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.

Deadline for Deferring Admission

This is a quick reminder that students who have been admitted to undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Engineering still have time to complete an Admission Deferral Request Form to defer the start date of their program until September 2022. Admission Deferral Request Forms will be accepted until August 14, 2021 at 4:00 pm.

There are many ramifications to requesting an admission deferral. Here are a few things you should know if you are considering requesting an admission deferral:

  1. Deferrals are automatically granted for 1 year provided that all Grade 12 courses have been completed in the past two years. Requests for a deferral of more than 1 year are considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, admission can be deferred by 2 years or 3 years to allow for compulsory military service, participation in extracurricular activities, or compassionate leave on a case-by-case basis. In the very rare occurrence of a 3 year deferral, students may be required to retake one or more Grade 12 courses in preparation for university.
  2. Some scholarships may not be deferred. President’s Scholarships and Merit Scholarships are automatically deferred. Other entrance scholarships are not always eligible for a deferral. Prior to requesting a deferral, you should contact Student Awards and Financial Aid (SAFA) at safainfo@uwaterloo.ca to find out whether your entrance scholarships can be deferred.
  3. During a deferral, students agree to not enroll in post-secondary courses at any institution. Enrolling in a post-secondary course (in-person or online) voids your offer of admission unless prior permission has been granted. Students wishing to enroll in a post-secondary course during their deferral should first contact the Registrar’s Office to ask for special permission to do so. Approval is done on a case-by-case basis. Enrolling in high school courses is generally permitted.
  4. Students that defer their start date will be permitted to enroll in the engineering program for which they were admitted. No re-application is necessary. Students on a deferral simply need to log into their Quest account prior to April 1st, 2022 to accept or decline their deferred admission offer.
  5. We do not have the ability to allow deferred students to directly transfer into other engineering programs of their choosing. Students wishing to transfer engineering programs can withdraw their acceptance and apply for a new program of study through OUAC. We do not penalize students for withdrawing and applying to a new program.
  6. For information on residence deposits paid to reserve a Fall 2021 residence, students are encouraged to contact Campus Housing.
  7. All other questions regarding deferrals should be directed to the Admissions Office at myapplication@uwaterloo.ca.

In the Fall 2021 academic term, some courses will be delivered in-person, some courses will be delivered using a combination of in-person delivery and online delivery, and some courses will be entirely online. By the Winter 2022 academic term, we expect all core engineering courses to be delivered in-person. Plans are subject to change as deemed necessary. The University of Waterloo is working closely with the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services to keep our university community safe.

I will end this blog post by extending my heartfelt congratulations to all recipients of Sandford Fleming Foundation medals during our recent virtual convocation ceremonies. Co-operative Proficiency medals are awarded to the top student in each stream of a program based on a score that combines work term evaluations and grades in upper-year course work. Academic Excellence Award medals are awarded to the top student in each stream of a program based on a score for grades in upper-year course work. These recipients exemplify what it means to be an exceptional co-op student. An image of a Sandford Fleming Foundation Academic Excellence Award medal is shown below:

Academic Excellence Award Medal
Sandford Fleming Foundation Academic Excellence Award

The Sandford Fleming Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports engineering education on campus. The foundation relies upon endowed funds and an optional student fee to ensure that engineering students have access to enrichment activities. In addition to scholarships and awards, the Sandford Fleming Foundation supports provincial and national engineering competitions, student travel for educational exchanges and international competitions, and other student-led initiatives.

We are very proud of our recent graduates and we wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Final Round Admission Offers

Now that all final round admission offers for Waterloo Engineering have been sent out, I can resume my regular blog posts. During our final admission round, it is very difficult to respond to comments and inquiries. Often, I have access to information that is not yet public so the safest option is to wait until all decisions have been communicated.

Our final round of admission was not without a few challenges…

Challenge #1: Computer Crash

First, my personal computer decided to crash just prior to the start of the final round of admissions. I was not surprised. I have been using my computer more than most computers get used in a lifetime. Between producing videos for my courses and processing large databases for admissions, my hard disk was lucky to last as long as it did. Thankfully, I was able to secure a slightly slower computer at BestBuy on short notice to complete the final round of admission and I was able to restore most of my files from backups. I am also trying to pinpoint a problem with the new computer. It randomly halts about once every three days. So far, I have not been able to uncover the issue from the logs.

