Confirmation Deadline

Today is June 1st.  Admitted students have until midnight tonight to accept their offers of admission to Waterloo Engineering programs.  I will likely receive a few e-mails tomorrow from students who did not confirm their offers in time or who now regret their decision to study at another university.  Unfortunately, once the deadline passes, there is not much that I can do.

Based on our results so far, it appears we have had another successful year of admissions.  We are a bit above target but this is normal at this time of the year.  There are always a few students who do not meet offer conditions, a few students who ultimately decide to not come to Waterloo Engineering, and a few students who defer their offers.  We have to exceed our targets slightly at this time to meet our November 1st targets for grant funding.

There is greater uncertainty this year given the global pandemic.  It may be the case that some students will not be able to afford Waterloo Engineering due to financial difficulties.  It may also be the case that a few more students defer their offers of admission this year.

A deferral is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly.  While it may seem like a great idea at first glance, here are some things that you should consider prior to requesting a deferral:

  • Tuition and incidental fees increase every year.  A deferral will mean that your education will likely cost a bit more.  While you may also earn more on your co-op work terms, tuition increases often exceed the pace of inflation.
  • Taking a year off studies can make it difficult to return to your studies.  You will need to find a way to maintain your knowledge of Calculus, Physics, and other high school subjects that are required for Waterloo Engineering.
  • If you defer your studies, you are not allowed to take courses at any other post-secondary institution.  This would include courses at both colleges and universities.
  • If your classmates do not defer, your classmates will be a year ahead of you.  They will likely graduate before you do if you defer.
  • The sooner you graduate, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits of a Waterloo Engineering degree.  There are likely to be some great engineering jobs available in 5 years.

Some students are justifiably worried about online classes in the Fall.  There certainly have been some terrible implementations of online classes in high schools and universities.  I’d like to believe that these are anomalies.  While I have heard of some courses in other faculties simply providing course notes for self-study, this is not the plan for Waterloo Engineering.  We expect to deliver a rich online experience for our students with a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded sessions for most engineering courses.  We are already making this a reality for our students enrolled in courses this term.

I have been teaching a course this term.  I have been splitting my normal lectures into micro lectures implemented as videos no longer than 20 minutes.  My notes are being completely rewritten for an online context with more details being provided.  My assessment techniques are being modified to fit within an online context with weekly quizzes and timely feedback.  My labs are being replaced with online project activities that include group work.  My online course is probably better aligned with our expected learning outcomes and I fully expect my students to learn more from my online course.

Our students are finding the switch to online learning a bit challenging but many students have given positive feedback.  The biggest complaint our students have is that most faculty members do not have access to a professional grade microphone.  I am working on acquiring one but they are in short supply.

In a normal course, students have the ability to skip lectures when they are really busy.  While students who skip lectures miss out on some lecture material, it often saves them time and they still do well by the end of the course.  In an online context, it is more difficult for a student to skip a video lecture.  Most of my students are watching all of my lecture videos.  In a normal course, only 70% (or fewer) of my students would typically attend all lectures.  This might be one of the reasons why online courses seem to consume more student hours.

In terms of preparation for future courses, I expect the students in my online course to be slightly better prepared if they can handle the workload.  I have done my part by shrinking the lecture videos to the core topics.  Without student questions, I can cover the same material in about 2/3rds of the time.  A 1 hour lecture appears to require about 40 minutes of lecture videos to complete.

As the Fall 2020 admissions cycle comes to an end, I am looking forward to spending some time relaxing in my backyard.  I will leave you with a few photos of my gardens that I took over the past week.

 

Frequently Asked Blog Questions

I haven’t been able to answer all of the questions I have been receiving on my blog.  As you can imagine, it is a very busy time of the year.  In addition to my admissions work, I am also teaching an online course for the first time so I am busy learning new tools, developing online course materials, and conducting live tutorial sessions with my students.  Hopefully, this post will address a few of the questions not yet answered.  Shown below are a few images that I took of my new home office campus this past week.  It appears that the only thing harder to predict than the future is the weather.

Have all engineering admission offers been given out?

