Admissions 2015: How it’s going to work

Here is an update on past years’ very popular post, with some revisions and clarification for the upcoming September 2015 admissions cycle.

Here is an overview on how the process is going to work and the approximate timelines.  As usual, this is specific to Waterloo Engineering admissions; other programs and universities will have their own unique variations.  Also, make sure you look through our admissions webpages for exact deadlines and official requirements since this is just an unofficial, quick overview and I can’t cover every detail for every variety of applicant and situation.

First, just note that there are two broad classes of applicants:  those who are currently attending a high school in Ontario (we call them “OSS” or “Form 101” applicants), and those who are not (“NOSS” or “Form 105” applicants, which includes people in other provinces and countries, transfer applicants, and those who graduated from high school already).  There is no advantage to being one type or the other, it’s just a different internal process because of the way data is provided to us, as explained below.  So, here’s the process:

  1. Decide which of our engineering programs you are most interested in.  That will be the one you officially apply to in Step #2.  For some people this is a hard decision. If so, start early and do lots of research.  There are some other suggestions and information in a previous post on choosing a program.  Those within reasonable travel distance of Waterloo might want to talk to us (engineering faculty, staff and students) at our Fall Open House (November 1, 2014), or arrange a visit anytime.  Doing some upfront homework and picking a program that matches your interests is fairly critical, because we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to change your mind after May, once all the spaces are filled.
  2. Apply to your chosen program through the online OUAC centre.  They provide all the necessary instructions on their website.  OSS applicants use “OUAC 101” and should apply by mid-January.  NOSS use “OUAC 105” and have up to March 1 to apply, but sooner is better.
  3. Follow any additional instructions we send by email.  Check your spam or junk folder, where our emails sometimes end up.  You don’t want to miss anything important!  You will get information on how to set up your special online account at Waterloo (called “Quest”), and other things you need to do.
  4. If you need to meet our English Language Requirements, submit your TOEFL or IELTS or other English test score.  We won’t consider you at all if this is missing, no matter how good your grades are.  Sometimes we request English test scores even if you are theoretically exempted, if there is some cause for concern (we reserve the right to request English tests from any applicant).
  5. Submit your Admission Information Form (AIF) by the recommended deadline in early February (or as soon as possible if your OUAC application was submitted after this date).  This is your chance to tell us about your interests, awards, extra-curricular activities, employment experience, and any other significant things you want us to know about.  You can also give us a 2nd and 3rd choice engineering program you’d like to be considered for, if your application isn’t competitive enough for your first choice.  A  post from a prior year discusses what the AIF asks for in more detail. If you don’t submit an AIF you will probably not receive an offer, so don’t forget or ignore it!
  6. OSS applicants can sit back and wait (but don’t slack off!).  We will eventually get all your grade 11 and 12 marks directly from the school by electronic data transmission.  You do not need to decide which grades to send.  We will pick out the grades we need to generate an admission average.
  7. NOSS applicants will have to send us high school transcripts and predicted grades (if applicable), or university transcripts in the case of transfer applicants.  We will start going through this and compiling the grades data we need for decision-making.  With thousands of applicants and more than a dozen types of school systems, this is a labourious and time-consuming manual process, so please be patient!  If something is confusing or apparently missing, we will contact you for more information.
  8. We take the grade data and compile an “admission average”.  This is the average of the required courses (English, chemistry, physics, math; the exact courses depend on the type of school system).  If a required course grade doesn’t exist yet (usually because it will be taken in the next semester), we will use a similar course from an earlier year (for example, for an Ontario school we might use the SCH3U (Chemistry 11) mark if  SCH4U (Chemistry 12)  is not in progress yet).
  9. We send portions of all the AIFs out to reviewers (faculty and alumni) to be read and assigned a score of up to 5 points.  This gets added to your admission average.  There are almost 10,000 AIFs to review, so this takes a while too.
  10. We compile “adjustment factors” based on our historical student performance data.  The adjustment factor is simply the difference between the admission average and first year engineering average, broken down by school or region.  A typical adjustment factor is around -15, meaning that a student with a 90% high school average ends up with a 75% average in engineering.  However, some are higher and others are lower.  Here is an old Macleans article on this subject.
  11. For every applicant, we generate an “admission score”.  This is the sum of the admission average + AIF score + adjustment factor.  If any of the required courses have been repeated, we will likely deduct 5 points off the admission score, unless there are extenuating circumstances.  We may also make adjustments for unusually high grades in courses taken outside of a regular day school.
  12. Sometime in late February, we will take all the data we have and start making some admission decisions.  For each program, we rank the applicants by admission score and start making offers to the top ones.  We will probably aim to fill about 30%  of the available spaces at this point.  We like to save a lot of spaces for later, to give a chance for those whose 2nd semester grades significantly improve their admission average, and for the NOSS applicant transcripts we are still processing.  This is our “early round”, described in a previous post.  We might also do some early rejections for applicants who clearly have no chance at admission.  It’s probably better to let them know earlier, rather than making them wait until May.
  13. From March to April we continue processing transcripts and AIFs, and assembling the remaining data for the final round.  We are also waiting for the 2nd semester mid-term grades to be uploaded for the OSS applicants, and we review any updated transcripts from NOSS applicants.
  14. In early May, we do the final selection of applicants based on admission scores, and we fill the remaining spaces in all the programs.  For those who don’t get admitted into their first choice program (the one they officially applied to on OUAC), we will put them into the pool for their second or third choice programs, and they compete on an equal basis.  Offers are posted online as soon as they are available, and mailings go out shortly after.  People that don’t get an offer are informed, and we will put them on a waitlist for re-consideration in June, if they request it.
  15. At the same time, we award the various Engineering entrance scholarships, based on grades and AIF scores.  Scholarship awards also go out in May.
  16. In early June, there is a deadline for accepting the offer and placing a deposit to secure a spot in residence (if desired).
  17. After the deadline in early June, we check our acceptance numbers.  If there are any remaining spaces we will do a few late offers for those on our wait list.  Usually there are very few open spaces however.
  18. All of our admission offers are conditional on maintaining a minimum admission average and certain minimum grades in the required courses, and possibly some other things (the specifics depend on the type of school system and will be explained in the offer letter).  In July and August, we get the final grades and transcripts and check that these conditions have been met.  In a small number of cases, we have to revoke the offer during those months.