Challenge #2: Vaccination Side-Effects

I also found myself making difficult final round decisions while recovering from my first vaccination of Astra Zeneca. I wanted to start the vaccination process as soon as I was eligible. I am scheduled to teach on campus in Fall 2021. My hope is to be fully vaccinated prior to my return to teaching on campus. While most people have relatively minor reactions to being vaccinated, my wife and I both had noticeable reactions to receiving the vaccine. I developed a cough, a low grade fever, and a very sore arm. The cough was not one of the side-effects mentioned in our documentation but apparently it is relatively common. I have now almost fully recovered from my first vaccination. My wife is also recovering well. In the grand scheme of things, the side-effects were minor. I strongly urge all eligible individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Challenge #3: Phone Migration

My campus phone extension was migrated from a physical phone to a Skype for Business extension during the final admission round. I do apologize to those trying to reach me at my old extension. I hope to cleanup the message box soon. I only recently was able to setup the new extension so there was a brief window were I was unable to be reached by phone. Our entire admissions team was moved to Skype for Business so you may also have experienced some issues contacting us. Please be patient. We are doing our best to migrate our systems and respond to inquiries.

Frequently Asked Questions

I would like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions in my Inbox regarding our final round of admissions. First, let me start by congratulating all applicants who received an offer of admission to an engineering program. For many programs, competition was stiff. Some clearly outstanding applicants were unfortunately not given offers of admission. Applicants who did not receive offers of admission are no doubt very disappointed. To put things in perspective, you were competing against the top high school students in the world. The fact that you weren’t successful this time doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful in the future. All leaders encounter challenges. The characteristic of a great leader is someone who does not give up easily.

Transfers

A few students immediately after receiving their offer of admission inquired about transferring programs. At this time, we are not considering student transfer requests. We do not anticipate any spaces becoming available in our engineering programs. Our models indicate that our engineering programs are full. My advice to admitted students is that you should only accept an offer of admission to an engineering program if you are passionate about the program offered. Admitted students should not accept an offer of admission to an engineering program with the goal of transferring to another program. We do not anticipate a large number of students dropping out of our programs. It is unlikely that spaces will become available in any of our engineering programs.

Waitlists

Last year, we offered waitlists to applicants who were not admitted. Last year, we felt there was some chance that spaces would become available. This year, we do not feel it would be appropriate to offer waitlists. We do not expect spaces to become available. Offering waitlists would only give false hope to students who were not admitted. I do not expect things to change between now and September 1st. In fact, we should be comfortably above our engineering program targets on September 1st.

Deflections to Alternate Engineering Programs

A few applicants have asked if they were considered for the alternate engineering program indicated on the Admission Information Form (AIF). Where we felt deflections were appropriate, we considered applicants for their alternate engineering program. We only consider applicants for their first alternate engineering program. The university form allows applicants to specify more than one alternate program but we make it clear that we only consider applicants for their top alternate program. Some deflection pathways are less successful than others. While we could fill entire programs with deflects from our largest programs, this would clearly not be appropriate.

Deflections to the Faculty of Science

Some applicants to Mechatronics Engineering and Electrical Engineering may have received deflection offers to a program in the Faculty of Science that they did not indicate on their Admission Information Form. The Engineering Admissions Team was not aware of this until very late into the final admission round. The change also added to the delays in concluding our admission round. It was not our intention to deflect students on this pathway. Please note that if you have received one of these admission offers, you should assume that a transfer into engineering will not be possible in the future.

Reapplying in a Future Year

Sometimes, applicants are successful when they reapply for an engineering program after taking a gap year. It really depends upon a number of factors. An applicant with good high school grades will often do well, particularly if the applicant puts effort into their Admission Information Form (AIF) and the online interview in their second attempt. How you use your gap year can also be a factor in our decisions. Every year, a handful of applicants reapply to Waterloo Engineering and receive an offer of admission. Of course, if your grades do not meet our entrance requirements or you fail to complete the AIF, the same result will occur the second time you apply. For most applicants, it is better to pursue a current offer than to put all your hopes on a future offer. I always like to point out that all Ontario engineering programs are accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) so all Ontario engineering programs offer a great education with great career prospects.

Overall Comments

If our models are correct, we should be very close to our targets with an incoming class size of approximately 1,800 students on November 1st which serves as our official count date. I will leave you with an image of our Bleeding Hearts which have just started to flower this year. It is time to tend to my garden…

Early Round Admission Offers

We have finally reached the end of March. I have just received word that all early round admission offers have been processed for engineering programs at the University of Waterloo. This includes both NOSS (105) applicants and OSS (101) applicants. Congratulations to all of the applicants who received early round admission offers!