The most frequently asked question that I have not answered is whether all of the admission offers have been given out for program X where you can replace X with the name of any engineering program (and even some non-engineering programs).  I just sent in the last 7 admission offers to the Registrar’s Office.  These will likely appear on Quest later today.  Certainly, if you do not have an offer on Quest by Tuesday, May 19th, you can safely assume you will receive a rejection letter.

When will rejection letters be sent out?

We will start sending out rejection letters next week.  Rejection letters are a difficult part of our job.  There are some clearly excellent students who have not received offers of admission, sometimes for things they couldn’t reasonably control.  Rejected applicants often wonder what more they could have done.  In the most highly competitive programs, the admission information form and the optional interview can make a big difference.  In some cases, applicants simply didn’t submit the documentation required for admission.  If we are missing an admission information form or a required grade for an applicant, a rejection is automatic.

It is important to remember that we had over 11,000 applicants for approximately 1,800 spaces.  We can’t accept everyone, even if we might like to do so.

Was a particular program more competitive this year?

Another frequently asked question was whether program X was more competitive this year.  The simple answer is “No”.  We gave out more admission offers to programs this year than previous years based on the expectation that our deferral rate may be higher.  Also, our total number of applications was done from last year.  For programs to be more competitive, there would have to be a huge change in the quality of the applicant pool.  This did not happen.  However, this is not to say that all great applicants received admission offers.  Competitive programs always reject great applicants.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be competitive programs.

One reason why engineering programs may seem more competitive this year is that other campus programs increased their admission offer rate much more than we did.  Some programs on campus gave out twice as many offers as they did last year.  In engineering, the increase in the number of offers has been much more modest.  We did not increase all programs uniformly.  Programs that had strong confirmation rates in the early round of admission were subject to smaller increases in the number of admission offers.

Have all scholarships been announced?

We are getting close to finishing our scholarship selections but I do not believe they have been announced on Quest yet.  One thing to keep in mind is that we have very few entrance scholarships beyond the President’s Scholarships and Merit Scholarships.  All applicants receive some form of scholarship provided that they have at least an 85% average and they have not done post-secondary education previously.  In addition to the scholarship grid, entrance scholarships are given out to approximately 85 individuals.  We expect slightly over 1,800 students in the Fall so 85 students represents just 4.7% of all admitted students.  If you consider the fact that we give out more than 1,800 offers of admission, the probability of getting an entrance scholarship is low.

There will be some very happy applicants who will receive significant scholarships.  I believe we will have four Schulich Leader Scholarships valued at $100,000.  The majority of our entrance scholarships are much smaller.  Entrance scholarships typically range from $1,000 to $4,000 for domestic applicants.  Some international applicants will receive $10,000 scholarships which help pay for a portion of their higher tuition costs.

If you receive a scholarship or bursary, a “View Award Offers” link will appear in your Quest account next to the program details.  Clicking on this link will allow you to view the scholarship that you have been given.

Can I upgrade my offer or get a new offer?

In the past, the answer would simply be “No”.  This year, the answer is still “No” but there may be a few exceptions.  We won’t know which programs have spaces available until after June 1st.  You can ask to be put on a waitlist for a program by e-mailing enginfo@uwaterloo.ca, even if you have not been accepted to any engineering program at the University of Waterloo (provided you were an applicant previously).

If a program has spaces become available, we will contact waitlisted applicants in June, July, and August as spaces become available to inquire whether the applicant still wishes to receive an offer to the program.  If so, an offer can be made.  If not, we will remove the applicant from the waitlist and move on to the next applicant.  We will choose the most qualified applicants from the waitlist first.

In most cases, a deflected applicant is more likely to be chosen over an applicant that did not receive admission at all.  The exception might be an applicant that only applied for a single program and did not list an alternative program.  We will use our admission database to determine which waitlist applicant is “most” qualified for any space that becomes available.

If I receive a waitlist offer, will I miss out on residence?

Some applicants might be worried that a waitlist offer will be too late to be guaranteed a spot in residence.  While our residence guarantee only exists until a particular date, this does not mean that we run out of residence rooms on campus.  Usually, we still have rooms available long after the residence deadline.  You just may not have access to your preferred residence choice.

