in any way.


  9. Hi Mr. Bishop,
    Thanks for the post and I have a couple of questions for you.

    I did not get a very good average for my Grade 11, however, my grade 12 marks have been decent up till now. Will that affect my admission?

    Also, for ECE and SYDE, which one is harder to get into?


    1. Low Grade 11 marks may make it less likely to receive an early offer of admission. By the final admission round, the likelihood of Grade 11 marks having a significant effect upon admission decisions is low.

      For domestic applicants, SYDE is a slightly more competitive program. For international applicants, the ECE programs (COMPE and ELE) are more competitive. The competitiveness is a function of the demand of the programs and the supply of applicants. On the demand side of the equation, the SYDE program wants first year class sizes of approximately 90 students and the ECE programs want first year class sizes of approximately 120 students. On the supply side of the equation, SYDE is known in Canada but it is less known outside of Canada. The Systems Design Engineering program is not a common one so international students do not always know to apply to it.

      However, I would caution you to not use probabilities of admission offers to determine which program to choose. You should always choose the program you want most. If you are not studying the program you want, you will not be motivated to succeed. Also, I believe the choice of program is more important than the choice of university. In general, applicants are best served by getting into the program of their choice, even if it means going to a university that is not their first choice. Happiness is an important consideration when applying for a university program that will help determine your future.


  10. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    Hope you are doing well!

    I wanted to know what’s the summer school adjustment like for this year? Is it the same as before where individual course will be adjusted if there is an inconsistency between grade 11 and grade 12. For example, if I finished with a 75 in English 3U and a 89 in English 4U, will my English 4U mark act as a 85? Also, is is the same for the Math Faculty? Please let me know


    1. I am not sure where you obtained the information regarding summer school adjustments. We do not disclose how we adjust summer school grades. The only thing we have disclosed is that adjustments can be applied to summer school grades when we observe a significant difference between previous results and summer school grades. Generally, a significant difference is more than 10%. The amount of the adjustment applied is not advertised. It is also subject to change from one admission cycle to the next.

      I can only speak to the process used by the Faculty of Engineering. I am not aware of the process used by the Faculty of Math.


  11. Hello Mr. Bishop. If I apply for early consideration and I do not receive an offer, will I still be considered for the main round of admission or will this be detrimental to my chances?


    1. All applicants will be automatically considered in our early admission round which happens during the last week of March. Applicants that do not receive an early offer of admission will be considered a second time in our final admission round that happens during the first week in May.


      1. Hi, Mr. Bishop thank you for your answer. Just wondering if you could answer one more for me.

        I follow the Ontario Curriculum and I am applying to OUAC from the 101 application. I have taken the ACT a few months ago. Is there a way I can send the scores to Waterloo?


      2. There is space in the Admission Information Form for other information. You can always list your ACT scores in this space. It should be noted that SAT scores and ACT scores are not required or recommended for Ontario secondary school applicants.


      3. Hi Mr. Bishop. When you say they are “not recommended”, does this state that including these scores will be detrimental to my application?


  12. Thank you Professor Bill for such an informative and helpful blog !! I am Kunj Patel from Gujarat(India) and am studying in the Indian Curriculum (CBSE ). I see that in the graph for visa applicants you have mentioned percentages. But won’t those percentages vary from country to country. I mean to say that a 95% in Indian curriculum is very different from a 95% in Canadian curriculum. So how should I look at this graph ??
    I am keen on applying to systems design engineering. I scored 97% in class 10,96% in class 11 and 96% in class 12 midterms . Do I have a good chance of getting admitted into SYDE as an international student ??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We do see significant variation in grades from one country to the next. We even notice variations from one region within a country to another. This is particularly true for a large country such as India. We have experience assessing applicants from all over the world so we are able to make informed decisions about our applicants. However, grade variations do make it difficult for applicants to self-assess their probabilities of admission.