So that’s the process, more or less.  There are a variety of other posts from last year that explain various parts in more detail, so have a look around or try the search function.

140 thoughts on “Admissions 2015: How it’s going to work

  1. I found this article very helpful and informative. As to regards of an early acceptance(mid-February) what average would you need to keep for the remaining courses? (pertaining to point 18)

  2. Will poor Euclid or CCC scores negatively impact admission chances? I know that for Computer Science (math faculty), they recommend that applicants take these contests but I was wondering if poor results have a negative impact on engineering admissions.

  3. Hello professor,
    does applying earlier and sending marks for the completed required courses increase the chance of admission?

    • No, because we do the offers in two batches, with most of them in early May, there is no particular advantage to applying early as far as admission chances go. However, it’s good to not wait until the last minute because if there are any questions or problems with documents we like to have time to follow up one-on-one with the applicant.

  4. Hi professor,

    I have a question concerning the AIF. In my free time I am building a robot, and I was wondering if it would be appropriate to talk about it on my AIF. If so, could I include a link to a blog or something similar detailing the build process?

  5. Hi professor,

    I am a grade 12 high school student. You said in your post that if a grade 12 course isn’t available (because it’s in the next semester) you will use the corresponding grade 11 course. However, if my grade 11 course mark isn’t very good (for e.g. my SCH 3U1 mark is 85%) but my SCH 4U1 mark, which I am taking next semester, is better (I am expecting a 90-93%) then which one will you count, since you will send the offer/rejection letter before the second semester is completed?

  6. Hi professor,

    I’m an American student applying to Waterloo, and the national reply date for US schools is May 1. I’d like to know if it will be likely that I will receive my admission offer before this date. Thanks!

  7. In the “Awards” section of the AIF, would it be appropriate to list team awards or should we only list individual awards?

    Also, is there a specific section to list volunteer work or does that fall under another category?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Team awards are fine, if you had some significant role (which you could explain). I don’t think there is a specific volunteer work section, just use the extracurriculars section.

