Chances of Admission for Fall 2022

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 undergraduate engineering program at the University of Waterloo?”

As I have pointed out in previous years, this is never an easy question to answer since every applicant is different.  For the purpose of selecting applicants that are likely to succeed in our undergraduate engineering programs, grades remain the most important consideration. Excellent grades in high school can be a strong indicator of future success in university. However, grades should not be the only consideration.

Our admissions process examines many other factors when selecting our applicants. We require all applicants to complete an admission information form which we use to assess skills, employment experience, volunteer service, course work, extracurricular activities, and notable achievements. We also strongly recommend that all applicants complete an online interview. While the interview process is optional for the purpose of admission consideration, it is a requirement for entrance scholarship consideration. Through the admission information form and the online interview, we are able to better understand the qualifications of an applicant and the challenges faced by the applicant. Our assessments also help us gauge an applicant’s level of interest in our programs and an applicant’s level of fit for our programs.

We assess all applicants that meet our minimum entrance grade requirements. For our engineering programs, applicants are required to have an admission average of 85% with no grades lower than 70% in any of our required courses in their final year of high school. In this sense, grades qualify an applicant for admission. We then use a combination of the admission average with our other assessment tools to individually select applicants. Students with higher admission averages are more likely to be selected for admission but they are not guaranteed to be selected for admission. The admission information form and the online interview give applicants with lower grades a chance to compete for coveted spaces in our engineering programs.

Using the Ontario Secondary School applicant data for the Fall 2021 admission cycle, I have produced two graphs that show the probability of an Ontario Secondary School (OSS) applicant receiving an offer of admission to undergraduate engineering programs at the University of Waterloo.  I have grouped our engineering programs as follows:

  • Biomedical and Software
  • Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, Mechatronics, and Systems Design
  • Architectural, Chemical, Civil, Environmental, Geological, Management, and Nanotechnology

These groupings are the same as the previous three admission cycles. Clearly, not all programs grouped together have exactly the same admission offer probabilities. I did consider alternative groupings. My analysis of individual program data showed that the programs in these groupings continue to behave similarly.

The first graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for Canadians and permanent residents applying from the Ontario Secondary School system given a particular admission average.  The vertical axis represents the admission probability and the horizontal axis represents an applicant’s admission average. The admission average is calculated using the grades reported by OUAC. It has not been adjusted in any way.

While the graph resembles the one from last year, there are two noticeable differences. First, the admission averages are slightly higher. While some might quickly argue that this is compelling evidence of grade inflation, it is important to note that we also had a record number of applicants to our undergraduate engineering programs last year. Second, the shape of the curve for Architectural, Chemical, Civil, Environmental, Geological, Management, and Nanotechnology is different. Due to the fact that admission averages shifted upwards, the slope of the curve is steeper. While it is still possible for applicants with averages between 85% to 90% to be admitted to our undergraduate engineering programs, applicants have a much higher probability of success with an average of 90% or greater. It is not clear if this trend will continue into the next admission cycle.

The second graph summarizes the probability of an admission offer for visa students applying from the Ontario Secondary School system given a particular admission average.  The vertical axis represents the admission probability and the horizontal axis represents an applicant’s admission average. The admission average is calculated using the grades reported by OUAC. It has not been adjusted in any way.

This graph is noisy due to the small sample size. The data appears to suggest that an applicant to Civil Engineering with an 85% admission average has a higher probability of success than an applicant with an 88% admission average. In general, one should assume that admission probabilities increase as admission averages increase. Overall, the admission offer probabilities for visa students increased again this past year. Visa students compete for a small number of reserved spaces in our programs. Due to the global pandemic, there were fewer qualified visa applicants. I expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future as demand for qualified visa students at Canadian universities continues to outpace the supply of qualified visa students.

I used a slightly different approach from the one I used last year to produce these graphs. I used the built-in curve fitting of Microsoft Excel. This approach should allow me to produce comparable graphs next year in less time.

It is important to remember that these graphs may not accurately predict the Fall 2022 admission cycle. There are many questions that are difficult to answer this year:

  • Will applicant numbers continue to remain strong?
  • Will admission targets remain the same as last year?
  • Will the pandemic cause applicants to reconsider pursuing a university education?

Applicants should not attempt to not read too much into the admission probability graphs. The data can be scary if you don’t fully understand it. Some applicants did not complete the required admission information form or attempt the optional interview. Some applicants to Software Engineering were not admitted for not having any evidence of structured programming experience. Some 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 admission probabilities would improve dramatically.

Our recruiting cycle for Fall 2022 has now begun. You might wish to attend the upcoming Ontario Universities’ Fair to learn more about the University of Waterloo and its programs. The Faculty of Engineering is hosting its popular Undergraduate Admissions Webinar Series again this year. Prospective applicants may also book Campus Tours to learn more about our campus or connect with an existing student by registering for a virtual EngChat.

6 thoughts on “Chances of Admission for Fall 2022”

  1. Dear Professor Bishop,

    I have been reading your blog since grade 9. Thank you, I am most impressed with your willingness to help. I have always wanted to become a software engineer through either SE/CS or CE route. I have two questions.

    First, at what grade point average should I NOT consider applying to SE?

    All my extracurricular heavily relate to software development. I teach computer programming in my free time, have done many programming projects, freelance programming work, one small-business CRM project, and have a few apps on the Android play store. I have also done two professional certificates in software development from HarvardX and PennX, which took me eight months to complete.