Also, it is not uncommon for some residence rooms to become available late in the summer due to students deferring admission.  It will be interesting to see how many international students will be able to obtain study permits and visas (if necessary) to start classes in the Fall.  The global pandemic has made predictions very difficult this year.

When will I find out more about my program?

We have a series of Virtual AMA Events starting on May 22nd and running until May 28th.  We will try to answer your questions at these events as we are sure that you will have some.  Admitted students will receive an e-mail invitation to the event for their program in the next week.

Will courses be online in the Fall?

To the best of my knowledge, the University of Waterloo has not made a decision on the Fall term.  However, it is my understanding that the university will make a decision about the Fall term prior to the June 1st so that admitted students will know how the Fall term will run and so that teaching staff may prepare accordingly.  Many (top) universities are moving in the direction of online education for the Fall term out of an abundance of caution.

Online education is not new to universities.  The University of Waterloo is currently running a full term of online studies for our students.  By the Fall, should we be required to offer our courses online, we will be well prepared.  Also, if ever there was a term that made sense to do online, the first term is the most logical one.  Upper-year courses have highly-specialized lab work which is difficult to complete remotely.  First year courses on Calculus, Physics, and Programming are a bit easier to learn online.

Will there be a summer program?

Some universities have already announced that they will be running summer programs to help students transition into university.  These programs are particularly important given that the previous year of school abruptly ended.  I know there are several plans being developed for a summer program.  I expect an announcement in the near future.  We certainly will do our best to ensure that our students are successful in the Fall term.

Can I defer my offer until Fall 2021?

We have always allowed admitted students to defer their offer until Fall 2021.  Many students may be thinking that this is a good idea this year.  This is not a decision that should be made prematurely.  You will likely have until the end of July to make a decision on deferring studies.  I would recommend waiting until closer to the deadline to make a decision.  By the end of July, you will have likely had an opportunity to participate in an online summer program and you will have greater clarity about the operation of the Fall term.

One thing I will say is that there are pros and cons to deferring a degree program.  The pros are likely obvious so I will focus on the cons:

  1. From a financial perspective, it is likely in your best interest to not defer your program.  University costs have been increasing at a rate well above inflation over the past two decades.  If this trend continues, deferring your studies may mean that your university education costs you more, even if you factor inflation.
  2. From a career perspective, deferring your program means that you will presumably start your career one year later which may mean missing an important career opportunity.
  3. From the perspective of a co-op student, you would rather be looking for co-op positions when fewer other students are looking for them.  Generally, this means you will find a better co-op position or have a better chance of getting the co-op position you really want.  Deferring might mean that you are in a slightly larger class in Fall 2021.

Personally, if I were faced with making a similar decision as a prospective student, I would want to wait as long as possible to get greater certainty about the future.

Should I accept my offer of admission to engineering?

YES

Fundraiser T-Shirts

The University of Waterloo has a pretty good sense of humour sometimes.  Things are really hectic right now with the next academic term starting on Monday and the final round of admissions in progress.  In the midst of all this activity, the W Store has launched a set of t-shirts to fundraise for charities.  The t-shirts are great examples of the sense of community that students, staff, and faculty have at the University of Waterloo.  You can view the t-shirts at the following website:

Covid 19 Fundraiser Tees

I particularly like the slogans.  One t-shirt says, “I’m critical to the academic mission” in acknowledgement of the words used by our university president regarding the importance of continuing our academic mission during the pandemic.  The other t-shirt says, “I learned social distancing long ago…” in acknowledgement of the fact that we have to keep our physical distance from geese on campus but also likely meant to make subtle fun of our campus community being a bit introverted.  Shown below is an image of a Canadian Goose taken on our campus.

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The sense of humour enjoyed by our students, staff, and faculty is one of the things that makes the University of Waterloo special.  Even it difficult times, members of our community work together to make life a bit more enjoyable.  In this case, that humour is also raising funds for charity with 100% of the proceeds from the sales going to local charities.  The t-shirts are limited editions so they will sell out fast.

