A Quick Update

The holidays are now over for most of us. Application deadlines are approaching quickly. We now have enough application data that I can provide a quick update on Engineering Admissions for those who are interested.

The general trend has been that domestic applications have been strong this year. We have received more domestic applications this year than we did at the end of the admissions cycle two years ago in 2020. However, we have not yet exceeded our record breaking year in 2021. There is a good chance that we will approach the numbers we saw in 2021 for domestic applications. As you might expect, a greater percentage of our domestic applicants are students from Ontario. Out-of-province applications have been coming in slower this year.

My tutorial classroom in Fall 2021 prior to the start of class.
My tutorial classroom in Fall 2021 prior to the start of an in-person class.

It does not surprise me that out-of-province students are a bit more reluctant to apply to study in Ontario this year. Our province has been dealing with waves of COVID-19 cases and we have a vaccine mandate in place that makes our university unattractive to some applicants. Also, our classes are currently online while some universities in the U.S. and elsewhere are offering in-person classes. It is hoped that we will be able to resume in-person classes soon. We were able to offer some in person classes and tutorials in Fall 2021. Right now, we must heed the advice of our medical professionals who have clearly told us that our hospitals are operating at capacity. I have tremendous respect for our medical professionals. They have been working under very difficult circumstances and they deserve recognition of their efforts. They haven’t had any chance to recover from the previous surges and many of them are dealing with family members, friends, and coworkers who are ill. Let’s hope that things improve soon.

Our international applicants will be happy to know that international applications are down sharply this year. We may eventually reach the application numbers that we achieved in 2020. We will definitely not approach the application numbers we achieved in 2021. There are many factors that could be contributing to the drop in international applications. Certainly, it is more difficult to recruit international students when travel is not possible. One-on-one meetings with potential applicants are the best way to encourage students to apply. Also, the University of Waterloo usually benefits from media stories about the success of our students in international competitions. The ongoing pandemic has limited in-person competition involvement at the international level.

There may be many other factors at play. Many Canadian universities and colleges rely upon international students to address budget shortfalls when domestic tuition is capped. Waterloo Engineering has tried to avoid this trend by maintaining stable international student targets at a level below 15% of our student body. A blog post by Alex Usher at Higher Education Strategy Associates provides some interesting insight into international student numbers. It is worth a careful read as it provides graphs that clearly show the increasing percentage of international students at universities and colleges across Canada. For engineering programs, it is typical for international students to represent 25% of the student body.

You might be curious how these application numbers affect you:

  1. If you are a domestic applicant, nothing has changed. Many of our engineering programs have competitive applicant pools. Applicants to these engineering programs will be individually selected for admission. You will need to ensure that you put time and effort into the completion of your Admission Information Form. I highly recommend completing the Online Interview to improve your admission chances.
  2. If you are an international applicant, your chances of being admitted are slightly better this year than last year. Make sure you have completed your application. We can only admit students with complete applications. Applicants who do not submit their Admission Information Form cannot be considered. Also, monitor your e-mail regularly to check for inquiries from our Admissions Officers. Sometimes, they will reach out to international applicants for additional information needed to process an application.
  3. If you are a prospective applicant, it is a better year to apply than last year. To apply, visit the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre. We are still accepting applications until February 1st. If you are a prospective international applicant, this admission cycle might offer an excellent opportunity to gain admission to Waterloo Engineering. This is particularly true for some of our engineering programs with less competitive application pools.

I unfortunately will not be able to respond to specific questions about the competitiveness of individual programs at this time. Our Engineering Admissions Team is working very hard to ensure that our admissions process goes smoothly this year. I realize many applicants have anxiety about the admissions process. Having a better estimate of your chances will not reduce your anxiety, unfortunately. The only resolution is receiving an offer of admission. Many applicants will have a resolution at the end of March 2021 when we send out our first round of admission offers for Waterloo Engineering.

42 thoughts on “A Quick Update”

  1. Quick question for you, Professor Bishop. And thank you for the post.

    Your comments in point # 3, “If you are a prospective applicant, it is a better year to apply than last year. ”

    Is this your general assessment for all applicants or only international applicants?

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    1. The third point is true for all prospective applicants. There is no reason to believe that admission this year will be more competitive than last year for domestic applicants. For international applicants, admission this year is definitely less competitive.

      Of course, there will always be a few exceptions when you have 14 engineering programs. In some cases, domestic applications are up slightly but the competitiveness will not change. For example, there is already a slight increase in ENVE applications this year which is great news. We didn’t fill the program last year. We have room for more ENVE applicants without turning down applicants.