    Unfortunately, I messed up my first Chemistry and Advance Function tests this year (Grade 12), and I am only expecting 96%. I am just worried that if my final grade average is 97%, should I apply to CE (with SE major) instead of SE as my first choice? It seems a lot of applicants scoring 97% get rejected by SE. CE is currently my second choice. I know you have mentioned in the past that Waterloo doesn’t like filling up their CE class with SE rejects.
    If I select CE, I would most certainly take the SE option (as a minor by adding CS245 and SE212). For me, the choice is between applying to SE or CE as my first choice. I do not want to do the strategic mistake that you have often spoken about.

    Second, if I apply to CE as my first choice, can I use the AIF I specifically wrote for SE? Although I am also interested in hardware to the extent that it helps me understand software design, I have no extracurricular related to CE. All you will see is software and programming in my AIF. Is that be such a bad thing if applying to CE?

    Thank you!

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    1. Your extracurricular activities clearly demonstrate a strong aptitude for Software Engineering. It is difficult to assess the competitiveness of your admission average without knowing more about your situation. Put simply, some schools prepare students better than others.

      Every mark counts when applying to SE. There could be a huge difference between an average of 96.4% and 96.0%, simply due to the large number of applicants that typically apply. Last year, I had 441 OSS applicants apply to SE with an average of 96% or greater. A total of 74 of these OSS applicants had averages of 96.0% to 96.4%. It would be a surprise if there was a sudden drop in the size of the SE applicant pool or the competitiveness of the SE applicant pool. I do expect grades to be slightly lower this year but I do not expect grades to drop by more than 1% in the SE applicant pool.

      I generally recommend that applicants apply to the program they want most, even if there is a chance of not being successful. If you want to be successful, sometimes you need to take calculated risks. There were students in the 96% range last year that were admitted, ones that were rejected, and ones that were given deferral offers to COMPE. When evaluating applicants for deferrals, we selected those that we thought would be most receptive to the idea. Often, these students indicated an aptitude for both SE and COMPE on their AIF.

      It is important to remember that the SE program and the COMPE program are quite different. In COMPE, about 20% of your courses examine concepts related to computer software. You can boost this percentage slightly by taking the SE option but the percentage will not approach the coverage of computer software in SE. About 50% of the courses in the SE program examine concepts related to computer software. MGTE (Management Engineering) might also be a program to consider. The computer software coverage in MGTE is a bit more specialized but it is very good. MGTE arguably has as many computer software courses as COMPE. The SE option is also accessible from MGTE.

      In general, the odds of being admitted to MGTE would be very high, the odds of being admitted to COMPE would be good, and the odds of being admitted to SE would be low. As illustrated on my graph, an applicant with a 95% average would have about a 85% chance of being admitted to MGTE, a 50% chance of being admitted to COMPE, and a 10% chance of being admitted to SE. I have adjusted the values slightly based on what I predict to happen this year.

      With respect to your question about your AIF, you should always design it around your first choice program. There is significant overlap between all engineering programs. An applicant with an AIF focused on SE would certainly fair well in both the COMPE and MGTE applicant pools. The most important skills that we look for in applicants are soft skills (e.g., communication, leadership, teamwork, etc.). These soft skills are applicable to all programs and they can be demonstrated by a wide variety of activities. A common misconception is that we only value skills that directly apply to a particular discipline.

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  2. Dear Professor Bishop,

    I’m wondering if there’s a way for the admission team to verify the information applicants put down on the AIF. For example, if I say I did an internship at a company, will the admission team contact the company to verify my information? If so, should I inform the company in advance so they are prepared?

    Thank you!

    Like

    1. Our admissions team would not normally contact a company to verify employment information indicated on an AIF. Given the size of our applicant pool, it is not feasible for us to verify all information provided.

      I could imagine a very rare situation where we might contact an employer. There would need to be an allegation made against applicant’s claims on an AIF. In this situation, we would first attempt to verify information provided on an AIF using the public record (websites, etc.). If we were interested in admitting the applicant, but the review of the public record was inconclusive, there might be a situation where we would contact an applicant for further information. This might involve a request to contact an employer. In the vast majority of cases, we would be able to make a decision on an applicant without ever reaching out to the applicant or the employer.

      As always, it is important to remind applicants that lying on an application is a serious offence. In the past, applicants caught lying on their applications were not admitted. In a few cases where language test results were discovered to be fraudulent, admitted applicants had offers of admission revoked. I even know of cases where active students were expelled when it was discovered in their first term of studies that they lied on their applications. These cases are extremely rare, but they can happen.

      It is also important to note that we recognize that mistakes on an application can happen. There is a difference between knowingly lying about oneself on an application and including potentially erroneous information on an application. As an example, the university might say that I started my full-time employment with the university on February 1, 2003. I started teaching courses full-time on January 1, 2003 but I was paid as casual employee for my first month of employment due to paperwork being submitted late. If I listed January 1, 2003, would I be incorrect? Is there a material difference between January 1, 2003 and February 1, 2003? Certainly, this minor difference would not be one that would concern us given the duration of my employment.

      Some AIF errors are funny. I have now designed my database so that it calculates the duration of experience by the absolute difference between dates. The reason for this feature is that sometimes applicants list the start date as a more recent date than the end date. This is such a common problem, I assume the root of the problem is related to the design of our AIF. Perhaps the form could be modified to provide better guidance to applicants. We do have a series of YouTube videos that talk about completing the AIF that I highly recommend to all applicants.

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  3. Dear Professor Bishop,

    I am applying to SYDE this year and have heard they their admissions differs slightly — put much more emphasis on AIF rather than grades. I was wondering if there was any truth to that statement.

    Like

    1. The Admission Information Form (AIF) plays a more significant role for programs with competitive applicant pools than those with less competitive applicant pools. The Systems Design Engineering program has a competitive applicant pool. I would not say that the AIF is more important than grades. An applicant with a weak AIF may still be considered for admission. An applicant with weak grades will never be considered for admission.

      Like

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