I also wish to congratulate our admissions team on completing the early round of admissions on schedule despite very difficult circumstances. The admissions team has been working remotely since last March. The team has been working some very long hours to ensure that we could finish on time. When working off-campus, members of our team have slower and less reliable connections to our university computers which can make our work more challenging. It is also more difficult to quickly meet to discuss applications.

If you are an applicant that has not yet received an offer of admission, you are likely disappointed and perhaps a bit surprised. It is important to remember that approximately 50% of our available spaces are filled in our final round of admission. It is quite normal for many highly qualified applicants to not receive offers of admission during our early round. During our final round of admission in mid-May, many applicants will be offered admission to their programs of choice. We will also consider applicants for their alternate choice programs during our final round of admission.

Often applicants ask why they did not receive an offer of admission. In most cases, the answer is simply that we have large applicant pools filled with highly qualified students. We simply do not have enough spaces available to offer all qualified applicants early acceptance into our programs. In a few cases, we may be waiting on updated grade information or a language proficiency test score to make an informed assessment. There were many outstanding applicants that did not receive an early offer of admission.

Applicants should keep in mind that it does not matter when you receive an offer of admission. The only advantage to being selected early is that it alleviates some stress. All admitted students are considered for scholarships during our final admission round.

I will leave you today with a photo of some early flowers in my garden. We have had an early Spring in Kitchener/Waterloo and it is starting to show.

Going, Going, Gone!

Today (Friday, February 19, 2021) is the last day to submit your Admission Information Form to complete your application to the Faculty of Engineering for undergraduate admission in Fall 2021. Make sure that all sections of the form have been completed and submitted. The Admission Information Form is a required part of the application process. Applicants who do not complete and submit the Admission Information Form will be denied an offer of admission.

Applicants will not have the ability to submit the Admission Information Form late. A planned update to our systems is scheduled for tomorrow so our systems will be offline for maintenance this weekend. We will do our final update of our AIF database on Monday in preparation for our early round of admission in late March.

A screenshot of the Quest login screen indicating Quest will be unavailable this weekend.

Every year, we receive several inquiries from applicants who unfortunately have missed the AIF submission deadline. Unless there exist well-documented extenuating circumstances such as a prolonged medical illness that prevented an applicant from completing the form, we cannot accommodate requests to submit the Admission Information Form after the official deadline. Such cases are extremely rare.

Ontario Engineering Competition

The Ontario Engineering Competition is held annually at the end of January. Due to the provincial lockdown, the competition was held online this year. Instead of a single university or college hosting the competition, the organizing committee consisted of volunteers from several Ontario engineering schools. These organizers did an impressive job of organizing the competition under very difficult circumstances. I would like to congratulation the organizing committee for all of their efforts.

The 42nd Annual Ontario Engineering Competition featured eight different contests (Communications, Programming, Consulting, Re-Engineering, Junior Design, Senior Design, Debates, and Innovative Design). Participants compete at each school to represent their school at the provincial competition. At the University of Waterloo, our participants were selected through two competitions held in Spring 2020 and Fall 2020. Due to the fact that the University of Waterloo has two co-op streams, our university is allowed to send two sets of competitors (teams A and B) to each contest. One could also argue that this makes sense given the size of our undergraduate engineering student body compared to other schools in Ontario.

A variety of online platforms and technologies were used by the organizers for the competitions. HopIn was used as the platform for large online sessions. Smaller meetings were held using Zoom and Discord. These platforms were used effectively to communicate with hundreds of participants, volunteers, and sponsors. One University of Waterloo engineering student (Edward Yang) served as the VP Logistics and another University of Waterloo engineering student (Alaina Hansen) served as the VP Technical for the competition. I have no doubt that these students played a significant role in making the competition a success.

The Sandford Fleming Foundation is a sponsor of both the Ontario Engineering Competition and the Canadian Engineering Competition. As Chair of the Sandford Fleming Foundation, I was able to attend the Ontario Engineering Competition and serve as a judge. This year, I was assigned the task of being on the panel of judges for the Debates. I was thoroughly impressed by the debate teams. The teams were kept anonymous by assigning random team names. The theme for the team names was items of furniture. The final debate consisted of Team Shoe Rack competing against Team Twin Size Mattress. A double knockout playoff system was used during the Debates. Team Shoe Rack ultimately won twice against Team Twin Size Mattress to win the Parliamentary Debates.