  8. Hey professor,
    You talked about how a significant change in marks (>10%) from gr 11 and gr 12 if the latter is taken in summer school will be adjusted accordingly because it shows inconsistency and inflation with the student’s previous achievement. What about an accredited private school where I achieve a mark consistent to the rest of my grades? ex. 86 in gr 11 day, 93 in gr 12 private? Do you have a specific range in which the change would be deemed “consistent” and not necessary to adjust? Thank you!

  9. Is it ok to take a non required course in summer school, assuming it counts for top 6 marks? There are a few grade 12 credits like Earth and Space Science which are not offered in day school that I am interested in. I don’t have to take them, but it does not hurt to get more credits. Also, would online summer school be written down as summer school or as Distance Education/ Online on the AIF?

  10. Hi, professor. I am just wondering that do the private school credits scores(My day school is the private school) are deducted during the admission process? Can Waterloo see where I took the courses?

  11. Hi, sir, would you consider which other subject(means the subject which is except from Eng, Math, Chem and Phy) I took? Like if a Mandarin native speaker took Mandarin in G12 and submit this course as the six courses average, would you do any deduction on it?

  12. Hi prof,

    Do you know if it is easier to switch from software engineering to mechatronics or the other way around? I wanted to know so that if its easier to switch from mechatronics to software engineering than the other way around, I would list Mechatronics as my first choice and soft eng. as my second. Also what was the average acceptance average for mechatronics eng, soft eng, and comp eng for this school year (2014-2015)?


    • Based on the past few years, it is almost impossible to switch into either software or mechatronics, from any program. They are always full. Mean acceptance averages are not very useful, as they are all in the range of 91 to 93% for most of the programs. The post on Chances for 2015 is a better way to look at it.

  13. Hey Professor,

    I am a student from Alberta and I am currently upgrading Math 30-1 and Physics 30 through an online school. When I previously took the courses, I did not take them seriously and in turn scored low along with the diploma being worth 50% (which did not help). After not doing well in Math 30-1 first semester I went directly into Math 31 in the second semester and scored a 93. My marks now in these courses are sitting at a 98 and a 95 (more than 11% higher than previous) and I was wondering if the acceptance panel would consider this inflation and penalize me. I have been much more dedicated to these courses and have been working very hard to achieve higher grades. Also, because my grade in Math 31 is higher than my grade in Math 30-1, would I be penalized for repeating?
    Are my chances of acceptance much lower because of this?


    – Brad

  14. Say you repeated a course, is there a certain percentage range from the original mark to your new mark where you won’t receive a 5% penalty?

  15. Hello Professor,

    I’m a potential graduate (in Spring 2015) from an Honours Biology program at McMaster University. I wish to pursue a second Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. I saw on the Waterloo website that degree holders are not preferred. Do you think I have any chances of getting into Waterloo’s Computer/Electrical/Civil Engineering with a university GPA of ~3.7 and a high school Top 6 of ~91%?

    Thank you.

    • Biology is not too close to those programs, so we will consider it. High school marks are irrelevant; admission decisions will be based on performance in university level math and science courses not just the overall average.

  16. The adjustment factors are based on the previous history of students’ performance in first year university. But how about my school doesn’t have many students who went to UW for engineering(my school is a private school)? How do adjustment factors apply on this circumstance?

  17. I am taking IB diploma in BC. A couple of teachers are very strict and have history of giving low school marks and predicted IB marks. For example, I received 76% on IB SL Math 11 and I believe I will get a predicted ‘4’ from him. Begining of the school year, we had a teacher strike in BC. I made use of the time to complete an ONLINE Pre-Calculus 12 and scored 97% final mark. I was wondering which mark the admission office will consider? IB mark or Pre-Calculus 12 mark.

  18. Hi Professor,

    At the Waterloo open house, I was introduced to the concept of admission bonus points for enrichment programs such as SHAD and Catalyst. I was wondering if there is a list of programs that qualify for this bonus. As a follow up question, is it possible to receive multiple bonus points for completing multiple enrichment programs?


