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. Hi Professor,
    Are International Students who currently go to high school in Ontario part of the people who got first-round acceptance?
    And how does the acceptance work for international students in Ontario?

  2. Hi Professor,
    I did not get an offer of early acceptance. Not sure if my AIF was reviewed or not before making early acceptance decision. This regard I have following two questions:
    1) Is there any way to find out if my AIF was reviewed before making decision on early acceptances?
    2) Should I keep updating my AIF to incorporate any developments (new volunteering/work experience etc?

    Thanks for your time to help us out.


  3. Hi Professor
    I wanted to ask how an unsatisfying IELTS score would affect the chance of getting into engineering. To be more specific, would someone with an IELTS 6.0 have the same chance as someone else with an IELTS 7.0, when they have the same average, say, 89? Thank!

    • The minimum required IELTS score is 7.0, so someone with a 6.0 will not be admitted directly to engineering. They can be admitted to our BASE program though (Bridge to Academic Success in English), which will lead to engineering.

  4. Hi Professor!

    Do high schools with more than one program (IB, applied, academic, AP) have one general mark adjustment factor based on how well its students did during the first year of university, or are there mark adjustments specific to the stream the students are in? (e.g academic students have different mark adjustments than AP?)

    Thank you!

  5. I have applied to Waterloo CS co-op as an international student. I’m in my final year of A’Levels and have 10 A* in O’Levels with one Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award, and 1A* (A level Math) and 3A’s (AS Level Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science). Added to these grades, I have two national awards in Math contests and have completed some online programming courses. Do I stand a chance of getting in?

  6. Hi Professor!
    I also had another question regarding faculty scholarships. I know that there are entrance scholarships based off marks but are there others that consider community involvement? i.e would an individual with a 92% average and with great community involvement get a scholarship over an individual who has just a 98% average and no significant involvement?
    Also, are you considered for these scholarships while your AIF is being reviewed for admission?

    Thank you!

  7. Is an AP microeconomics 12 mark of 95% better or an economics 12 mark of 96% better? Does ‘AP’ play a huge factor.

      • Thank you. Another question I have is that for average calculations, does the admissions committee choose whether to use one mark over the other using their discretion? I am only able to submit all my grades, thus for average calculations, they will be the ones deciding the top courses for admission calculations?

  8. Hi,
    I would like to know if there will be any penalty for taking one of the required courses at night school ?

  9. Hi professor.
    Before starting anything I just want to thank you for being quick with replies to all of us. Usually people have to wait for days to get answers.I strongly believe some questions if answered in time can have life changing impacts.After all we live in a dynamic world full of expectations and information.
    After reading through the reflection and all the comments, I have noticed every single question asked by the enthusiastic students is legit from different perspectives. Nevertheless waterloo’s typical way of selecting candidates is extraordinary, one of which is the portion of AIF being evaluated by the professionals in respective fields;most of them are probably the elites in different areas. Despite the fact that our high school system in canada is too wide across the horizon, most of the universities have been working hard to have a fair selection of deserving students, as a result of which each uni has its own way of selecting students. Yet students are confused and uncertain: not to mention the confusion between the validation of IB credits and regular high school credits.
    Anyway, my question is how will waterloo evaluate the 2015 OSS students whose schools have been closed due to the teachers’ strike. So far as I am anticipating , their mid terms mark might be their final marks or I might be totally wrong. Yet, the concerned school board has not produced any evidence on how the students will likely be evaluated. I am concerned about those hard working and smart students who are worried and disappointed with their schools. How will waterloo evaluate the designated students? As usual will AIF play a significant role in decision making? Honestly I appreciate AIF as it provides platform where logical and valid reasons and ideas are heard by the deserving ears. I am still surprised most of us (including me 🙂 )usually undermine this particular step by either slacking off or lavishly searching for rubrics, when it’s main purpose is to manifest who you truly are. This one might be a bitter truth.

  10. Hello,
    I applied for the AFM program at Waterloo and I was wondering how strict the school is on their admission requirements and how likely they are to revoke offers.
    The admission conditions state that a minimum final overall average of 83% is required, as well as a minimum final grade of 75% in English, Calculus and Vectors, and Advanced Functions.
    In a situation where my Calculus and Vectors mark falls below the requirement by 1-2% but I meet all other conditions, what are the chances that my offer will be rescinded?
    Any answer would be appreciated, thank you.

  11. Hello,
    Regarding the part where taking “Grade 12 academic courses taken in addition to the required 6 courses” will give bonus points to the AIF, is there a difference in points given between taking 7 and 8 courses? Or is the bonus given when the 6+ course condition is met regardless of the specific number of courses?

  12. I did a year of university in my home country but I was asked to continue high school here in Canada due to the difference between the education systems. Will that affect my chances of getting in? My high school marks here are extremely competitive (say 94) but my university marks before were average (say 85)

  13. Hi Professor,
    I am in Grade 12 in Ontario and will soon apply for the 2016 admission. My school is a regular school (non-semestered). I will have only the midterm marks of the prerequisites for engineering program by Feb next year (except advanced functions). Will the University use the midterm marks of my Grade 12 to consider if I would get early acceptance? Or will it use the final marks of my grade 11?

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