Admissions 2016: How it’s going to work

We are getting ready for our first major Open House event on November 7, and that reminds me that I should do an update on this popular post, with some revisions and clarification for the upcoming September 2016 admissions cycle.  No major changes from last year.

Here is an overview on how the process works 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 Open House, 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.  In fact, in recent years switching programs has not been possible for a number of people.
  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 applicants 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 we see some cause for concern (we reserve the right to request English tests from any applicant).  English proficiency is very important to us, because it can significantly affect your chances at getting co-op jobs.
  5. Submit your Admission Information Form (AIF) by the  deadline in mid-March.  However, if you want to be considered for the early round of offers you must submit it by early February.  If we don’t get your AIF, you won’t be considered for an offer.  The AIF 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.
  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; in fact we get all of your Grade 11 and 12 grades for all courses.  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 (engineering alumni in industry) to be read and assigned a score of up to 5 points.  There may also be some bonus points awarded for a few people with significant achievements or better than average co-op employability.  These points get added to your admission average to generate a score that is used for ranking applicants.  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.
  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 Grade 12 courses have been repeated, we either use the grade from the first  attempt, or use the second grade but deduct 5 points off the admission score, unless there are extenuating circumstances.  We may also make adjustments for unusually high grades in required courses taken outside of a regular day school, such as at summer, night or private 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 typically 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 and space is available.
  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.

105 thoughts on “Admissions 2016: How it’s going to work

  1. Hello Prof. Anderson,
    I was wondering whether students with multiple required courses in their second semester could be considered for early acceptance based on their grade eleven marks. I have Calc, Physics, and Chemistry second semester but have good marks in grade eleven Chemistry and Physics as well as Advanced Functions which was taken in grade eleven. I am taking English this semester, so I will have two required courses and a few other grade twelve marks at the end of this semester.

    • For the early round, we consider everybody that appears to be in the top end of the applicant pool. But then it’s a case by case decision whether to go ahead with an offer or wait.

  2. “to be read and assigned a score of up to 5 points”
    Hmm.. I recall reading somewhere that they were reconsidering the weighting of the AIF and making it 10 points…
    Since it’s the same points would be accurate to assume it is the same weight as it has been in the past?

  3. Hi Professor,

    A question about the language test.
    I took the IELTS test this March, met the requirements of mark but didn’t request the testing centre to send the score to U of W, is there any ways I can send my score to the university by this time without taking another test? Or I would have to re-take the test?

    Thank you very much for the informative post and I’m looking forward to your reply!


  4. Will our grade 11 marks affect our chances of getting an acceptance if they weren’t that good? When should you hand in your AIF by?

  5. If I am in IB and I am currently taking HL math, and planning on taking HL Physics, Chem, English exams, does the university see this? Because these courses are possibly more challenging than academic courses, thus resulting in a lower grade? Thanks

      • Since AIF only counts for 5 marks, would it be better to take SL math and get a 99, or would HL math still be recommended even with only around a 90? And where on the AIF do you talk about HL courses? Thanks.

      • We always prefer to see people challenge themselves with the higher level course if available. There is no way to know in advance what your marks will be in one versus the other. The AIF has a section to list courses and explain.

      • If we have received honorable mentions and regional champion certificates/plaques for the math and CCC contests hosted by Waterloo, would the university know, or do we need to specify this information from our AIF?

  6. Hello Professor,

    Good afternoon. I have been reading for your blogs since last year. It is really helpful. Thank you!

    I am a visa student in a Toronto’s high school. I have a very special situation that I will graduate after semester 1, which means I will be able to have all my top 6 courses done by the end of January. I am having an average of 94 right now. My question is that must I get an early offer by the end of February or I may still need to wait until the early of May(which is the final round). Since my study permit is expired in late April in 2016, so I have to renew it at least two mouths ahead. If I do not get an early offer, I will not be able to renew my study permit, so in this case, could I ask for a response from UW by the end of Feb, either it is an offer or rejection?

    Thank you.

  7. For SE admissions, do you account for the applicant’s CCC score?
    Does it matter significantly whether the applicant took part in the Junior or Senior competition?

  8. Does a course count as a repeat if it is dropped after the full disclosure date? As in, the course is dropped after half the course is completed and the mark goes on the transcript as a value of W.

  9. Hello, very helpful your blog…I really appreciate all the information you give us….I have a question….What are my son’s chances to get in electrical engineering-coop program with an average of 87% for the required courses?

  10. Under the bonus mark section, it says we will be awarded marks for extra grade 12 courses. If we have a total of 14 4U courses, how would this bonus apply? And the the university see this from our transcript or will we need to incorporate this information into our AIF? Thanks

  11. Would having part time experience be considered for bonus points on the AIF? Also, what is an “exceptional” score on a contest? Would top 1% count?

  12. Hi Professor Anderson,

    I was wondering what impact (if any at all) a lower score on any of the CCC/Math contests (for grade 11) would be for the Faculty of Mathematics (you seem to answer questions quite frequently around here, so I thought i’d give it a shot!). I definitely want to take the contests again in grade 12, since I didn’t do too well last year (I was horribly sick for one of them, and had a bad day for the other) – plus they are fun since they are actually quite challenging.

    I’d also like to know if entrepreneurship in semi-relation to my entry field has any sort of special recognition in the AIF?


    • I don’t know what Mathematics does with contest scores. In Engineering a low score is not a negative factor; participation is positive. Entrepreneurship in any area is good experience.

  13. Is there any penalty for applying again if you have been rejected? (Assuming the person has taken other high-school courses [not upgrading] since)

  14. Hi Professor,
    If I dropped IB and switched to academic in my grade 12 year, will my grade 11 IB marks be belled since they are harder than their academic counterparts?

