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:


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


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


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


  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)


  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.

Information for Prospective Students

For prospective students thinking of applying to Waterloo Engineering programs, there are two websites that you should definitely check out.

The first website is the Waterloo Virtual Fair Website. This website allows you to register for our university fair on October 3rd. The fair will run from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT. There will be morning and afternoon breakout sessions for the Faculty of Engineering. You will have the ability to talk to faculty (including myself), staff, and students about our engineering programs and the admission process. This event is designed to replace our participation in the annual Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. Please note that you should register soon for this event if you have not already done so.

The second website is the Undergraduate Programs Website that allows you to request faculty and program brochures. You may request printed brochures or electronic brochures. I personally recommend the electronic brochures. Not only are they environmentally friendly but they can also be searched easily. <CTRL-F> can save you time when reading electronic brochures. To request a brochure, you will need to provide your name and an e-mail address. A mailing address is also required if you request a printed brochure.

This is a short post but I thought I would leave you with a bit of history about the University of Waterloo. This past summer, our university was deeply saddened by the passing of Douglas Wright, the founding Dean of Engineering and President Emeritus. Outside the engineering building named after Douglas Wright, you can find the following plaque that describes the importance of the building bearing his name. Douglas Wright will always have a prominent place in the history of our unconventional university.

2021 Admission Cycle

The 2021 Admission Cycle has officially begun. I just received word that applicants from outside the Ontario secondary school system may now start the OUAC 105 application process for admission to the University of Waterloo in Fall 2021. Ontario secondary school applicants will need to wait a few more weeks until early October to start the OUAC 101 application process. It is my understanding that the start dates of the application process are staggered by the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) to help distribute the load on their servers.

Normally, our admission cycle starts with the Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) which would have been held this past weekend. This event was not held this year due to restrictions on event sizes imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the Province of Ontario. It is one of many recruiting events that will likely be cancelled or redesigned this year. Our Fall Open House has also been cancelled. We have replaced these recruiting events with several online events that have been designed to answer many of your questions about Waterloo Engineering.

The Faculty of Engineering has online events planned for the months of October, November, December, and January for those wishing to speak with representatives of the university about our programs. I have a number of dates saved on my calendar for recruiting events but the most important one is currently October 3rd. On that day, we will be holding on online event from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm to answer your questions about the University of Waterloo and its many programs. This online event replaces the Ontario Universities Fair.

I look forward to chatting with as many prospective students as possible on October 3rd. More details on this event will be announced soon. If for any reason, you cannot participate in the event on October 3rd, there will be other opportunities to get your questions answered by our faculty, staff, and students.

I am also thinking about running some live sessions of my own in November as time permits, provided there is interest in doing so. The goal of these events would be to provide more information on Waterloo Engineering, to discuss our programs, and to answer common questions about the application process.

Since it is the Fall, I thought I would share with you one of my photographs of Engineering 2 in the Fall. I believe I took this photograph in 1996. It is a bit difficult to date exactly as it was taken on a film camera. It was a photograph that was part of a set for a virtual campus tour that I implemented for graduate students at the time.

Engineering 2 in the Fall of 1996

I will update my blog as I learn more about recruiting events that are planned over the coming months.

Stay safe and healthy!

Preparing for University

With the start of university approximately 1 month away, incoming students are likely starting to get very anxious about their future.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the Fall term if you are planning on starting university.

  1. Make sure you are prepared to participate in online course activities.
  2. If you are planning a move, think about the things you will need to take with you.
  3. Develop healthy living habits prior to the start of university.
  4. Connect with your classmates and instructors as early as possible.
  5. Reach out for help when you need it.

Let’s look at each of these points in detail…

Make sure you are prepared to participate in online course activities.

With classes being held remotely in the Fall and most likely the Winter, you will want to make sure that you have created an environment suitable for studying effectively.  You may not have the luxury of buying a brand new computer with dual 27″ monitors, a desk, an office chair, and all of the peripherals you would love to own so you need to prioritize.  My suggestion is to focus on acquiring things that will make it easier for you to study for reasonably long periods of time.

A functional desk is essential.  Students living in residence will have access to a suitable desk and a chair.  Some students may find it useful to upgrade their chair to a proper office chair for long hours in front of a computer.  In my home office, my chair is probably my weakest link.  A good office chair is something you will definitely appreciate when working long hours.  Keep in mind that there are ways to purchase chairs affordably.  There are stores that sell used office furniture where you can get a very good deal.  With businesses closing, you may find that there is a reasonable supply of lightly used office furniture.  Regardless of whether you are purchasing a new or used chair, make sure you try it out before buying it.  Stores like Staples and IKEA have chairs that you can test out.

On the computer front, make sure you have the peripherals you will need to be successful:

  1. Webcam
  2. Headphones
  3. A full-size keyboard
  4. A nice monitor (or two)

You will note that I did not specify a computer.  Almost any computer will work with the online teaching tools used by the university.  Unless your existing computer is very old or you do not have a computer at all, upgrading to a new computer may not be necessary.  Most computers (even old ones) are capable of running office software and browsing the internet.

If you need to acquire any peripherals, now is the time to do so.  Things like webcams can be hard to find.  Demand for technology has outpaced supply over the past 4 months.  Also, back-to-school sales have already started.

If you are planning a move, think about the things you will need to take with you.

