Chances for 2016

As frequently requested, here is an updated version of a popular post.

The 2016 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded.  We have continued to include a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges.  It seems that many people find it useful for getting a realistic impression of their chances at admission, so that they can plan accordingly.   The online version of this table can be found here.  This is based on the 2015 results and as usual we caution that 2016 may be different, since it all depends on the competition level (which is unknown in advance).  In 2015 the level of competition continued to increase, but maybe it will go down in 2016, since we know that’s the general direction of the demographics in Ontario.For convenience and readability, we lump the grades into ranges in this table.  Some people find the big jumps in probability between the different grade ranges to be difficult to interpret, so I have been generating graphs that provide interpolations between the various grades in finer detail.  As usual, the grades shown here are the raw, unadjusted averages of the Grade 12 required courses (or equivalents), not including any other factors such as scores for extracurriculars (the AIF).

For the past couple of years I have used a cubic spline interpolation technique (with linear endpoints), which is one popular method for finding values between sparse data points.  I like the results, so I continue to use the same method.  As before, I assumed that the probability in the table  corresponds to the mid-point of the grade range, and that there is zero probability below 80%, and 100% with an average grade of 100%.  As before, I used MathCAD for the number crunching (here is a nice description, for those that might be interested in more details).  And below is the result:

Looking at the results we can make some comments.  The green line has a bit of an odd shape towards the upper end (due to the nature of cubic spline interpolation), but is otherwise OK.  The blue line looks good.  So does the red line, although it is very steep which simply shows the very high level of competition for  those two programs.

As usual, these are rough estimates and not guarantees of any sort.  It’s possible to have a 99% average and not get admitted if, for example, you don’t submit an AIF or other required document or don’t meet the English language proficiency requirements.  It’s also possible that changes in competition levels will move a program from one line to another (either left or right) in the upcoming cycle.

How to Use These Results

If, for example, you expect to have around an 87% admission average and are interested in Software Engineering, go ahead and apply even though your chances appear slim (you might get lucky!).  But, on your AIF you can indicate a second and third back-up choice, so a program from the blue line and/or green line would be good.  Picking Biomedical as an alternate choice is unlikely to work out well.  (Just a reminder that the alternate choices are only considered if you don’t get into the first choice program you applied to.)

As another example, if you are interested and apply to Mechanical Engineering, picking Software and Biomedical as your two alternates is probably not a wise decision.  If you don’t get admitted to Mechanical, you will very likely not get admitted to those either.

We always recommend that applicants don’t play games with their choices; stick with ones that you are truly interested in and would be happy accepting.  Trying to switch into another program after admission will not be possible in many cases, since they are usually filled to capacity.

Note:  if you are comparing this graph with past years you will see that the groupings of programs changes.  This is just because of year to year small fluctuations in the level of competition.  The groupings are selected to best represent the competition experienced in the past admission cycle.

116 thoughts on “Chances for 2016

  1. Wow, 90% and less than 10% chance for SE! I read the brochure – does a repeat course in 9th-10th grade matter? (I had done the course before secondary so I had to take it again during secondary).

  2. Sorry if this is a silly question, but would it not be possible to make this same sort of graph such that each individual program has its own line (rather than being groups in with other programs)? Or is the sample size too small?

    • I’ve looked at that but the lines just end up as an overlapping twisting mess, with less validity because of the smaller sample size. The groupings are actually quite good and representative of last year.

  3. Hello
    I want to put software engineering as first choice and Chartered Accounting and CS as 2nd and 3rd. I have confirmed marks for Maths (99%)and Physics (99%) IB grade 11. School will be sending predicted mark for English, Chemistry and Business. In case I don’t get my first choice will i be eligible for CS in case I get CA too.

    • The alternate (2nd & 3rd) choices mentioned here are only within Engineering (and not including Architecture). CA and CS are completely different areas and you would have to apply to those separately.

  4. I’m an IB student taking HL chemistry. Our HL chemistry to Ontario equivalent courses are the following: SCHU8 (Gr.11 Chemistry), SES 4U8 (Gr. 12 Earth and Science), and SCH 4U8 (Gr.12 Chemistry). At the moment, I’ve been enrolled in the SES 4U8 course. So my question is, for an early acceptance would the UW admissions consider the SES 4U8 course or will they look at the SCH3U8 course or wait for the SCH 4U8 course? Also, I did not do that well in the SCH3U8 course, I had scored 88%, however at the moment I have a 94% for the SES 4U8 course. So should I not apply for the early acceptance?

