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:
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.