This is a difficult time for high school students and their parents. Deadlines loom for accepting admission and scholarship offers to some universities. This is particularly true for out-of-province universities. Here are some simple rules that may help students make good decisions regarding admission and scholarship offers.
Always choose the program that is right for you.
While the advice of family and friends is important, you will be the student dedicating four (or more) years of your life to studying a program. You should definitely enjoy the challenges presented to you by your chosen program. You won’t like every course. You won’t like every instructor. You certainly won’t like every exam. There will be some tough days ahead. However, the good courses and the great days should outweigh the bad courses and the tough days.
I have heard some students say they are willing to study a program they dislike. These students hope that after graduation, they will finally get to do what they want. This is a flawed approach. If you don’t enjoy the university program you are studying, you won’t like the careers the program prepares you to do. You shouldn’t study an engineering program if you do not plan on using knowledge of the program in your future. If I hadn’t enjoyed learning about both computer hardware and computer software, computer engineering would have been a terrible choice for me!
Financial pressures are real. They can affect your ability to succeed in your chosen program of study. Financial pressures can distract you from the things that matter when studying. You need to make a realistic choice given your financial means. There are many different ways to address the cost of an education. Choosing a program that allows you to live close to home or choosing a program with lower tuition fees are ways that you can reduce the cost of your program. Choosing a program that offers better co-op placements or choosing a program that offers better scholarships are ways that you can increase the income you receive while studying a program. Advisors often find that students who work part-time while going to university struggle to do well. The struggle is similar to the challenges faced by students who participate in varsity athletics or any other time-consuming extracurricular activity.
When evaluating scholarship packages, determine what level of scholarship is guaranteed and what level is contingent upon your continued performance in a program. Keep in mind that maintaining an average of 80% in university can be difficult at times. All universities offer upper-year scholarships and research assistantships to students who excel in their studies. These are other ways that you can address your financial pressures.
Every year, we hear from applicants who are faced with the difficult decision of either accepting an offer to Waterloo Engineering with a small entrance scholarship or an offer to an engineering program at another university offering a substantial entrance scholarship. All accredited engineering programs in Canada will prepare you well for the future. Most offer opportunities for work placements (e.g., co-op terms, internships, professional experience years, etc.). In general, if you have been awarded a prestigious scholarship such as the Schulich Leader Scholarships valued at $120,000 to attend an engineering program in Canada, you should probably accept the offer. The same would be true for any full-ride scholarship. A full-ride scholarship is any scholarship that pays tuition and living expenses for the nominal duration of a degree program.
Some deadlines are fixed; others can be extended.
At the University of Waterloo, the June 1st deadline for accepting an offer of admission to an engineering program is a hard deadline. If you do not accept an admission offer by this deadline, the admission offer is revoked. Unless there is space available in a program (which is highly unlikely), an admission offer cannot be reinstated. Do not leave your decision until the last hour on the last day. Be proactive. Make your decision and commit to it.
Some schools set earlier deadlines in the hope of having students commit to programs early. There is no harm in asking if a deadline can be extended. It may not be possible to extend certain deadlines, but you can always ask. This is particularly true for scholarship deadlines. In the past, some out-of-province universities have received extended scholarship deadlines for Ontario students.
If you absolutely need more time to decide your future, there is always the option of taking a gap year. Undecided students often benefit from taking a gap year. The extra year can be used to research programs of study, gain employment experience, save for your education, and prepare for university. It is my understanding that applications for Fall 2024 will open in late September this year for all applicants.
When will I know if I am admitted or denied?
For engineering, our final round of admission will begin sometime next week. This round will take about a week to complete with decisions being communicated sometime in the second week of May. I cannot provide a precise date when offers will be communicated. Students denied admission will receive the unfortunate news once all admission offers have been communicated.
Let’s hope that you receive good news from the program you want the most. Good luck with your decisions!