    • It’s complicated and someday I’ll make a post about it. But for now, the most competitive programs would probably require at least A*A*A, while the less competitive ones maybe AAA or AAB.

  5. I have been an excellent student scoring 90% to 95% throughout but my performance was not good in 11th grade(reason for which I will be stating in my AIF) and I have done very well in Grade 12 mid-term examinations with a growth of 25% in the result over Grade 11. I am confident that I will get between 90 and 95% in my final board exams, conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the largest education board in the country.
    Will my Grade 11 performance affect my chances of receiving an offer for Computer Engineering?

    • We know that CBSE schools typically give out low grades, and we have ways of taking that into account. The Grade 10 exam results and the predicted Brade 12 CBSE exam grades are considered too, if provided by the school.

  6. By any chance, is there a GPA scale available for software engineering? Can we compare GPA (out of 4.0) here?

    Also – the chart on this blog is completely different from the table in the brochure. In the brochure it says 90+ has a 20% chance of software admission – here, 90% is less than 10% chance? Why the difference?

    Thank you!

    • No, I haven’t worked out an equivalent GPA scale for this. In the brochure it’s 20% for marks in the range of 90 to 95. This graph just tries to break it down into more detail using certain assumptions, which may or may not be correct.

  7. Hello Professor,

    I have followed your blog since 2014, and I finally have a chance to apply this year! I am applying for software engineering.

    (1) The Waterloo website states that I should complete my AIF within 3 weeks of the acknowledgement E-mail. I would like to ask, since my school has 10 units for each class, if I apply through OUAC right now then by the time 3 weeks is over, I will have only (2-3/10 units) for each 12th grade class, except AP Calculus AB/BC, AP Physics I and other 11th grade courses (chemistry, eng 11, etc..) so is it worth applying now or waiting until December, when I have at least 4-5/10 available?

    (2) I believe a requirement was a 4 on the AP calculus exam; do we self-report this?

    (3) How many international spots are available for software?

    Thanks for the information, I hope to be there next year!

    • 1) It doesn’t matter much when you apply. We wait to see transcripts before making any decisions. 2) If the AP grade isn’t reported on your school transcript you can arrange for it to be sent to us by College Board. 3) There are no specific international spots reserved for any program, but generally we see around 5 to 10 in Software.

      • Hello,

        Does UW look at the top 6 12th grade courses for US-type schools as well? I have a 3.5/4.0 in Fitness class, which is a sport class, but much better in other top 6 (gr 12)-academic courses such as math, physics etc..

        Does the Fitness add a big weight to the decisions?


  8. Dear Professor
    I will by applying to SE at UW and had a question about my eligibility for an early offer. In a previous post, you said that early acceptances are generally not given to students without 3 required courses by the end of their first semester of grade 12. Are those 3 courses specifically the grade 12 prerequisites or would grade 11 marks be used to fill in gaps? (I had very strong grade 11 marks (>98%) but my first semester of grade 12 consists of only 2 prerequisites [Physics, Advanced Functions, Computer Engineering, and Philosophy]).

  9. I hope to have around a 91% average by the end of the year. Will the probability of me receiving an acceptance letter for Civil Engineering increase because of me being involved in Waterloo Unlimited, the Waterloo EV Challenge, participating in the Waterloo Math Contest all through high school, participating in the SIN Test, participating in the Avogadro Test, and doing a Shadow Day? Also, will other extra curricular activities such as athletics and volunteering give me a better chance of being accepted? I have been told this does give me a greater chance of being accepted and I have been told that this only matters for breaking a tie between multiple students.

  10. Hello, I am a high student from Alberta. My first language is not English and I have not studied in Canada for 4 full years, therefore I need to do a IELTS test. Also, I am taking English 30-1 at school currently, but my mark is around 60 which means I do not meet the minimum requirement for English. Can I use my IELTS marks to apply for university instead of my English mark at school. I am pretty sure I can get a 8 in IELTS test.

  11. I’m a BC student trying to apply to Software Engineering for 2016. Does the admission office look at Grade 11 marks? My Grade 12 Term 1 marks have dropped slightly and I see that the closer you approach 90%, the slimmer the chances are. Will experiences in other programming languages help with admission? I’m very confident with my programming skills but my academic might not be above the average of the requirement.