  19. Hello Professor,
    I am a grade 12 student in Ontario and am applying to Waterloo Engineering via OUAC. On the initial application, I am asked to select a “Subject of Major Interest”. Is the program that I choose in this part of the application considered my #1 choice, or do I have the opportunity to indicate all 3 of my program choices on the secondary application, independent of what I select under the “Subject of Major Interest” options?
    Thank you for running this blog, by the way. It is extremely insightful!

  20. For the sixth course, will any course qualify or does it have to be some kind of “approved” course? If the sixth course must qualify as an “approved” course, where can I find a list of such courses? Thank you.

  21. Hi,
    I just have a question regarding the calculation of early admission averages. Just wondering if you double our advanced functions mark to predict what our calculus mark may be, or if you use our grade 11 functions mark instead. Thanks 🙂

  22. Hello Professor,
    I was recently at the Waterloo Fall Open house. During the Coop and Admissions presentation they mentioned that this year 5 bonus points will be added to the Admissions score along with the AIF. However, I can’t remember the criteria for the bonus points. I was wondering to you knew anything about them.
    Thank You 🙂

      • Hello Professor,
        Thank you for your answer. I checked on the website and it said “grade 12 academic courses” must be taken in addition to the six required. I was wondering if the “academic” courses meant U/M courses because I was hoping to take a two credit co-op on top of my six courses. However the co-op course is an open(O) course, would it still count towards the requirement?

  23. Hi,

    I was wondering if you use AP or regular courses for average? I am from BC and I take both AP and regular physics, chemistry and calculus. Though I won’t have a mark till term 2. And do I need a 6th course or is it just the pre-req? Thanks in advance

  24. Hey Prof,

    I took a grade 12 course in grade 11. I heard that you get an admission bonus point if you take more than 6 Grade 11 U/M courses. Does that grade 12 course count as my 7th course making me eligible for that bonus? Thank you.

  25. Hi Professor,
    I’m an international student from India. I’ve already graduated from high school (CBSE system. >92% average in 12th finals) and have my 12th final grades with me (i.e I’m currently on a gap year). I submitted everything required for admission today (19th November 2014). I’ve a few questions:
    1. Will Waterloo consider only my final 12th grade results or all the marks of 12th grade? If none of these, what marks will be considered?
    2. When is the earliest I can get my decision? Some of the Indian colleges I’m applying to require me to reply to their offers by Jan. 2. That means I’ll love to have a Waterloo decision before Jan 2. I’d really really prefer Waterloo over any Indian college. However, I don’t want to be left in no man’s land should Waterloo reject me and I don’t accept any of the Indian offers I have. Is there any work-around?
    I’d be very glad and thankful if you’ll reply!
    Thanks a lot!

  26. Hey professor,
    Do you know if UW Math also uses the adjustment factors you mentioned? Also, if a typical student with 100% average ends up with 85%, does this mean that there are lots of students still get in although their admission average (with the adjustment) is well below the cutoff?

    • I’m not sure what Math does for their admissions processes. The adjustment is used for our own internal ranking of applicants. It’s not really part of the published “admission average” or “cutoff”.

  27. Hi Professor,

    Has any acknowledgement letters been sent out yet? I submitted my OUAC application last week and haven’t received any response yet from Waterloo. (Perhaps it’s too early and I’m too eager)


  28. Hi I’m a student in BC and due to circumstances in my life was not able to focus on my marks in Pre-calc 12 (86%) when I took it in Gr.11. As of Grade 12, I am taking the course again, but have heard that my overall avg would be significantly lower if I my transcript stated that I retook a course. How much of my overall average would be adjusted and is it possible to avoid this if I explain in detail why I retook a course in the AIF?
    Thank you

  29. Hi
    I am an Ontario high school student and I was planning to apply to chemical and electrical engineering at Waterloo. Should I apply to both separately or put one of the courses under the 2nd/3rd engineering course options? Would my chances of getting into one program decrease if I was to put one of them as a 2nd engineering option?

    Thanks in advance.

    • You can only apply to one engineering program at Waterloo, which should be your preferred choice. On our AIF you can identify the 2nd & 3rd choices, if you’re not successful for the preferred one.

