It’s been a hectic few weeks with many of our Admissions team working late nights and weekends, but our last round of Engineering admission offers are starting to come out.  The OUAC Form 101 offers (i.e. Ontario high school applicants) are posted to Quest (our internal system) and will show up on OUAC soon (if not already).  The OUAC Form 105 offers are in progress and should show up on Quest in the next day or two.  At this point in the admission cycle there will now be groups of happy and unhappy people, so a few preliminary observations to put it in context.  I’ll try to post additional information and suggestions in the coming weeks.

This year we had about 9000 applicants to Engineering.  About 5500 did not get offers, so our “selectivity” is around 0.39 (i.e. 39% of applicants got offers).  In a previous post about selectivity, our number was 0.44.  So it has obviously gotten more difficult to get an offer this year.  This is not by design, it’s simply a function of more applicants for a fixed number of available spaces.  We already run at the limits of our capacity in classrooms, labs, and teaching resources, so taking more students is not presently feasible.

This year the competition was significantly tougher for the spaces in Chemical,  Nanotechnology, Software, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Mechanical seemed to be a bit tougher too.  The other programs were at similar competition levels as last year.

It’s sort of shocking to have to turn down so many good applicants, many with grades in the 80’s and 90’s, and I’m sure they are shocked too.  But we don’t have much choice.  Too much popularity and not enough capacity.

59 thoughts on “Decisions

  1. If you had received an alternative offer (Computer Engineering) when your main choice was Software Engineering, would it be possible to switch to the Software Engineering stream in first year?


  2. Why are people who didn’t even list Computer Engineering as one of their alternates being given an alternate offer to it after being rejected from Software Engineering? For example, …[edited].You said that the admissions cycle is “iterative” in order to give everyone a fair chance at getting in, but this isn’t fair at all.
    Doesn’t this create even further competition for people who have applied to ECE, as now, not only do they have to compete against other ECE applicants, but they have to compete against SE applicants as well.

  3. Hi professor!

    As I understand, the admission offers for Ontario applicants have all been given out at this time. If it is not too much to ask, would it be possible for you to post this year’s admission averages and/or cutoffs for each of the engineering programs? The information would be greatly appreciated by us and would definitely be a great asset for next year applicants. Thank you so much!

  4. Hi,

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog!

    When you comment that the mechanical engineering program is a bit more competitive what does that translate to for admission averages? Around what would be the admission average for mechanical engineering? What about civil engineering?

    Also, I was wondering why 105 applicant acceptances comes out a bit later than 101 applicants.Would all May offers come out in the next couple of days as in before this weekend?

    I look forward to your reply!


    John Lee

    • I don’t have a specific number at the moment, but both programs are probably needing averages in the high 80s to have any sort of chance. Form 105 offers have to be processed manually, because the final conditions are dependent on the school system and there are dozens of different ones. The Form 101 applicants are all from Ontario, so their offers can be processed as one large automatic batch. Yes, I think everything will be posted by this weekend.

  5. when you say “Electrical and Computer engineering” does computer engineering by it self counts. How is the competition for Computer engineering

    • For admissions, Electrical and Computer Engineering are treated as one group, so the competition for spaces is the same. They have the same first year courses and you can easily switch between them.

  6. Dear professor,
    I am a grade 11 student from Ontario and is very interested in Waterloo engineering, specially the mechanical and electrical branches. I have done a lot of research and wondering what are the respective competitiveness of both programs for this year’s admission. This information will give me a sense of what I need to achieve by the end of next year. I understand from the “chance yourself” ECE is slightly easier to get in than Mech. However as I understand the average for ECE got significantly harder where Mech is only slightly. So I would assume they are of sequel level? I understand it would be unrealistic to give exact numbers at this point but can you provide some qualitative insight to this issue? Thank you professor.

    • We will be updating the information on the level of competition for the programs, based on this most recent experience. But it will take a while to sort out, so it may not appear until June at the earliest.

  7. For a future post, when the dust clears, can you give some examples of some AIF submissions that were rated high (ie. 4 or 5) compared to ones that got lower marks (ie. 1, 2 or 3). I know you can’t be too specific because of privacy issues, but it would be interesting to see what things are viewed as important in terms of extracurriculars by the admissions committee?