  12. Hello,

    I just have a question about OUAC. There is a part of the form that asks the applicant to rank their choices of program in the order that they want to go to them. If I put one Waterloo program below another, will this affect my chances to get into the program I put lower on the OUAC ranking? (e.g. Materials & Nanosciences as #1 and Nanotechnology Engineering as #2)


  13. Hi, I am currently a grade 12 student finishing off my final year in high school. I am estimating to finish of the year with a 92% average and I am looking into applying for Mechatronics engineering or mechanical engineering. However, I retook dvance functions because of some family problems I was having. The first time I finished off with almost a 36% and the second time with a 92%. Will you guys still take off 5% from my mark? I also have 200+ volunteer hours, and held 2 fundraisers. What is the likelihood of me getting into the program I want?

  14. I was wondering if these would make give me decent chances at admission to the, given a 93%-92% average to the DD BCS/BBA program (or the CS program):

    a performance of 54/75 last year on the Canadian computing contest,

    Deca at provincial or national level.

    Stating a computing club at my school and teaching at it.


  15. If possible, could you list (from your experience) which of the programs in the blue line (chem, mech, etc.) are the most and least competitive. Possibly by numbering them (only an approximation, I don’t expect it to be entirely accurate) please?

    • There is no significant difference between them, and they move around from year to year. That’s why we just lump them together, because trying to distinguish between them is just not realistic or useful.

  16. Is it bad if I take Advanced Functions in a Private school in the summer so that I can have a lighter course load during the year? I’m planning to apply to Mechatronics.

    • It’s not necessarily “bad”, but it also doesn’t add anything to your case. In university you can’t do anything to lighten your course load, and if you lose out on work or volunteer experience during the summer you will lose ground in the admission rankings.

  17. Hello Professor,
    I was just wondering if there is a possibility of UW opening up more seats for competitive engineering programs such as Biomed and SE (or any other for that matter). I’ve heard from present students that there was an increase in number of acceptances last year but I don’t know if this is true for engineering as well.

    Thank you

    • The Biomed program will probably have another 5 spaces added to make 55 (it was always planned to add another 5 per year for the first few years). I am not aware of any plans to increase SE spaces.

  18. Hello Professor,
    I have a couple of questions to ask.
    First of all, I have a score of AAA in Advanced Subsidiary.What are my chances of getting into Systems Design or Mechanical Engineering?
    And, given i do have a fair chance, how much time can I take to submit my AIF after my application is accepted?

    • Since you can’t get any better than AAA in AS grades, that would be a good start. We will want to review GCSE results and predicted A level grades too. The AIF is due by early March, but sooner is better.

      • My scores are of 80% 83% and 89% in Chemistry,Physics and Maths respectively in AS level and 6A 1A* in GCSE level. So, does the aforementioned graph apply to the British Curriculum as well? Are my chances of getting in to Computer Eng or Mechatronics slim?

  19. Hello Professor,

    I had a question regarding taking Grade 12 English in Summer School.
    Lets say a student provides a valid reason of taking English at Summer School,
    Is the Delta ENG process still going to apply? Will admissions still look at the student’s grade 11 English mark and find the difference to see if a penalty to overall average is needed?


  20. Hello Professor,
    Are the offers based on semester one mid-term marks, semester one final marks, or semester two mid-term marks (when you have every the grades for every required course)? Say someone had a chemistry mark in the 80s for the semester one mid-term mark, but improved to a 90 for the final mark, so does that affect the chance of getting admitted?
    Thank you!

  21. Dear Professor Anderson,

    If one has written the Waterloo Math Contests every year but has never made it within the top 25% in Canada, do you think that it is better to declare in the AIF that you have participated in the contests, or would a student have a better chance of being accepted if they didn’t mention the contests at all? Similarly, if a student wrote AP Exams but only received a score of 3, should one declare in the AIF that one wrote the AP Exams or should it not be mentioned at all (again, this is to maximize one’s chance of being accepted to a competitive program like Mechatronics).

    Also, does Waterloo engineering give more “bonus points” in the AIF to an Ontario student who has written and achieved high SATs and APs as opposed to a an Ontario student with an identical average who hasn’t taken any such exam? If so, how much of a factor would this be?