Remember your business attire.  You will never forget to pack your favorite t-shirt but it is easy to forget that you may have a job interview in your first month of co-op studies.  Even if you are not in a co-op program, you should always have one outfit suitable for a job interview or a special event.  Working from home hasn’t eliminated the need for business attire completely.  If you are interviewing for a job, you should still show respect to an employer by dressing appropriately.

Another good thing to remember would be some memories of home.  If you have a photograph, a poster, or something that just sits on your desk and makes you happy, remember to bring it with you.  It is important that you make your “new home” feel like home.

If you need anything to help you sleep better, bring it with you.  A pillow or a blanket might turn a residence room into a much more welcoming environment.  But also remember that you will need something to wake you up in the morning.  When I was a student, a dedicated alarm clock with a battery backup was a great investment.  It also doubled as a radio which was nice.

Finally, keep in mind that space is likely limited.  You cannot move an entire house into residence.  Choose things wisely.  A bean bag chair might not fit comfortably in your new place.  Only bring things that you really need.  After a few terms of packing and unpacking, you will get very good at recognizing what you need to pack.

To figure out what you really need, you can do the following over the next week.  When you use something over the next week, make a note of it.  At the end of this week, things not on the list are probably things that you can manage without (at least for 4 months at a time).

Develop healthy living habits prior to the start of university.

Eating right, exercising, and developing healthy sleeping habits will boost your productivity.  All of these are tough things to do well but every effort you make will help. Most importantly, try to develop a good schedule now while you are not in university.  Once you develop a schedule, it will be easier to stick to it when you start your studies.  I would suggest going to sleep no later than 11 pm in the days leading up to you starting your studies.  Also, try to wake up by 7 am the next day.  Remember that classes start as early as 8:30 am.  In a normal term, you need to be at class by that time which means waking up, cleaning up, getting dressed, having breakfast, and going to class.

I have been guilty of having some very bad sleeping habits lately.  The long hours of teaching remotely have been taking a toll on my sleep.  Again, when you fall out of good habits (and this will happen), do everything you can to get back on schedule.

Connect with your classmates and instructors as early as possible.

There are ways that you can connect to your classmates already.  The Waterloo Ready program is just one of many ways to connect.  There are Discord servers and other online forums for students to interact with their classmates.  While many of these channels are unofficial, they are great ways to get to know other students in your program.  E-mail also works.  Feel free to reach out to your instructors.  Many of them will gladly e-mail you back.

Reach out for help when you need it.

Isolation is not healthy for anyone.  We have already seen anecdotal evidence that excellent students are struggling with remote learning.  While some students strive in a remote learning environments, students who have traditionally done very well in their studies are struggling the most.  Our university has been doing everything it can reasonably do to help students with stress, anxiety, and depression.  We realize that students are worried not only about their studies but also about many important societal issues and health concerns.  While we have resources to help students, many of the resources require students to take the first step.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Knowing your limitations is a sign of strength, not weakness!

A final note…

There is still time to defer your university studies by a year (or two) if you are not ready to start classes in the Fall.  The deadline for submitting an Admission Deferral Request Form was extended until August 14th this year.  Our university extended the deadline from August 1st in recognition of the fact that many students are likely undecided on how to proceed this year.

Deferring is not a decision that you should make lightly. 

This year, more than ever, there is a strong case to be made for deferring the start of your studies.  Students starting this year will be studying remotely in the Fall.  You are making a huge investment in your future.  You need to maximize the return on your investment.  If you do not think that remote learning is a good fit for you, deferring may be a very good option.  However, if you typically spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer watching videos, remote learning may be ideal for you.  Some students are thriving in remote learning.  Others are struggling.  It is difficult to predict how any individual will react to remote learning.

Another reason to defer may be that you cannot come to the university and you are studying in a different time zone.  We have approximately 300 international students who have actively enrolled in first year studies for engineering programs in Fall 2020.  While travel restrictions are always subject to change, the current restrictions do not appear to allow new students on a study permit to travel to Canada for remote learning.  There are a few exceptions but travel may be impossible for new students.  While it is possible to study remotely in the Fall, it may be difficult to justify paying over $30,000 in tuition and incidental fees for one term of remote studies.  For those students studying remotely in different time zones, know that the University of Waterloo has been developing ways to support you effectively in your remote studies.

Of course, recent data suggests that students who graduate from our engineering programs often get very lucrative employment offers after graduation so studying this Fall may still be a very good investment in your future.  A recent survey of Management Engineering graduates suggests that the starting salaries of the graduating class are very comparable to the salaries of the faculty members teaching them.  About a third of our recent graduates in Management Engineering report making more than $160,000 CAD.

On the subject of investment, keep in mind that university tuition typically increases every year.  This is one of the disadvantages of deferring.  From a cost perspective, it is always best to start your studies as early as possible and to finish as early as possible.  For international students, first year tuition sometimes increases by as much as 15% per year so this can be an important consideration.  For domestic students, first year tuition increases are typically around 5% so it plays a much less significant factor in decisions.

As a final comment, I should point out that even if you start this Fall and you find that you are overwhelmed, the last day for a full tuition refund is September 28th.  If you start classes and decide that you are not ready after a few weeks, you always have the option of getting your tuition refunded.  While it is clearly better to defer now than to pay and then ask for a refund, this does provide students with a bit of time to better assess their situations.

I will finish by thanking everyone for the positive feedback on the photos from my garden.  Here are a few more photographs from my garden to brighten your day:



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.