      It is important to remember that grades are only the starting point for an assessment. We rely heavily upon the admission information form and the (optional) interview to make individual admission decisions. For programs such as Systems Design Engineering, the admission information form plays a significant role in admission decisions. The applicant with the highest grades does not always get admitted. This makes sense, particularly given the grade variation that you mention in your comment.

      One interesting thing to note about Systems Design Engineering is that the international applicant pool tends to be smaller than some of the other competitive engineering disciplines. The program is a very good one but it is not well known outside of Canada. For this reason, I would say that international applicants have a slightly higher probability of admission to the program than they might expect. It is still a competitive process but the probability of receiving an offer of admission is likely very good for an international applicant that has relatively good grades, a well-written admission information form, and a reasonably good interview.


  13. Hi Professor Bishop,

    I just had a quick question about the math contests this year. Normally, I am a very strong student in math as I have finished Advanced Functions with a 98 average. However, it has been over a year since I have completed the course and due to the circumstances of being at home for several months, my motivation has significantly decreased and I have been stressed for the upcoming CSMC. I have noticed that this year, participation is valued higher than marks and that is why I have decided to take part this year. If I do not end up getting a good score, will this affect my application to engineering considering I have a high math average?


    1. I always encourage participation in competitions such as the CSMC. Students participating in competitions often do better in their courses which can improve their chances of admission. Competitions help motivate students to prepare and study.

      We do not receive the scores for the CSMC in time to consider the scores in our selection process. Even if we did, a low score would not diminish your chances of being admitted. We would assume that you simply had a “bad day”. We try to avoid any single event from preventing an applicant from being admitted. Your high math average is much more important to us in the Faculty of Engineering as it demonstrates sustained high performance in mathematics.

      I cannot comment on how the competition scores are used outside of the Faculty of Engineering. The School of Computer Science may do something entirely different.


  14. Thank you for the informative post, Mr. Bishop. I had a few questions for you regarding admissions.

    1. I have SCH4U and MCV4U in my fourth quadmester. Because you will presumably not receive my marks for these required courses, is it safe to assume you will use my SCH3U and MHF4U marks as equivalents when calculating my admission average? Will not having these courses put me at a disadvantage over an applicant who has completed more of the required courses by the end of their 3rd quadmester OR an applicant whose school uses the ‘normal’ two-semester system.

    2. I plan to apply to Software Engineering. I know that software engineering requires programming experience. I got a 98% in ICS4U last year; would that satisfy this requirement? I’m also the programmer for my VEX Robotics team, and I’ve participated in a few hackathons. I don’t want to waste my engineering application by being deemed ineligible.

    I really appreciate any help you can provide.


    1. We have not yet decided how we will predict grades for this year. It is most likely that we would use SCH3U to predict SCH4U. The calculus course is more difficult to predict since there is no Grade 11 equivalent of MCV4U. Based on what I have heard, many applicants will be in a very similar situation to yours. I do not expect students in this situation to be disadvantaged in any significant way.

      If you have taken ICS4U and you have had some involvement in various competitions related to programming, you would more than satisfy the requirement for modular software development experience. Curiously enough, the grade obtained in ICS4U is less important than the fact that you completed the course. Our historical data shows that students with much lower grades in ICS4U are also more successful in software development when compared to students with no prior experience. The key is repeated exposure to programming concepts.

      I would encourage an application, particularly this year. While offers of admission to SE are often difficult to obtain, this year is highly unpredictable. Some applicants may get pleasant surprises as I expect application numbers to be slightly lower than previous years.


  15. Thank you for the informative post, Mr. Bishop.

    In grade 11, I got 100% in TEJ3M0. In grade 12 (Quad 1), I got 95% in ICS4U0. I have TEJ4M0 in the last quadmester. Would my grade 11 TEJ3M0 mark be used as the elective over ICS4U0 when determining my average as it is higher? I will be completing TEJ4M0 in the last quad so that mark would not be available during the time decisions are made.


    1. If we have a 4U or 4M course that we can use for your 6th course in your average, we will use it. Otherwise, we will predict a grade for your 6th course. We only use predictions when actual grades do not exist.