    • My view is that it’s better to try things even if they don’t turn out, rather than not try at all. So mentioning these things is a positive factor. It’s impossible to forecast how much of a factor it is.

  22. Does the UW admissions committee also consider ETS 4U8 (Literature Course) as an English credit? I was wondering if the UW admission committee would use my grade 11 English course (ENG 3U8) opposed to my ETS 4U8.

  23. Hello Professor,
    I am now a second-year Electrical student in another university in Canada and I am considering transferring into second-year SE program in UW next year. I am a international student. Do I need to provide my grades in high school when I apply? My overall GPA in my first year is 3.8/4.0. Is there any possibility for me to be admitted?
    Thank you!

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  25. Dear Professor,

    Could you please tell me or give an estimate of the number of domestic spots that are available for the following programs versus the number of domestic students that applied for them last year?

    Mechatronics, Mechanical, Electrical, Computer, Nanotechnology, and Systems Design.

  26. Hello professor,
    Do these percentages on the graph apply only to the program you apply to through OUAC, or does it also apply to the secondary programs you list on your AIF. My grade 11 marks were significantly better (94% average) than this year’s (on track to getting ~90%), will that be taken into account? Also my ECs/achievements are almost non existent. I applied to management and put civil/geological as my secondary choices, are my chances for getting one of those offers any good?

  27. Hello Professor
    I am applying to Waterloo for the year 2016. I have put Computer Engineering as my first option and Software Engineering as my second. In the AIF form my reasons for choosing the program mainly reflects my interest in software engineering. Will this affect my application?
    Also, due to my exams, I might not be able to submit the AIF within three weeks. How badly does this affect my application?
    Thank you so much for all your help.

    • An interest in programming is common for computer and software applicants, so that is not unusual. Submitting the AIF later is not a major problem. It just potentially delays a decision.

  28. Hello Professor,
    If I don’t take grade 12 biology course, will this affect my chance to get into Biomedical Engineering? Or will the probability of me receiving an offer for Biomedical Engineering increase if I take this course?

  29. Hi prof, if my school is non-semestered, and I will be applying for early admission to software engineering, how will our grades be calculated in february, because we will have all prerequisite courses, however only midterm marks for each course. Also, similarly, in May, we will still not have completed the course, and have no final marks for each course, will our midterm marks still be used? Thanks

  30. Hello there Prof.
    I’m going to be applying to Waterloo engineering in the coming year, and I was wondering if you could answer a couple questions regarding my road to applying.
    In high school i was as they say, a ne’er–do–well. I avoided math and science courses like the plague in, but after some aging I’ve decided to explore them both.
    It’s looking like I’m going to have an average in the 90-95 range as registration approaches. Only problem is that I have a 71 in english, which i think i may have even retook a few years ago (i’m going to be 22 come registration time).
    I was wondering with my age and everything, whether past indiscretions such as that 71 could be ignored if I explained my situation?
    Is there even a point in applying with that tarnished transcript?

    Thank you Professor

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  32. Hi professor, do different people evaluate different sections of our AIF or are they all evaluated by the same person. For example, if I talk about an activity in one section of the AIF, do I have to explain it again the next time I talk about it? Thanks.

  33. Hi Professor,

    I wanna ask whether or not you guys take into consideration the level of difficulty of certain schools compared to others, because it does affect the numerical marks. And, does the graph that you made take into consideration the AIF scores? For example, would someone in the high 80s make it with a higher AIF score than someone in the 90s but an average/low AIF score? And, do you use grade 11 scores?

    Thank you Professor.

  34. Hi Professor,

    Thanks for the post.

    I was wondering as an ESL student, my English mark is significantly lower than others. (It lowered my average from 91 to 88 in Grade 11) Would that be taking into account when I apply if I mention it in my AIF?

    Thank you very much.

  35. Professor Anderson,

    I know my question doesn’t pertain to this post particularly but I was curious. In what way is Waterloo admissions able to find out if I’ve previously attended a different university, if I don’t release that information?

    Thank you for your time.

    • There are a variety of detection systems available, which I won’t go into. They are probably not perfect, but when we do find an applicant with an undisclosed attendance their application is cancelled, and potentially flagged to all other universities on the OUAC system. If it’s discovered after starting university, expulsion would be a likely outcome. It’s always better to disclose and explain, rather than try to hide things.