  30. Hi Professor,
    For the AIF, do you think its worth it to put a contest result if it is mediocre? I did the CCC last year, but I feel that I will attain a much better result this year. So is there any advantage to putting last year’s result on the AIF? I understand that there is no negative effect, but if there is no positive one either, then there really is no reason to mention it.

  31. Hi Prof,

    I was wondering how many references and what kind (teacher, extracurricular etc.) you need to provide for admission to Waterloo Engineering and Waterloo Computer Science. Also, is it a call/email reference only or will the reference have to write a letter?

  32. Hi professor, how does the admissions panel view/treat cases in which a student has low grade 11 marks but relatively higher(competetive) grade 12 marks? Is this frowned upon? Are this paritcular student’s chances of admission lowered? [Just to be more explicit, say perhaps the student had >15% increase in overall average)

  33. Hi Professor,

    My first semester marks are not at the level of the program I hope to get into. I hear acceptances are given out as early as mid February. Does Waterloo accept more students based on the first semester marks or do they wait until second semester midterms to see if you have improved? For example; if a student has an 85 and the program he/she wants to get into requires a high 80, would you be denied acceptance or would Waterloo wait until your second semester marks come in?

    Thank you

  34. Hi Professor,
    I am a grade 12 student in an advanced program. This means that in grade 11 first semester I took “advanced Function 12” which was actually AP Calculus. Due to me not being emotionally prepared for the course I finished with an 81%. I have taken Vectors and Calulus where I received a 90% and all my other courses except for English are low 90s. My question is will this affect me a lot? Should I maybe take the normal advanced function course this year to prove that I do know it and it was simply an immaturity problem then?

  35. Hello Professor,

    I’m applying for Architecture but hopefully my questions can be answered as they are somewhat in a similar field. For architecture to get admitted I have to first send in marks to get an offer to an interview. My grade 12 average of the pre-reqs are 89-90, which is within the range of interview offers. However, my grade 11 average was terrible (65 english 11 to 90 in english 12 ,75 Pre Calc 11 and 84 Physics 11.). Do you think the inconsistency of gr.11 to 12 would be a deal breaker for an interview? I personally did not do anything but improve on my academics. Also, out of the four pre-reqs courses, I’m taking two of them online. I heard that Waterloo will deduct marks if something seems boosted. If my marks will be deducted, how much percent will be taken off?

    Thank you very much in advance.

  36. Hello Professor,
    I am a grade 12 student applying to Waterloo’s software engineering program this year (with computer and electrical engineering as my other preferences). I was wondering whether electrical engineering is separate from computer engineering with regards to admissions. As well, for my secondary and tertiary preferences (on AIF), should I put down both computer and electrical engineering, or would it be redundant? Lastly, if the two programs are not separate from one another, will there be more admission ‘seats’ for the programs?

  37. HI prof,

    I just finished my first term at UW and I have to now choose whether or not I want to go into the QPR program or withdraw from UW

    any advice on whether or not i should take it or not? based on statistics of previous students who went into this program

    I can tell you that I took UW engineering very lightly and did not put in my full effort, however I would like another chance but I am really confused and scared.

  38. Hi professor.
    I am international student from India and from CBSE board,
    I don’t know about any thing about university of Waterloo before December when my dad told me about it. Before it I was preparing for Indian institute of technology IITs but after doing some research it was like university of Waterloo is the university from which I want to start my higher studies . But for admission it takes marks of half yearly exam or preboard marks but in my school we didn’t have preboard . We have to give direct board exam . But I am one of the topper in class and I have potential to get marks high as 95-96% in final and my teacher of all subject know about it . So is there any way I can apply to university in this fall.

  39. I’m interested in Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science, in this order.
    I listed Software Engineering and Computer Science on my OUAC form, and listed Computer Engineering as an alternative in my AIF. I’m wondering if I should add Computer Engineering as an explicit OUAC choice.

    This page says I should select one engineering program, but it also says preference will be given to applicants selecting the program on OUAC.

    My understanding is that admission for Software Engineering is more competitive than Computer Engineering. Since I only listed Computer Engineering as an alternative on AIF, if I don’t get admitted to Software Engineering, am I putting myself in disadvantage, compared to someone who has similar marks as mine but selects Computer Engineering as first choice on OUAC?