  16. Dear Professor,
    My average marks are 82% also I have good programming skills + having experience of working in many international projects. What do you think is there any chance to be selected for the Computer Engineering program?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hello Professor Bishop,
    Upon reading your response to the most recent comment on this post, I had a quick question. Your response was, verbatim, “We require a minimum average of 85% in your required courses”.
    Sir, I passed 3U chem with an average of 83 and I have chemistry this year in my last quadmester. Will my application be automatically disregarded since I don’t meet the minimum average of one of the prereqs of computer engineering?
    If I’m successful in getting my course switched to the third quad, will I then stand a chance?
    Appreciate your help, prof.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spoke with my team this morning. We just finished recording the interview questions for this admission cycle. We are on track for inviting students to complete their interviews sometime prior to the holiday break. I would expect the first invites to go out on December 21st, if not earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    Just several quick questions.
    Do you have a cap for the number of international students getting admitted?
    Also, I was wondering if the admission process is the same for international students and domestic students, why would the probability of getting an offer be different, as it is shown in the graph?
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are practical limits on the number of students we can admit. We currently do not have the ability to provide offers of admission to all qualified applicants to our programs.

      Domestic applicants do not compete against international applicants for available spaces. The probability of being offered admission is a function of available spaces, applicant demand for a program, and other factors. One factor that is often forgotten is that grading schemes differ greatly from one curriculum to the next. A grade of 95% in one curriculum may be much better than a grade of 98% in another curriculum. Unfortunately, the probability curves cannot convey some of the nuances of the admission process.

      The probability curves are simply provided so that applicants can have reasonable expectations of the admission process. Applicants need to know that admission is not guaranteed. I think it is also important for applicants to know that we look at more than simply grades in our assessments. This should be clear from the probability graphs. Otherwise, the graphs would be plots of a step function.

      The probability graphs also help demonstrate the importance of completing the Admission Information Form and the interview.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have the same concern.

        Why international students only take up around 15% of the space according to the Waterloo headcount web page? This is disproportionate to other universities in Canada and even to other faculties in Waterloo. Why does the engineering website say “visa students have a lower rate of acceptance.” Other universities assess students based on merits. If waterloo assesses students based on merits, there should be more international students, not less, as this is the case in McGill, UBC, u of t, as well as a lot of the US universities? The reason for more international students is that they accept the best students around the world.

        This is also true in the Math and CS program in Waterloo. Let’s exclude the case in fall 2020 as the faculty of math clearly over-admit. In 2019, the faculty of Math have 1249 students in total with 526 being visa students (almost 40%) while engineering has 2636 students in total with only 329 visa students (12%). In 2018, Engineering have 12.6% while math have 53.4%. The latter seems to be a more even distribution. There seems to be a reason behind the unusual percentage of international students. The acceptance rate for each pool should be the same. Would you please elaborate on this?

        Why would someone without citizenship or PR status have a lower probability of acceptance into Waterloo Engineering as indicated on the engineering website? Why do Canadian students have a higher probability of acceptance? Please note that the topic of discussion is the acceptance rate, so we are excluding the factors of difficulties of accepting offers such as visas and finance.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is true that we have a smaller percentage of international students in the Faculty of Engineering when compared to many other universities in Canada and other faculties at the University of Waterloo. It is false to say that we do not assess international students based on their merits. You assertion that we should have more international students assumes that our international applicant pool is equally strong when compared to our domestic applicant pool.

        It is important to remember that not all applicants meet our minimum admission requirements and applicants tend to apply to our programs of highest demand. International applicants only represent 20.9% of our applicants that meet our minimum admission requirements. Domestic applicants are much more likely to accept our offers of admission so it is not a surprise that international students comprise somewhere between 12% and 15% of our engineering student population.