In addition to the contests, participants were invited to participate in online sessions hosted by engineering companies that sponsor the competition. Hatch once again served as the title sponsor for the Ontario Engineering Competition. Their unwavering support of the competition is greatly appreciated. Participants also were invited to participate in two social events and an Awards Gala where the winners of each contest were announced.

The following schools received awards in the competitions:

Communications:

  1. McMaster University
  2. Western University
  3. University of Ottawa

Programming:

  1. Queen’s University
  2. University of Waterloo (A)
  3. York University

Consulting:

  1. University of Waterloo (A)
  2. York University
  3. Ryerson University

Re-Engineering:

  1. University of Toronto
  2. Carleton University
  3. Ryerson University

Junior Design:

  1. University of Waterloo (A)
  2. Queen’s University
  3. Royal Military College

Senior Design:

  1. University of Toronto
  2. Queen’s University
  3. University of Waterloo (A)

Debates:

  1. Queen’s University
  2. University of Waterloo (A)
  3. University of Waterloo (B)

Innovative Design:

  1. University of Toronto
  2. University of Waterloo (B)
  3. Western University

The top two teams from each contest will move on to represent Ontario at the Canadian Engineering Competition in February. This year’s competition is being hosted by the University of New Brunswick. On behalf of the Sandford Fleming Foundation, I would like to congratulate all of the Ontario Engineering Competition participants and I wish our representatives all the best at the Canadian Engineering Competition.

Giving Tuesday

On this snowy Tuesday morning, I thought I write a post on Giving Tuesday and its importance.

The snow that fell overnight in Kitchener-Waterloo.

The topic of donations is not a popular one. Individuals are often inundated with requests for donations, particularly in this season of giving. It is important to remember that the time when donations are needed most is often the time when individuals are least likely to be able to provide donations. The pandemic has created a surge of demand for donations to help those who have been most affected. For this reason, I have decided to share links to some organizations that need your support.

Let’s start with healthcare. There is no doubt that hospitals are starting to feel overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. We have been very lucky that our first wave of infections was not larger. This gave us the gift of time to prepare for the second wave and subsequent waves. However, preparations are not cheap. In Waterloo Region, the Grand River Hospital Foundation, St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation, and the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation support our local hospitals.

Next, let’s examine mental health and wellness. Lockdowns and other measures have taken a significant toll on the mental health of Canadians. There are many organizations that provide essential services to those in need. Some of the organizations that come to mind are the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Dollar a Day Foundation, and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council. There is an urgent need to improve access to services as individuals cope with missing their family and friends over the upcoming holidays.

Another important priority is food. Food banks have faced increased costs of delivery and increased demand for food. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region can support those in need of food with 300 healthy meals for just $100. The Salvation Army also works to provide food and other necessities to those in need. You might be surprised to learn that last year, Salvation Army shelters served 3.3 million free meals last year to people in need.

Next, let’s look at ways to support education. All levels of education have been significantly altered by the pandemic. The Waterloo Region District School Board operates the Waterloo Education Foundation Inc. (WEFI) that provides school nutrition programs, support for less advantaged students, and funding for anti-bullying programs, among others. The Waterloo Region Catholic Schools Foundation supports Catholic schools and their students. One organization I often support on Giving Tuesday is the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair. This organization runs the regional science and engineering fair, provides awards to students, and supports student travel to the national competition. The fair will run online this year. Awards will still be presented.

At the university level, donors can direct their funds when they donate to the University of Waterloo. The Faculty of Engineering has recently announced a new Engineering Diversity Fund to support students who are underrepresented. This is one of several projects that funds can be directed to support within the Faculty of Engineering. Another popular project is the Engineer of the Future Fund which supports our students pursuing entrepreneurial activities. It is even possible to support funds that are not even listed on our donation form. For example, it is possible to donate to the Sandford Fleming Foundation via the Faculty of Engineering by indicating the fund name in the form. The Sandford Fleming Foundation fosters and creates enriched academic learning experiences for engineering students at the University of Waterloo by offering program activities that enhance engineering education on campus and across Canada. I currently serve as the Chair of the Sandford Fleming Foundation so I know the great work that the foundation supports.