  8. Hi Professor,
    Thanks for keeping everyone informed about the developments in the Engineering Dept at Waterloo. It is a very good blog! Just wondering, when are students normally offered the department specific scholarships? Is it before or after acceptance to a program? If you had been offered early acceptance (February) would you already know this information?
    Thanks very much

  9. Electrical engineering and computer engineering are essentially the same program, call it electrical and computer engineering, within which you can focus your interests along one or more of approximately ten sub-disciplines. A traditional division along electrical/computer lines no longer makes sense due to the diversity of interconnections between them.

  10. On the Waterloo website, it has come to my attention that an applicant with a 90 percent average falls under two categories on the website with different probabilities of being accepted into programs. It would be great if you could clarify the situation for me.

  11. Thank you for the insightful posts professor! As a fellow University of Waterloo attendee this fall, I look forward to visually experiencing all the things you have described in your blog over the past months.

  12. Wow.. I was quite disappointed to see that I was denied. I was so confident in my application.

    Would I be able to call the admissions office and ask where my application was lacking?

    • Sorry. There are a lot of disappointed people at the moment. You can ask about your application (probably better through email), but in most cases it is not that anything was lacking, just a lot of competition for limited spaces.

  13. I’m taking night school right now, and on my OUAC is lists my course twice, one with my mark and one with a NMR. Does that get interpreted by admissions as having repeated a course? (This is my first time taking the course..)

    Also, on the AIF, is it just given a score? Or will admissions actually take into account the type of extracurriculars the applicant is involved in ( for example, research) in determining a prospective offer for the applicant?

  14. When my application for Mechatronics says “deny” beside it, does it still mean that I still have the chance to be considered for my alternative programs? Also, my school made a mistake with my latest transcript and an email was sent to the admission office directly from my school addressing the problem which was done two days ago. Is there any way for me to request a reassessment?

    • “Deny” means all possible alternatives have been considered. We’re happy to look into possible transcript errors and see if it would have made any difference. Just email us ( with your ID number and explanation of the problem so we can look up the files and review it.

      • Thank you for your reply! It’s still very shocking to find that I have been denied because I know students from the year above me from my school who had grades the same as mine but with less extracurricular activities and awards that still made it into engineering programs at UW.

        Anyway, I’m looking to try to transfer in my first year from the U of T electrical engineering program into UW’s electrical engineering program. I read that a minimum of a B average is required. Is there anything else I can do that will help with the chances of a successful transfer even though I heard it is very rare? Also, when should I start applying?

      • I hope to have a post dedicated to transfer issues, someday. They are complicated, and therefore not common. Applications (OUAC) open in September or October, but decisions aren’t usually made until May when we can get the University grades.

    • Scholarship offers are going out by mail (we don’t have an electronic posting system in place yet). I think people will start receiving it this week, or next week at the latest. Decisions are based on a combination of grades and AIF scores.

  15. Hey Professor,
    Could you possibly post the statistics for acceptance rate and such for each engineering discipline?
    I think it’s something everyone would be really interested in.

  16. I applied to the BCS/BBA double degree, CFM, and CS programs. I got an alternate offer for geomatics from the CS, is that a no to all programs (within the faculty)? or could the other two still be on the table?

  17. I am an international student (British Systerm of study) who got rejected from Chemical engineering ( Mechanical and Electrical the next options). I find it totally absurd that I would get rejected with no grades less than A. In the British system, such grades are very hard to achieve, and only the top 5% of the graduating year of a class get it. Also, I have compared different syllabi and found that the syllabus covered in British A Levels is a little more advanced than IB and much more advanced than Ontario Year 12. Yet, there are people from Ontario schools getting in with something like 86% in Mechanical engineering. That disappointed me a lot. Anyway, I was involved in lots and lots of extracurriculars and served top roles, and spent a lot of effort on my AIF. I would be happy if you help me understand this admission mechanism clearly so that I know what I am lacking. My grades got me accepted into UofT and UBC, but UW is where I really wanted to study.