        I cannot provide meaningful comments on international student percentages in other universities in Canada or other faculties at the University of Waterloo. I would hope that higher percentages reflect strong international demand.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Hello,

    I recently finished a university calculus course in grade 12 and predict my grade will be less than ideal (mid to high 70s). I received a 93 in grade 12 calculus and my admission average is in the mid-90s. Will the low grade in the university course hurt my admission chances for mechanical engineering?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. A grade in the high 70s in university in a Calculus course is a very typical grade. It would be roughly equivalent to a high 80’s grade in a high school course. I would not expect the grade to affect your chance of admission in a meaningful way.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you so much for the informative post Mr. Bishop!! It’s a bit late but I wanted to ask a few questions if it would be okay.

    As for 2021 Admissions, are you seeing any trends of inflated averages by any chance due to COVID? I am a visa applicant and I would have a 94-95 average, but for some schools including my school, averages has gone up from 1% to 5%, so I was wondering if that trend also appears on admissions, so that admission averages for this year would be higher or about the same as previous years, although application numbers would be lower.

    Also, as a visa applicant, would I have a decent chance of getting in CE given that I would maintain a 95 average and have some quality ECs? Although I think I would have a higher shot of getting into SYDE because as you have mentioned, SYDE is less competitive than CE for international applicants, after taking a look at the course brochure I am more inclined towards CE. Would my chances of getting in CE be slimmer as a visa applicant when compared to a domestic applicant?

    Thanks always for all the posts regarding admissions!! It helps a lot for applicants like myself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not yet looked at the grade data for this admission cycle. I will start to look at this data in February once all of the applications have been submitted.

      I have noticed in my own courses that the move to online teaching helps some students and hurts others. Some of the students typically at the top of the class have struggled with assignment workload. Some of the students who typically struggle with final exams are finding that they do better with increased emphasis on assignments.

      Clearly, the pandemic has had a significant effect on some students. There are students whose families have been directly impacted by the pandemic. They have no doubt had to focus their attention on more urgent matters. Some students are recovering from the effects of the virus. Others are trying to care for family members as they recover from the effects of the virus. Sadly, more students will face these challenges in the coming months. My best suggestion is to focus on the things you can control and do the best that you can under the circumstances.

      I have been avoiding commenting on applicant chances of admission. Quite honestly, I have no idea what the applicant pool will look like this year until I start reviewing applicant grades. In previous years, a visa applicant with a 95% average would have a very good chance of admission to both COMPE and SYDE.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi:)

    On the black viewbook(University of Waterloo)(page 40), It only says that we need 5 courses. but the Youtube video on Wasterloo Engineering Youtube Channel (Posted on 2020. 11. 12) says We need 5 plus one additional course. Which one is the true?.

    I would like to know if Nova Scotia students also need an additional course.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Course requirements vary by curriculum and by region. My suggestion to prospective applicants is always to use the Admission Requirements website to determine the admission requirements for the program you are interested in studying. I did a quick search today for engineering program requirements for students from Nova Scotia. Here are the requirements for engineering programs:

      Required courses
      Pre-Calculus 12 — A minimum grade of 70 is required
      Calculus 12 — A minimum grade of 70 is required
      Chemistry 12 Academic — A minimum grade of 70 is required
      English 12 Academic — A minimum grade of 70 is required
      Physics 12 Academic — A minimum grade of 70 is required

      General requirements
      High school diploma with five academic courses at the Grade 12 level.
      Repeated courses may be taken into consideration depending on the program.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Mr. Bishop!

    I’m a grade 12 student and I have around a 93% average. I have some volunteer experience and some significant extracurriculars. I participated in a few waterloo math contests such as the CSMC and from previous years. I am also going to complete the AIF and interview. Based on my description, do you think I have a chance to get an admission from system design engineering at Waterloo?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All applicants that meet our minimum requirements have a chance of receiving an offer of admission. I cannot comment on whether your chances are excellent, good, or poor as I do not have enough data to do so at this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Waterloo AFM has claimed on their website that they will not consider any revised or additional grades received after February 28. This means that Quads 3 & 4 won’t be used for admissions. Does Engineering have similar plans? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When assessing Engineering applications, we intend to use all grade data received by the time of our assessments. I expect that we will have some (if not all) of the grades for the third quadmester by the time of our final round of admissions. I do not anticipate having any grades from the fourth quadmester.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Mr. Bishop!!