  40. Hi, I’m an IB student from BC. I was wondering, does Waterloo base acceptance upon our current provincial grades, or our predicted grades? Because I don’t see anywhere where I could upload a Predicted Grades Transcript on Quest, while I’m required to upload my school transcripts, which contain my provincial grades.

    If Waterloo bases acceptance solely on provincial grades, does it take in account that IB courses are often more difficult than their provincial countreparts?

  41. Hello professor,

    I am a post-secondary student currently studying at an institution in Alberta. I’m applying as a transfer student to the Biomedical Engineering program (but, starting from year 1) and I was wondering what my chances are since I’m considered a mature student. My high school average was in the mid 90s and I had a GPA of 3.9 last semester. I know that you cannot give define yes or no’s, but it would help greatly with planning my year if you could give me a ball park answer.

    Thanks for your time!

  42. Hi, I have a question regarding AIF deadlines. I’m aware that the deadline for Engineering is on Feb. 6th. Do I have to submit the About You-Part A and B form with the Engineering form before that date? Or just the Engineering form?


  43. Hi Professor,

    I have finished my AIF, but I was just wondering whether I should fill out the “Additional Information” section. Is it okay to leave it blank? I had a bit of trouble trying to fit my answers for all the other portions but I managed to do so within the 900 character limit. Is it better to add something in the additional information section or should I leave it how it is? I’m unsure what to add to it.


  44. Hi professor, I was just wondering what the cut off was for Management Engineering last year ? Also, how many applicants get accepted into Management Engineering ?

  45. Hi Professor,

    I was thinking of dropping IB to enter the academic program at my school. Will this have any negative implications regarding any applications?

    I was also wondering about the course repeat penalty. I am currently in grade 11 and taking the MDM 4U7 course (grade 12 IB). Since I will need to take another grade 12 math course next year, will this result in a 5% mark reduction for repeating the academic version of the course?


  46. Hi Professor!
    Last week I was made aware that the engineering AIF deadline was extended to March 20th. I submitted my application more than three weeks ago so will there be a penalty if I didn’t submit it on February 6th (the first deadline)? Or does the March 20th deadline apply to all applicants (ones that have applied before and after Jan.14th on OUAC).


  47. What a collection of BS!!! Seriously??? This is the acceptance process to Waterloo??? Marks + AIF + Adjustment Factors + Deduction points !!!??? What a JOKE!!! Why don’t you add the “supplicant’s” astrological forecast + the humidity in Tanganika at review time and the genetic predisposition to have bad digestion to the count? In the end it won’t make any difference at all!!! No wonder Waterloo is hated by the vast majority of High Schoolers due to the vast amount of bureaucratic idiocy that goes into their so-called “acceptance” process. And since we are at it, has anybody of the admission geniuses at Waterloo made a study comparing the performance of students with low marks with the students with high marks? Of course not because the process is totally and ridiculously biased!! Hummm… let’s hand-pick our students and only then do “studies”. Yeah… that’s scientific… sure…
    Waterloo: making sure our marketing myth continues by only picking “right students”.
    Waterloo: What A JOKE!

  48. Sir
    i would like to tell you that I have applied for software engineering program. I am an international student from India, currently enrolled in CBSE. I have submitted all the documents to support my application including english test scores ( IELTS 7.5). I have scored around 92% in Pre board exams held in january 2015. But my grade 11 average is 81%, a little low as I was not well during my final exams. Do you think that my grades will be counted inconsistent ? Will it affect my admissions decision ??

    • It’s common for us to see lower Grade 11 marks from Indian curriculum schools, so I wouldn’t worry about it. The pre-board or predicted CBSE grades carry more weight for admissions decisions.

  49. Hello. I have a couple questions! I am in Gr. 11 by the way.
    i) I did poorly in Physics Gr 11 (~85%). If I do not get this course by 1st semester Gr 12, will this affect me negatively?
    ii) I want to take as many courses as possible in highschool, and because of this I might take English in summer-school. Will this negatively affect me?
    iii) Will a program such as NSLC (Engineering) help in the AIF? I’m considering going (got invited), but I am wondering if it would help for the AIF.

    Thank you very much! Your blog is amazing.

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