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  2. Dear Professor Bishop,
    You said there will be less international applicants this year than last year. I am an OSS (Ontario Secondary School) Visa (Study Permit) Applicant. I expect my GPA to be 97-98 and I applied to the COMPE program, is EE a good alternative, or is MGTE or SYDE.
    One last question, when will you check your grades for the first offer review at the end of March, and will completing the top6 midterm early help me get an early offer?
    Thanks!

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    1. When choosing an alternate program, you should always think about the things you enjoy doing and how these things might turn into a career for you. COMPE, EE, MGTE, and SYDE are very different programs. Some day I hope to create a page talking about the programs you have listed as we get many questions about them. I am not an expert in all of them. I can only provide the following perspective based on my limited knowledge of the programs.

      COMPE focuses on the design and implementation of computer hardware and computer software to solve engineering problems. You will learn how to design computer hardware, build embedded software systems, and control electronics. You will also learn the theory behind computer systems and their operation including knowledge of networking, communications, and algorithms. You will gain some understanding of electrical engineering principles as well. You will apply your knowledge of computer hardware and software design to a variety of engineering problems that can be solved using computers and computer technology. Most graduates of COMPE work in software development. A few work in the design of computer hardware but a graduate degree is often required to work in the best computer hardware companies (Intel, AMD, nVidia, Apple, etc.) in the field of computer hardware design.

      EE focuses on the applications of electrical signals for solving engineering problems. Since computers are built using electrical signals, you will learn about computers. However, you will also learn about power systems, electronic circuit design, wireless communications, networks, control systems, sensors, actuators, and algorithms. You will apply this knowledge to a wide variety of engineering design problems including multidisciplinary problems. You will also learn how to use electricity safely since you will be working with electrical signals that could be dangerous if used incorrectly. Since mathematical knowledge is key to understanding the behaviour of electrical signals, some EE graduates go on to work in areas such as finance where the same mathematical knowledge and engineering design principles can be used to solve difficult financial modelling problems. EE is the only engineering program that prepares students for careers in electrical power generation and distribution which is a growing field of interest given the trend towards green energy and electric vehicles.

      MGTE solves engineering problems that managers and project developers face using engineering design and analysis. Computers and computer algorithms often play a role in the solution of these engineering problems. You will learn about logistics planning, operations and supply chain management, data analytics, information systems, optimization, project management, and more. You will also need to have an appreciation of all disciplines of engineering. Many students take electives related to software development, finance, or entrepreneurship. Some people would say that MGTE is a modern version of industrial engineering but it is probably better to say that it is a separate discipline. There are many management problems that require engineering design approaches. Also, there are many managers that lead engineering teams on engineering projects in various disciplines. Quite a few graduates of MGTE work as software developers and software project managers due to the attractiveness of the field.

      SYDE solves engineering problems that are often interdisciplinary and do not fit into a particular discipline. For example, the design of athletic equipment requires the careful application of engineering design principles to ensure that the equipment works as intended without injuring the user. Another example would be the design of prosthetics which leverages mechanical design, biomechanics, materials, and mathematical analysis. In SYDE, students leverage knowledge of all engineering core disciplines (EE, ME, CIVE, CHE, MGTE, SE, etc.) to solve some very tough engineering problems. Computers and computer algorithms often play a role in the design and implementation of solutions. While some graduates may work on image processing applications or cyber-physical security systems, there are also graduates working in more traditional engineering disciplines using knowledge gained from SYDE. SYDE students do extensive mathematical analysis. The complex problems solved by these students require more advanced mathematical approaches. The problems also require an understanding of human factors and human centered design. The program also has some overlap with Biomedical Engineering which is offered by the same department. Many SYDE graduates have been successful entrepreneurs.

      The biggest mistake applicants make is that they apply to one of these four programs thinking they will be an engineering version of Computer Science. None of these programs are designed to prepare students for a career as a Computer Scientist. They are engineering programs. While it is true that engineering graduates often do software development work (in all disciplines), engineering programs (with the exception of SE) do not train students to be software developers. Software is simply an essential tool of the modern engineer. In each of the four programs listed (COMPE, EE, MGTE, SYDE), at most 25% (and possibly much less) of the program will focus on software development. The other 75% will prepare you to solve engineering problems in the field of expertise. This being said, many graduates of these programs will work in software development careers due to their co-op experience and the abundance of attractive jobs in software development.

      Of the four programs indicated, students applying to MGTE are slightly more likely to receive an offer of admission but this should not drive your decision. If you are going to study a program for five years, you should like what you are studying. COMPE and EE have the most courses in common in first and second year. At the fourth year level, all four programs are quite different.