      Just wanted to ask you about the interview. As for the AIF, I’ve heard it’s going to be marked by 0.5 (3, 3.5, 4, etc.). Is this the same for the interview, so that it would range all the way from 0.5 to 3?

      Also, just curious about the application process; would the admissions team that would evaluate my AIF also be checking my interview, or would there be to separate groups that would evaluate my AIF and my interview respectively??

      Thanks always for helping out applicants like myself!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The information you have is incorrect. The AIF and the interview carry approximately the same weight. They have had the same weight for several admission cycles now. The minimum step is 0.5 between grades.

        It would be very unusual for your AIF and your interview to be assessed by the same person. If this happened, it would be the case that your interview was assessed by a member of the admissions team. Most interviews are assessed by a team of faculty and staff volunteers.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Hello Mr. Bishop,
    I apologize if this information is on the website, I had to tried to find it earlier but was unable to. For students outside of the province, (myself being in Alberta) I was wondering if there are opportunities to provide newer updated marks after submitting the AIF? For example, if I were to submit the AIF today and my Q3 final marks came out before May, would I have the opportunity to send in those updated marks?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, out-of-province students are encouraged to submit grade updates to an Admissions Officer whenever their grades change. If you are an out-of-province student and you have new grades (final, midterm, interim, or predicted), you should send these grade updates via e-mail. There is a bit more information on this process in our most recent Admissions Tips & Tricks Part II video on YouTube.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi Mr. Bishop,

    I saw your reply to a previous commenter about how the optional interview checks for refreshes & elapsed time. When I did my optional interview earlier this month, Kira Talent ran into a problem uploading my response to the first question (the upload % went up very slowly by about 1% every couple of seconds, and when it got to 99%/100% it mentioned that there was an error). As a result, I was prompted to restart the interview. Is the system able to differentiate between purposeful refreshes & accidents? If not, is there anyone I can contact to clear up the situation?

    Also one more thing – is it true that a student taking the IB diploma program in Ontario will have a general “IB adjustment factor” (if it exists) applied to their mark in place of the one corresponding to their school?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a great question. The Kira Talent system is surprisingly good at distinguishing technical issues requiring a refresh and users trying to abuse the system. It records the number of refreshes, the number of minutes elapsed, and the number of technical issues encountered. In previous cycles, when the admission system ran into a technical difficulty, the refresh count would be 0 despite a user needing to restart the system due to a technical issue. All of the data is reviewed by myself to verify that the data is indicative of a serious issue. I can either flag an interview as suspicious or flag it as acceptable. In other words, there are checks and balances to the system.

      If a school has an adjustment factor other than the average, the adjustment factor for that school is applied.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the blog, sir!

        Sorry, just to clarify the last question. If my school in Ontario does not have an adjustment factor, and I’m taking the IB diploma at the school, is the IB adjustment applied?

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Hello Professor,
    Will the ‘Additional Information’ section on the ‘About You – Part B’ page be visible to the person grading my AIF or only to the internal admissions team?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hey Mr. Bishop,

    Thanks for this detailed and informative post. I’ve got a question regarding how the admissions committee will view my grade average. Particularly, I’m wondering if my grades will be assessed individually or as an overall average. If assessed individually, will having an engineering prerequisite course grade that’s significantly lower than my other grades have a negative impact on my admission chances (even if my overall average is within the competitive range of my intended engineering program)?

    Thanks in advance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We look at both individual course grades and entrance averages when assessing applicants. Individual course grades are required to be 70% or higher. Entrance averages are required to be 85% or higher. For our most competitive programs, a low course grade in a required course that is closely related to the discipline of study can be a concern. For most engineering programs, course grades that meet the requirements are sufficient.