Finally, I would like to make an important comment about the solicitation of donations. Often universities and other organizations are accused of being too aggressive with fundraising activities. After all, shouldn’t fees and taxes more than pay for an education, a hospital, and all of the other essential services needed by society. The fact is that donations are required to deliver the level of services we expect from our charitable organizations. When a university solicits donations from students, staff, faculty, and alumni, the university is not trying to guilt everyone to participate. Universities and other organizations recognize that many individuals may not have the means to provide donations. In fact, this is arguably why donations are solicited in the first place. It is important to recognize that there is no easy way for any organization to be able to tell who may be able to give. We encourage all individuals to ask for help when they need it. Shouldn’t universities, hospitals, and other charitable organizations do the same?

Make a difference if you can. Donate to a charitable organization today.

Virtual Open House

It is hard to believe that it is already November. The Halloween decorations are now being put away for another year. Thankfully, the weather co-operated on October 31st. I cannot say the same thing for November 1st as we received the first significant snowfall of the season in Waterloo Region. Shown below is a photograph of some of the decorations that we put out for Halloween this year.

On Saturday, November 7th, the University of Waterloo will hold a Virtual Open House from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (EST). During this event, visitors will be able to learn more about the programs that our university offers, speak with students, staff, and faculty about the programs, and learn more about the admission process. We will be using the same platform as our previous event. Unlike our previous event, this event will also be using Zoom to allow for better communication between prospective applicants and members of the university community. The event is free to attend.

I am scheduled to participate in three live sessions as follows:

Session 1 (8:30 am to 9:30 am): Live Q&A with Delainey Lindstrom-Humphries

Delainey Lindstrom-Humphries is a Mechanical Engineering student from the Class of 2022. She has served as an Engineering Ambassador and she has served as President of the Engineering Society.

Session 2 (10:30 am to 11:30 am): Live Q&A with Ellen McGee

Ellen McGee is a Systems Design Engineering student from the Class of 2022. She has served as President of the Engineering Society.

Session 3 (1:30 pm to 2:30 pm): Live Q&A with Mary Wells

Mary Wells is the Dean of Engineering. She previously served as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Guelph from 2017 to 2020. Prior to becoming a dean, Mary served as the Associate Dean of Outreach for Waterloo Engineering from 2008 to 2017. Mary will be able to comment on her vision for Waterloo Engineering over the next 5 years.

During the live sessions, we will answer questions about Waterloo Engineering and its programs. We will also discuss many other topics of interest including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Student life (social activities, student teams and clubs, living on-campus, etc.)
  • The co-op program (job applications, interviews, rankings, etc.)
  • The University of Waterloo campus (athletic facilities, things to see, places to eat, etc.)
  • The Region of Waterloo (attractions, shopping, places to eat, etc.)
  • Transitioning from high school (dealing with stress, maintaining wellness, etc.)

We will also try to address some of the questions that relate to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the admissions process and university life. Please keep in mind that we will not be able to comment on what to expect for Fall 2021. We will only be able to comment on the current situation faced by our students, staff, and faculty.

We won’t be able to answer every question posed. We will do our best to address some of the most important questions as well as ones that we feel will add value to event for the majority of viewers. Should you have specific questions about our engineering programs and the admission process, I recommend emailing enginfo@uwaterloo.ca directly. Our admissions team will do its best to respond as soon as we can.

In addition to the live sessions indicated above, each department will hold live Zoom sessions to discuss their programs. If you have questions on a particular program, you can visit the live Zoom sessions of the departments to have your questions answered.

Don’t forget to register for the Virtual Open House. Registration is free, but required.

Undergraduate Admissions Webinar Series

Earlier today we ran our first two sessions in the Undergraduate Admissions Webinar Series. I have been informed that spaces are still available for participating in our undergraduate admissions webinar series. In approximately 7.5 hours, we will have a session specifically designed for international students studying abroad. This will be followed by two more sessions throughout the day. More information is available on the Undergraduate Admissions Webinar Series on our website.

The first webinar in the series focuses on the topic of which engineering program is right for you. Throughout the webinar, we will be holding a live Question and Answer (Q&A) Session to answer your questions. Representatives from all programs as well as our admissions team will be participating in each webinar. Although the remaining sessions are specifically designed for international students, Canadians and/or permanent residents may benefit from attending these sessions as well.

The second and third webinars in the series will focus on admission tips and tricks. These webinars will be primarily run by the admissions team with the goal of answering questions on the admission process and the assessment of applications.

Also, if you are unable to attend the live sessions, you can still register for the sessions to receive a link to the recording of the session. Also, if you have not already done so, save the date of November 7th for participating in our University of Waterloo Virtual Open House. I will have more details on this event closer to the date of the event.

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.