      I am not sure I understand your second question. Students often do not have the ability to complete midterm grades early or late. Ontario schools dictate the timing of the release of grades. Obviously, higher grades are better. If we have more recent grades that are higher, this can help the consideration of an applicant. For a student with poor Grade 11 grades, midterm grades are a good thing. For a student with excellent Grade 11 grades, midterm grades might not be a good thing. The best thing you can do is focus on your course work so that you have great grades in all courses.

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  3. Hello Mr. Bishop, I have been keeping up with your blog posts and I have found them very informative and helpful! Thank you.

    I am applying to the software engineering program from BC. I won’t ask you how you think my specific chances at acceptance are; as you mentioned above, I don’t think it’ll make me any less anxious. I understand from your previous blogs that in the first round of offers around late March, roughly half of the offers are sent out to the applicants. I also recall that competitive programs would usually wait until later to make decisions.

    My question is, are any offers for software engineering applicants sent out during the first round, or since it’s so competitive, are all offers sent out in May? If some are sent out in March, what factors determine which applicants receive early offers?

    Thank you!

    Like

    1. We do give out admission offers to the SE program in March. It is difficult to predict the percentage of offers given out. You are correct that for a program with a highly competitive applicant pool such as SE, we will not give out as many offers as we might for a program with a less competitive applicant pool. For some engineering programs, we give out admission offers to all applicants meeting our minimum admission requirements in March.

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  4. Hello Mr. Bishop

    I applied to computer engineering in December however a few days later I decided to switch to software. I now realize, I would definitely prefer to work with hardware and would like to switch back to computer. Would changing programs affect the evaluation of my decision?

    Thank you

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    1. No, it will not affect the evaluation of your admission decision. While we have the ability to track changes to program selections, we have not used this information in the past when assessing applicants.

      The only problem with changing programs is that it can result in a new supplemental program fee assessment through OUAC. For this reason, I always recommend waiting to apply until you know which program you wish to study. Our supplemental program fee assessment is $53.25.

      Each time an applicant changes programs, it does create additional work for our Admissions Team. This is why we assess a fee. A program change can also make counting applications more challenging. This is one of the reasons why it is somewhat challenging to produce accurate admissions data on the number of applicants and the number of applications.

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  5. Hi Professor Bishop,
    Hope you’re doing well. I was wondering if we’re allowed to include links in the AIF. For example to our github profile or personal website. Will the person reading the AIF be allowed to open urls?

    Thanks so much

    Like

    1. It is possible to include links in the AIF. Admissions officers will only look at the links if there is a compelling reason for doing so. We have to type the URLs into a browser manually to visit the link. I have looked at links for highly competitive programs such as Software Engineering (SE). I would say that applicants should use links sparingly since they take away from the content you can write in your AIF. Anything on the AIF can be easily read. Links only help if the reader wishes to review them.

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  6. Hello Professor Bishop, I have a question about how the admission score is calculated. I’m from BC, but rather than taking Precal 12 and Calc 12, I only have one math course which is IB Mathematics AA HL. Will this course be counted twice when the admission team calculates the admission average? And how does the adjustment factor work for partial IB students? Thank you.

    Like

    1. The assessment of grades is handled by our Admissions Officers in the Registrar’s Office. By the time I see the grades, they have already been converted into equivalent OSS (Ontario Secondary School) grades. I believe the IBHL grade will be used twice to calculate your admission average. It is not unlike other grade predictions that our system does automatically.

      Adjustment factors are assigned to schools, regions, provinces, or countries. If your school (or province) has an adjustment factor, one will be applied. Completion of the full IB diploma has no effect upon adjustment factors used.

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  7. Dear Dr. Bishop,
    I have a quick question.
    Is Canadian studying in US high school considered to domestic applicant or International, in terms of admission process?
    Thank you,

    Like

  8. Hi there,
    I was curious if you could provide any more insight on how the AIF is marked in terms of how it’s split up. Is each paragraph box read and graded by a separate admissions officer? Do engineering admissions officers read the entire AIF, or only the engineering prompts?

    Thanks so much

    Like

    1. The grading of the AIF is discussed briefly in our Tips and Tricks video that you can find on YouTube.

      We score applicants on three metrics:
      1. Activities (extracurricular activities, awards, and achievements)
      2. Employability (employment experience, volunteer experience, and skills)
      3. Fit (program knowledge, relevant activities, relevant experience, connections to program)

      One admissions officer reads all AIFs for a particular program. We have access to all fields when assessing the AIF.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the reply professor. When you say “One admissions officer reads all AIFs for a particular program”, does that mean there’s only one single admissions officer responsible for decisions for each each program?