      If your entrance average is competitive, it is unlikely that any of your course grades are a significant concern.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Hello Mr. Bishop,

    Would making spelling/grammar mistakes on the AIF negatively impact my chances of getting in? I have contacted the admissions department and they’ve told me that there is nothing to worry about. But on the website, it says the admissions committee doesn’t like mistakes. I handed in my AIF a month ago because I was told that the AIF has to be submitted within 3 weeks(which I later realized was incorrect).

    1)Would making 6-7 spelling/grammar mistakes negatively impact my application? If so, by how much?
    2)Would making an amendment reduce my chances as well? I made an amendment to rectify the mistakes I made.
    3) I recently received 2 academic awards. Should I make an amendment and include it in my AIF? I heard UW doesn’t like people making amendments.
    4)Due to the pandemic, do you see inflation in grades? If so, by how much?

    Thank you!


    1. Excessive mistakes can lead to an applicant being flagged for weak English language proficiency. This could be a significant factor in the decision to admit an applicant to a highly competitive engineering program.

      Amendments do not affect the likelihood of receiving an admission offer.

      You are welcome to amend your AIF as you feel appropriate. Applicants are not penalized for amending AIF data. Unless an award is significant, it is unlikely to have any significant effect upon an admission decision.

      We have not compared grade data to previous years.


      1. Hello Professor Bishop,

        What does it exactly mean to have a competitive average? Does it mean that your average is at a point where it can’t negatively affect you and that your decision is dependent on your AIF/Interview score?


      2. In my opinion, having a competitive average means that an applicant has more than a low probability chance of admission. There are no guarantees of admission. AIF and interview scores are always a factor in our decisions.


  29. Hey Mr. Bishop,

    Do you happen to know approximately what percentage of engineering offers are sent out before the May admissions round?


    1. It is difficult to predict the total number of engineering admission offers we will give out in a particular year. The number of offers depends upon admission targets, show rates, and other factors that vary significantly from one year to the next. This makes it difficult to predict or estimate the percentage of engineering admission offers given out in the first round of admissions.

      It is easier to talk about the number of available student spaces filled in the first admission round. We attempt to fill approximately 50% of the available student spaces in the first admission round for most programs. There will be some variation from one program to the next.


  30. Hi Bishop,
    I heard that for early admission to engineering you need at least 3 prerequisite courses done. However, I only have 2 done (Physics and Advanced functions) along with two electives (ICS4U and MDM4U). Would I still be considered for an early offer or would I be required to wait till May?


  31. When are we supposed to and how are we supposed to submit second semester midterm Mark’s. Like our school doesent necessarily have “midterms” but they do have a term 3 and 4 for second semester, so I’m guessing it’s when term 3 is finished? Also, are we supposed to tell our schools to submit or do we do it ourselves. Thanks


    1. Ontario schools automatically provide us with grade updates through OUAC as new grades become available. For out-of-province students, you can contact your admission officer to provide new grade data as it becomes known.


    1. We will use the grades we have received at the time of our admission round. It is difficult to predict the exact timing of grades. Even in a normal year, we start making final round decisions prior to receiving all midterm grades. I suspect this will be the case this year as well. Some schools will provide us with better grade data than others.


  32. Hello Mr. Bishop,
    I hope you have been well. I understand that the first round of admission for Waterloo Engineering is in the last week of March. Does that mean that you start looking at applications in the last week of March, or do you only send out the offers during the last week? I am wondering because my midterm Calculus and Vectors mark will be sent to OUAC on March 15th, but I was worried that my application will have already been reviewed by then.
    Thank you!


  33. Hello Mr Bishop, I

    am not sure if this is too late (If so I apologize) I was just wondering how I can prepare myself in Grade 10 going into 11 next year in terms of Ecs, I am keen on getting accepting into Software or computer engineering at UW. I know the contests are something I should do and I will do so this year and next. However, is there anything else that may improve my admission chances?