    Thank you

    • Sorry for the disappointment. The competition for international students is tougher, because we only have a very limited number of spaces available (about 185 in total). Other universities either have more capacity, or have increased international student spaces at the expense of Canadian students. This is possibly why you would get offers from Toronto and UBC, but not UW. You may not have been lacking in any way, just unfortunate in the competition.

      We are quite familiar with the British system and its content. Getting a grade of “A” is very good, although not quite limited to the top 5%. Cambridge and Edexcel statistics show that about 20 to 30% of A Level exam takers score an A or A*.

  18. Hello Professor,
    I am currently in grade 11 and I am currently taking Grade 12 Advanced Functions and Grade 12 Computer Science.
    To ease up my course load for next year, I plan on taking Grade 12 Physics in summer school and I understand that I have to mention this in my AIF this winter.
    How much does taking Grade 12 physics in summer school affect my chances of admission?
    I have over 96 in these grade 12 classes that I’m currently taking. So as long as I keep high marks in other required courses, am I fine even if I take physics in the summer?

    Thank you.

    • It’s tempting to compare yourself to others, but not very productive. They may be reporting an average that is not accurate or different from the way we calculate admission averages. Their ECs may seem similar, but the AIF scores could be quite different, depending on how well it was presented and how impressed the reader was. There may be differences in the curriculum, or adjustment factors, etc. Or, maybe they were among a large group with similar scores and just got lucky (as illustrated in this other post).

  19. Hi Prof,

    In recent weeks, I have made a last minute adjustment to my alternative choices on the Waterloo Quest webpage to management engineering. However, I was unable to explain my interest in that engineering field on the first AIF paragraph. In that scenario would I not be considered for my alternative choices? Would that have any affects on me being considered for my alternative choices? How much do the paragraphs weigh in on the AIF forms?

    Also, does Waterloo look at top 5 averages? or top 6 grade 12 course average including one elective? Would guitar be considered an elective?

    Moreover, you mentioned that if one’s purpose to repeat a course was to keep the material fresh then Waterloo would most likely consider the first attempt mark. Would taking courses in summer school or online have any affects on one’s application?

    • The content of the AIF paragraphs are not used for alternate choice decisions. The admission average is the 5 required courses + the next highest U/M course (in the Ontario curriculum; other school systems may be different). Guitar is not a U/M level course, so it wouldn’t count.

      Summer & online courses have no effect, unless they are repeated.

  20. Hi Prof. Anderson,

    Will the bursary decisions be mailed out with scholarship decisions in the admission package as well?


  21. Hello Professor,

    I am an international student and I got accepted into Software Engineering. I didn’t get the $10000 scholarship reserved for international students. It is mentioned in the university website that the candidate should have a minimum of 90. My admission average is less than 90. In my country, the school exams are evaluated strictly so that complacency doesn’t creep in. I am likely to get a 90+ in my 12th final examinations. I have also scored 89 in Euclid and have made it to the international student’s honor rolls. Also, I secured Gold Standard in Hypatia last year. So is there any chance of being reconsidered for the $10000 scholarship?


    • Unfortunately we only have a limited number of those scholarships. If some are freed up by other students not accepting their offers, we might be able to re-award them over the summer. If this happens, you would be automatically re-considered and contacted if successful.

  22. Sir,
    I am student from India. I have passes my class(grade) -12 with 91.4% average
    But due to some circumstances ii was not able to fill application. So I want to ask that if I enroll in a local engineering college in India then Am I eligible for first year application if I want to repeat it in University of Waterloo

      • But i don’t think that by the application deadline there would be any college exams to show in application
        Secondly i want to ask that whether there will be any effect on decision by reputation of college

      • We will use whatever grades that can be submitted by March 30 of each year, whether that is just high school, or first semester college. We don’t use “reputation”, but usually ask for course descriptions so we can understand the level of background.

  23. If one of my top 6 courses from the time of my acceptance isn’t a part of my top 6 anymore, will Waterloo select the next best course for the top 6 average to check if I meet the admission conditions?

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