        Like

      2. There is one Admissions Officer that reads and assesses AIFs for each program. However, there may be several people that assess an applicant. Interviews, for example, are rarely assessed by Admissions Officers. We have a team of volunteers that assess interviews. We provide rubrics and training to our new volunteers to ensure consistency. Special consideration applications are assessed by AccessAbility Services. They have specific training for assessing accommodations. Scholarship candidates are assessed by Student Awards and Financial Aid.

        At the end of the admissions cycle, all applications are either reviewed by myself or the Associate Director of Admissions for Engineering. We divide applications by program to ensure fairness to the extent possible. Needless to say, we have much work to do.

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  9. Dear Professor Bishop,
    At what point in the first round of admissions does the admissions team look at the OSS grades on the oak. Because I heard that admissions team always evaluate AIF and interview first.
    Is it possible to get EE or MGTE as an alternative offer with a score of 97-98, my first choice is COMPE.
    Thanks a lot!

    Like

    1. I am not sure how to respond to your questions. We extract grades from OUAC when we are instructed to do so by the Registrar’s Office. They know when grades have been updated. There are certain known good times to extract grades. We generally obtain grade data a few days prior to our assessments being made public.

      We have already started assessing interviews. Since AIFs can be amended still, we have not yet started assessing AIFs. I expect AIF assessments to start very soon.

      It is unlikely to get an alternative offer with such a high admission average. You will most likely receive an offer to your first choice program provided that your AIF and your interview are completed reasonably well. You only receive an alternate offer if you are denied your first choice program. We do not typically give out alternate admission offers during our early round.

      Like

  10. Hi Professor Bishop,

    I am a domestic OUAC 101 applicant and I have applied for mechanical engineering. I have 3-4 ECs and a good employment history. I am expecting my final top 6 average will be a 96-97, and my grade 11 average was a 98.5. I unfortunately do not have any sort of programming experience, as my school hasn’t offered any computer science classes. I also have not pursued any programming or coding independently. With this information, do you think my lack of programming skills will hurt my application? On the AIF it says programming experience is not required. I was planning on leaving the “Programming Knowledge” section blank on my AIF. I also have completed the video interview, which I know can help during the application process.

    I really appreciate this blog of yours, it has so much good information. Keep up the great work and writing! It is very much appreciated!

    Thanks

    Like

    1. Computer programming experience is not a requirement for Mechanical Engineering. The only program that requires programming experience is Software Engineering. Programming is recommended for Computer Engineering. I would say that some knowledge of programming is always beneficial for all engineering disciplines but programming experience is not required.

      For Mechanical Engineering, you can leave the section on programming experience blank. It will not negatively affect the assessment of your application.

      Like

  11. Good Day,

    Sorry for a silly question but was just wondering if a 97% avg secures a solid chance for mechatronics engineering or should I aim to increase it higher? My goal is a 97 but if a higher mark is required then I can prepare for that accordingly. Assuming average EC’s and interview.

    Like

  12. Hello Again Professor Bishop,

    How are you doing? I had a question about admission for Electrical and Computer Engineering. I’ve been told by some people that every applicant to both EE and CE get looked at together, for the whole department of ECE. Is that true? Or do both programs get treated separately?

    Also, I was wondering if you remember someone named Marwa Ismail. She is my mom and actually introduced me to ECE and was a PHD graduate from UW ECE and told me she was CA under you for a small period of time.

    Hope you have a great rest of your day!

    Like

    1. Thank you for asking!

      It is a busy time. I know many students, staff, and faculty members are struggling to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. The pandemic has not been easy on anyone. Of course, I recognize that many individuals have it far worse than we do. I can’t imagine what it must be like working in a hospital these days. I look forward to a time when we will be able to ease restrictions and hopefully resume all the things we enjoy the most.

      With respect to admission to Electrical Engineering (ELE) and Computer Engineering (COMPE), we no longer pool applicants together. We reached a point a few years ago where there was no advantage to doing so. Our application numbers had shifted to the point that we were always taking in two classes of COMPE students and one class of ELE students. The change does not have any material impact upon how applicants are considered. Both programs have similar applicant pools. The COMPE applicant pool is just twice the size of the ELE applicant pool. In other words, the chance of getting admitted to ELE is the same as the chance of getting admitted to COMPE.