    Thank you if you do reply,


    1. Software Engineering and Computer Engineering both have strong applicant pools. Anything you can do to show that you are a good fit for these programs will help. It is important to remember that these are co-op programs. Any previous work experience will be useful to establish that you are prepared for co-op work placements. Also, since both of these programs require the completion of several programming courses, I strongly recommend taking programming courses in high school and/or online. Having a knowledge of two or more programming languages is often valuable. Programming experience will help you determine whether these programs are right for you.

      For prospective applicants who attend high schools that do not offer Computer Science courses, I highly recommend taking online courses on computer programming. If you have access to a computer, you can learn computer programming anywhere. If you do not have access to a computer, I would suggest taking a part-time job to save money to buy a computer. An old, used computer with access to the internet is more than sufficient for learning the fundamentals of computer programming. I am always surprised by the number of applicants to Software Engineering who have no programming knowledge or experience. Without programming experience, the chance of receiving an offer of admission to Software Engineering at the University of Waterloo is 0%.

      When assessing extracurricular activities, we treat all activities equally. For example, an achievement in the arts (music, theatre, creative arts, etc.) is treated the same as an achievement in STEM (FIRST Robotics, Euclid, CCC, etc.). The only slight difference is that some activities may establish that you have knowledge and experience that is relevant to your program.

      Work experience is treated differently from other types of extracurricular experience. An applicant with part-time work experience and a few extracurricular activities will generally score slightly higher than a student with a wealth of extracurricular activities and no work experience. For students who are unable to work part-time (which may be the case in certain regions of the world), we treat significant volunteer experience equivalent to work experience. In some countries, residents are not allowed to work due to their age or immigration status.


      1. Hi Professor Bishop,

        I’m currently going into Waterloo’s Class of 2026 – albeit not in engineering – but I want to thank you for taking your time to provide such an invaluable resource to us. It really made my application process less stressful knowing that there was a knowledgeable source answering questions and posting advice.


  34. Hello, I am a grade 11 student looking to apply to waterloo. I have a 94 grade 11 average and pretty good extracurriculars. However, I didn’t write any waterloo contests. How much will that affect my application?


    1. Waterloo Engineering treats contests run by the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing similar to all other contests and competitions. We do not require applicants to participate in any particular contest or competition. We view participation in a contest or competition as an extracurricular activity.

      There are benefits to participating in contests and competitions. One benefit is that applicants enhance their understanding of course material by preparing for contests and competitions. Another benefit is that applicants can assess their level of understanding of course material relative to their peers. We certainly encourage prospective applicants to participate if they can. We believe contests and competitions have value.

      However, there may be programs outside of the Faculty of Engineering where participation in a contest or competition is expected. I cannot comment on admission considerations for programs outside of the Faculty of Engineering. For example, the School of Computer Science may have different expectations of applicants for the Computer Science program.


  35. Hello Mr. Bishop

    I’m a grade 11 student looking to apply to Computer Engineering, and have some questions regarding how courses taken outside of day school in Grade 11 are treated. If an applicant say, takes Grade 11 English outside of day school, but intends on taking Grade 12 through day school, will any penalty be applied?

    To not receive any sort of deduction off the admission average, would the applicant have to take Grade 12 english in the first term, or would it not matter? Do you happen to know if this same rule applies to Computer Science and Software Engineering?



    1. I can only speak for engineering programs such as Computer Engineering and Software Engineering. The School of Computer Science may use an entirely different admission process. You will need to contact the School of Computer Science directly for information on their admission process.

      Taking a Grade 11 course outside of regular day school will not affect the admission average used by the Faculty of Engineering for admission consideration. We only use Grade 11 courses to predict grades in Grade 12 courses where no grade data is available. It is known that a predicted grade is unlikely to be as accurate as an actual grade. All applicants with the exception of the select few that took a gap year will have predicted grades.

      We do not automatically apply adjustments for all courses taken outside of regular day school. We must see evidence that a course grade is unusually high. An applicant with consistently high grades in all courses will never be subject to course grade adjustments. If an applicant enrolls in a course outside of regular day school and obtains a substantially better grade without any explanation for the improvement, an adjustment will be applied.


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