I should probably mention that our final round of admissions has now begun for the Faculty of Engineering.  We received our grades this morning.  I am in the process of setting up our database to run our final round for Ontario Secondary School students.  I expect offers to start appearing soon but they will likely continue to be going out for the next week or so.  The first offers to go out will be those for Non-Ontario Secondary School students.  I do not expect offers for Ontario Secondary School students to appear for a few more days.  Offers will likely slowly appear on Quest for about a week.  Scholarship offers will also start to appear but I am not sure when exactly.  We are doing our best under fairly challenging circumstances.  Please be patient.

 

A Quick Update from My New Office

I thought I would give you a quick update from my new admissions office in my basement.  My computer desk can be seen in the photograph below.  The curious diagram behind my monitor was a 4th year project in VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) design that my team built when I was a student of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo.  The schematic implements a 4 bit ALU (Arithmetic and Logic Unit) in CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology.

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Our early round of admission is nearly completed.  Despite some very challenging circumstances, we managed to successfully select many outstanding applicants to receive admission offers to Waterloo Engineering for Fall 2020.

Offers are first communicated on Quest.  Official offer letters with conditions will be communicated as soon as possible.  Applicants may also be contacted by individual departments.  Please be patient.  I know all applicants are anxious to find out more.  We are doing the best that we can.  It has been incredibly difficult for our team to focus on their work given all of the extraordinary events that have been occurring throughout the world.  I really wish to thank everyone involved in assessing applicants and communicating offers to applicants.  In particular, I must thank Mirjana and Leigh for their hard work.  I know they worked long hours through the weekends to meet our deadlines.

If you have not yet received an offer of admission, do not give up hope.  There are still some early round offers that I expect to be processed this week.  Also, we still have many admission offers to give out to ALL of our Waterloo Engineering programs.  We still have room for many great students in our programs.  Quite a few applicants will receive good news in early May when we complete our final round of admissions.

One other thing to keep in mind is that we finalize all of our scholarship decisions in May when we complete our final round of admissions.  If you have received an offer of admission in the early round, you will only know the grid scholarship (Merit Scholarship, President’s Scholarship, or President’s Scholarship of Distinction) that you have been selected to receive at this time.  If your grades improve between now and May, your grid scholarship may be upgraded.  In addition to a grid scholarship, students may also be selected for a named scholarship in early May.

Finally, for those who like to ask theoretical questions, your grid scholarship will not be downgraded if your grades decrease for any reason.  Once you have been offered a grid scholarship, it is never downgraded.  However, if your grades fall too much, you may run the risk of having your admission offer revoked.  You still have to meet the conditions on your offer letter.

Admission Information Forms

For those students who have applied to one of our engineering programs, remember to submit all required documentation by midnight (EST) on February 28th.  Applicants who do not submit their Admission Information Forms will be ineligible for admission.  Every year, we have a few applicants who miss the deadline and they are very surprised to find out that we enforce the deadline.  Extensions to deadlines at the university level are very rare.  We need as much time as possible to assess our applicants thoroughly.  We simply cannot afford to delay our admission decisions.  Our first full round of admission offers will be sent out on March 31st.

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At our latest count, we had 11,066 applications to Waterloo Engineering programs this year.  This is fewer applications than we have had in previous years.

As noted previously, we have seen a decline in the number of international applications.  At first glance, the decline in international applications does not seem to be attributable to a single factor.  Determining why prospective international applicants do not apply to a program can be difficult.  We have no easy way of contacting people who considered our programs but did not apply.  We could run a survey on our website but this requires people to visit our website and to answer honestly.

If you are still reading my blog and you decided to apply elsewhere instead of Waterloo Engineering, please let me know what factors played a role in your decision by commenting on my blog.  If there is something we can do better, it would be useful for us to know.  Anecdotal evidence is often better than nothing at all.

Every year we do a survey of applicants that turn down offers of acceptance.  For the 2018 / 2019 admission cycle, the most common reasons cited for turning down a Waterloo Engineering offer were the following:

  1. Campus Life (33.2% of respondents)
  2. Program Offered (32.9% of respondents)
  3. Program Cost (30.3% of respondents)
  4. Campus Location (25.2% of respondents)
  5. Distance from Home (23.6% of respondents)

We did receive some good news in this admission cycle.  Domestic applications to engineering programs remain strong in a highly competitive environment.  Some programs did better than others.  To answer the question that my readers will no doubt ask, I do not anticipate the probabilities of acceptance to differ significantly from the graphs I posted last September.