      I remember Marwa well. She served as one of my teaching assistants and did an excellent job. I hope she is doing well.

      Like

  13. I won a National band competition in grade 8 – I was wondering if since this is still high school in BC (where I’m applying from) I should list it in oh application? Thank you!

    Like

  14. Hi Professor Bishop,

    I am an OSS student applying for Software Engineering and Computer Science. I was wondering if one’s time of submission of the AIF will impact whether they are considered for the first round of admission for engineering in March. I was also wondering if the Admissions Team will consider non-prerequisite courses midterm marks from the second semester for offers being made during May. This is because I am hoping to replace one of the non-prerequisite 4U courses which I did poorly in during the first semester with a higher grade. Thank you for all your help!

    Like

    1. The date of submission of an AIF does not affect the assessment of an AIF.

      When we calculate our averages, we include your best 4U or 4M non-required course in your admission average. If you take another 4U or 4M non-required course in your second semester and your grade is better, your admission average will improve. So yes, it is possible to improve your admission average in your second semester with a strong midterm grade in a second semester course.

      Like

  15. Hi there,
    Recently, the TDSB announced that there would be a mark freeze for students (i.e. students marks cannot drop). Considering the large number of applicants that come from the TDSB and knowledge that other school boards have not implemented such a policy, will any action be taken for other school boards to mitigate this advantage? (e.g. taking the maximum mark of midterm and final and using it to calculate the final top 6 average for other school boards)

    Thank you for your response.

    Like

    1. No. Grade data is always imperfect. Our admissions process has been designed to be less sensitive to grade data in a particular course or term. We trust high school teachers to use their best judgement when assigning grades to students.

      Like

  16. Hi Professor Bishop,
    Our school will update the midterm grades for last 2 courses in early March. Will the first round of admissions in March be in time to use the grades updated on ouac at the beginning of March, I am a little anxious because my grade11 performance in these 2 courses is not as good as my 12 grade performance. I hope I can get your reply.

    Like

  17. Hello, Professor Bishop hope you are doing well,
    Thank you so much for this blog it has been really helpful. I am a domestic OUAC 101 Applicant and I have applied for Mechanical Engineering. I am expecting my top 6 average to be 91-93% in the IB program and I have also completed the optional video interview. With everyone having high averages ranging from mid to high 90’s will I be at a disadvantage with having a low 90’s average for my top 6?

    Like

    1. As our chances of admission graph suggests, the probability of admission is relatively low for Mechatronics Engineering with a low 90’s average. The domestic applicant pool is expected to be very similar to last year for Mechatronics Engineering. I do not expect the admission average to drop but I won’t know until applicants have been selected. Try to do as well as you can on your courses this semester. Given your projected average, I would not expect an admission offer in our early round. Your grades this semester will likely be important in the final round in May.

      Like

  18. Hello Professor Bishop!

    Thank you for this informative blog post with updates on admissions so far. I am an Ontario student (101) and I am stressed about my application to the University of Waterloo this year. I applied to Computer Engineering and I expect to have a top 6 average of 95% with good extracurriculars, and I will try my best on the interview. May I please know if my average is enough to have a decent chance at admission?

    Thank you!

    Like

    1. My blog post on Chances for Admission for Fall 2022 provides the best estimate of your chance of receiving an offer of admission. I cannot provide any additional insight given what you have told me.

      Like

  19. Hello Professor Bishop,
    I hope you haven’t been to busy and want to thank you again for running this blog. I was wondering if there can/should be overlap in between our AIF answers. Will the entire AIF be read by a single person, or will the sections be split up between multiple readers. I ask this because, say we had something that we’re extremely proud of. I would want the AIF grader to know about it. So, if there were multiple readers, I would like to mention it again. However, if there’s only one, it would be a waste of characters.
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. I can only answer on behalf of the Faculty of Engineering. When we assess AIFs, there will be one reader of your AIF that assigns a grade. For the purpose of grading your AIF, you can assume that the entire AIF will be read by this individual. Many other individuals may look at parts of the AIF to answer particular questions (perhaps related to scholarships or specific activities).

      Like

  20. Hi professor, will the 105 domestic applicant pool be more competitive than that of 101? More specifically, how many spots in SE are for the 105 domestic applicants, thank you!

    Like

    1. When selecting applicants, we do not have a fixed number of spaces reserved for OSS (101) and NOSS (105) applicants. We admit applicants from both applicant pools to meet our domestic targets and our visa targets. We start with an initial estimate of the blend of applicants from each applicant pool and then fine tune our admission decisions in an attempt to select the best applicants from the pools.

      Like

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