      • Thank you professor, I’ve taken your advice and disclosed my past experience at university. Is equal consideration given to transfer students or are we considered after high school applicants? I noticed that the date for a possible offer of admission is different.

  36. Hello Professor,
    I plan on applying to SE but I also plan on taking english in private school so I have more time to complete the course. I have important commitments everyday for about 3 hours, and in order to focus on my marks for the other courses, I need a spare to study because I do not have as much time at home. I will need more than one semester to finish english if I want to get the best possible mark.
    By taking private school I know I will lose marks, but is it 5% guaranteed or can the reason possibly make it less. I know private school is easier, but that is NOT the reason I am taking it.
    Thank you

  37. Hi professor, I was wondering if I am at a disadvantage in terms of being selected for system design and computer (2nd and 3rd choice respectively) if I put Software as my first, as compared to someone who listed Systems or Computer as first? I would (obviously) want to get in to software, however my avg might not be as high as 94-95 as required by software. So I was wondering if it is worth applying to it at all?
    And does the ranking matter in terms of when one will get the decision? Will someone who put computer as their second choice get the acceptance in around the same time as someone who put it as their first?

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  39. Hellow Professor,
    I was wondering what would be the reasons for those who have average of more than 94% not reciving an offer? Just poor aif or there are other common reasons?

    • A variety of things: don’t meet English proficiency requirements, missing or poor AIF, repeated courses, no programming experience (for Software applicants), and for the very competitive programs (Biomed and Software) just not lucky.

  40. Hey Prof!
    I’m an international student (Indian). I’ve scored 89.6% in my 12th grade (CBSE). What do my chances look like provided my course choices are Computer Science and Mechanical?

  41. Hello Professor,

    My Grade 12 English mark is likely to end up significantly higher (~15%) than my Grade 11 English mark based on my current progress. There are no tricks here – it’s with the same teacher in a course of same difficulty. Both were taken in the regular scuool year.. I have simply improved a lot since then. Is there any chance that admissions officers will find this odd and adjust my mark down? (eg. Is it necessary for me to make special note within my app)


  42. Hi,

    I’m from Alberta, and my schedule for grade 12 is sort of weird because of IB. It’s only possible for me to finish the 5 required subjects by June (when I write the diploma exam), since my English and Chem are full year, and I start physics in the second semester. So will I just be assessed through my grade 11 marks? Also, my grade 11 English mark is in the 70s, and my current grade 12 mark is flat 80. How much value does Waterloo place on English marks. Honestly, many of my classmates (me included) believe that our English teacher is an excessively hard marker. Our class usually scores higher on diploma exams taken from previous years than on our in-class tests by a respectable margin, even though the diplomas generally lower marks for the average student. If my math 30, 31, physics 20, and chem 20 marks average to ~97, what are my chances for ECE?

  43. Hello Professor,

    I participated in Waterloo Unlimited, would that be a good thing to add to the AIF? If yes, how much would it help my AIF score?

  44. Hi,

    I am currently a Grade 12 student, and in the process of applying to engineering at Waterloo. I have just a small question regarding the top 6 courses. One of my required courses is English 12, which I took in my Grade 11 year. This year, I am taking AP English Language and Composition. Which course will be used in calculated my academic average?

    Thanks for the helpful posts.

  45. Hello Professor,
    Since we do not have percentages in A and AS-Level, I was wondering as to how far do I stand a chance of making it into the Mechanical Engineering Program, given that my estimated grades for A-Level’s are 3A*s and an A.
    Thank you.

  46. What kind of programming experience does an average accepted Software Engineering applicant have? Can my programming experience make up for my low average (~90%) ?

  47. Hello professor,
    I know maybe it’s not appropriate to ask about other program, but I wonder how hard would it be to get to computer science instead of computer engineering program? Is this graph a good model for that? Apparently I get just 90% for my top 5.(because calculus is still in process. Thank you.

  48. Hey Prof,

    I have a quick question. I’m a Gr 12. BC student applying for Software Engineering in the fall semester. What are your thoughts on IDS (Independent Directed Studies) courses? Do you know whether or not we can apply with them?

    I’ve already taken Computer Programming 12, however, I’m taking an IDS: Programming 12 course as well and was wondering if I can apply with it.


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