If you missed out on applying for a Waterloo Engineering program for Fall 2020, applications for Fall 2021 will open next October.  Due to our cohort system where students are part of a class of students that progress through terms of study, we are only able to offer admission to our undergraduate programs starting in Fall terms.  Our 1A term courses are not usually offered in the Winter or the Spring terms.

Application Process Update

Now that the holiday season is drawing to a close and the Winter term has started, I thought it might be worthwhile to give everyone a brief update on our application process.  The application deadline for Waterloo Engineering is fast approaching.

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As indicated in our engineering brochure, interested applicants should apply to Waterloo Engineering on the OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Centre) site by Friday, January 31st.  Applicants have an additional four weeks to submit all supporting documentation for their application.  Supporting documentation includes the AIF (Admission Information Form) and the optional Online Interview.  All supporting documentation must be completed by Friday, February 28th.

The AIF (Admission Information Form) is a required component of the application process.  If it is not completed and submitted by the deadline, you will not receive an offer of admission.  Last year, there were a few applicants who missed the deadline due to a combination of procrastination and computer problems.  My suggestion is that applicants complete the AIF (Admission Information Form) well in advance of the deadline to ensure that they do not miss out on their applications being fully considered.

We have currently received over 9,100 applications to Waterloo Engineering programs, excluding Architecture.  This is approximately 1.8% lower than last year.  Some programs have more applicants and others have fewer applicants.  To answer the inevitable question, I cannot disclose more specific application numbers at this time.  The application numbers change rapidly and without context, they are largely meaningless.

However, I can say that we have seen a few general trends.  There has been a slight increase in domestic applications for many engineering programs and a slight decrease in visa applications for almost all engineering programs.  These trends have been consistent for the past month as I have been tracking the application numbers periodically.  In approximately 4 weeks, I should have the final application numbers for the 2019/2020 admission cycle.  I expect our total number of applications to approach 11,000 by the application deadline.

I wish to thank those applicants who have already submitted their AIFs and Online Interviews.  We have already begun assessing interviews that have been completed by applicants.  We expect to complete our assessments of all AIFs and Online Interviews by the end of March in preparation for our first round of admission offers.  It greatly helps our Admissions Office to receive supporting documentation early.

As you can probably imagine, we are very busy at this time of the year.  While our Admissions Office will do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner, please keep in mind that we are very busy at this time of the year.  We are experiencing a high volume of inquiries.

 

 

 

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

30 years ago, a senseless act of violence occurred at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal that took the lives of 14 young women.

There is no place in society for gender-based violence.

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The above image is one of many that the Government of Canada has prepared for individuals to start a conversation on gender-based violence.  Additional images can be found here for those wishing to start a conversation.  Remember to include the hashtag #OurActionsMatter to have your voice heard.

Today at 10:30 am, the University of Waterloo will commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women with a ceremony in the 2nd Floor Atrium of Engineering 7.  You can officially register for the event here but there will be space set aside for people to attend, even if they have not officially registered.

In addition to the ceremony, the University of Waterloo will be participating in a nationwide memorial by shining a beam of light into the sky to honour and remember the 14 young women.  The beam of light will be turned on at 5:00 pm just outside of Engineering 5.  As visitors pass by the light, we ask that all reflect upon this tragedy and pay tribute with a moment of silence.

Should you wish to take positive action, one thing you can do is donate to the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation.  This foundation aims to attract women to the engineering profession to honour the memory of the 14 women whose lives tragically ended on December 6, 1989.  Many highly successful engineers have benefited from the work of this important foundation.

One of our University of Waterloo students was the recipient of the Nellie Giffen Ambassador Award for 2019 offered by the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation.  I would encourage interested female applicants and female students to consider applying for an Undergraduate Ambassador Award on the foundation’s website.  The deadline to apply for an award is January 13, 2020.