  15. I gave my AS level exams but I currently am doing grade 12 in a high school in Toronto.How will my average be calculated

  16. Hi Prof, I’m looking to apply to the chemical engineering program at UW and was just wondering about the number of people who applied to this program and roughly how many got accepted in.

  17. Hey Prof,
    Just some questions.
    1. How many applications were there for Computer and Electrical Engineering last year?
    2. Are there going to be bonus points for the AIF this year?
    3. I have seen that if most people don’t get into SE they get an alternate offer to CE. My question is who gets priority? The student with CE as first choice or SE who got rejected but has CE as his second choice?
    4. What do you do if you don’t get into any engineering program but want to be on the waiting list during the summer?

    • 1. there are about 6 applicant for every available place. 2. Yes, the bonus points will continue. 3. Alternate choices compete on an equal basis with the first choice applicants. 4. After the final decisions are released in May, we start taking wait list requests.

  18. Hey Professor!
    I want to thank you for making this blog, i’m sure it has helped many thousands over the years.

    I will be applying to waterloo this year for systems design. I am expecting a 93% in my top 6 and a pretty strong aif (4). My worries are not chances but rather the marks waterloo will receive. I understand waterloo will use marks from previous years if the current course is in progress. That doesnt sit well with me and as much as i hate complaining about teachers it really was not entirely my fault my marks were lower last year. My Physics was a 83 last year but i am expecting a 95+ this year in semester 2, my advanced functions has also jumped 5% from 93 (in grade 11 functions) to 98 but i have calculus and vectors next semester. What are the last marks waterloo receives before they make they hand out their last offers and how will this affect the strength of my application? I know there is no way you can give me a definitive answer but a general idea will be more than enough

    Thanks for all the time you put into this blog!

  19. Regarding the “early rejections”,
    I completed a grade 12 course last year and got 92, this semester I am taking 3 other courses in which i expect two 90%+ and one very low mark (perhaps 50 or a fail :/) which will put down my average to ~65-70%. The course I am doing really bad in (not a pre-req) will not be in my top 6 by the time second semester midterm comes out, Will I be receiving an early rejection in February, despite having the potential to get 90%+ avg or will you see that its only one course dragging down the average and wait until second semester?
    Thank you

  20. Hey professor, i need some clarification on early acceptance. From what i understand, you need to have at least 3 completed prerequisites at the time of application, are only the marks for the prerequisites used or your top 6 at the time?

  21. Hello professor, I completed my OUAC 105F application about a 10 days ago to a few univerities including Waterloo. While my application has been acknowledged by most of the universities, Waterloo still hasn’t replied. Is this normal? Do I wait a bit longer?

    Another question I have is, for ECE, does having a Biology A Level have any impact on the admission committee’s decision? I ask because I took 4 AS Levels (all the sciences + math), but dropped Biology at A Level. Does this put me at a disadvantage compared to someone who has taken Biology?

    • I’m not sure about response times, but I think the acknowledgement comes out fairly quickly. You might check your spam folder, where our email sometimes goes. Biology is not a required course for admission, so it has no effect.

  22. Hello professor. I applied to Waterloo through the OUAC 105F form about two weeks ago. I’ve received replies from all my other choices, but Waterloo still hasn’t replied. Is this to be expected because of the sheer amount of applications to Waterloo?

  23. Respected Professor,
    I understand that an adjustment factor is applied based on your sending high school. What is the usual adjustment to student averages for this? ie is the student’s average affected by a factor of +- 3 – 5%
    Also, how are courses taken outside of day school looked at? Have any applicants been outright rejected due to taking outside courses?

  24. How hard would it be to switch – if admitted – from Software Engineering to Management Engineering before Sep 2016?
    My son may have a chance at SE but he realized that the ME Capstone projects look more interesting to him. If his number 1 option is SE and his option 2 is ME, provided he gets in to SE how hard would it be to switch from SE to ME?

    • Switching always depends on the timing and whether there are any open spaces. In general, Management Engineering has a bit more flexibility in their space, so that direction is usually not too bad.

  25. Hi, I have always seen that universities take your top 6 courses to calculate the admission average, however this says that only the required 5 courses will be used? I just wanted to clarify why a sixth course is not being used in this case, or is it being used? My average would increase from an 88-89 to about a 90-91 if my 6th course (Robotics in this case) is used in the calculation, so I feel it is very important.

  26. Hello Professor. I’m applying as a 105 applicant and wanted to ask questions regarding repeated and outside regular day courses. If I’m taking more than one repeated course at adult day school, and I have graduated secondary school, would repeating more than one course and taking them outside regular school have a greater influence on my acceptance decision? What would the consequences be like and how much worse would the results be (ex. more than 5% deduction)? Thank you in advance.

  27. For competitive programs like Software Engineering, does the early offers still hold as 30% of students this year?

  28. Hi Professor Anderson,
    Thank you so much for this blog! I have a couple questions about the application process:

    1. Does UW engineering make offers on a rolling basis? (My grade 12 marks are significantly better than my grade 11 marks, but I want to apply early.)
    2. English is not my first language but I have been in Canada for about 10 years, so I should be exempt from the English language requirement tests. However, does that mean I have to submit my transcript twice? (once for marks and once to meet the language requirements) And does the transcripts have to be mailed, or is the uploaded version sufficient? Also, the website says the deadline for submitting english test scores is March 1st, does that also apply to submitting my transcript for the exemption?

    Thanks again and I hope to hear from you soon!

  29. Hi Professor,
    I was just wondering what course would be a better initial choice to apply for, mechatronics or mechanical. It seems mechatronics is more difficult to get into and so would it be a better idea to apply for mechanical initially, as in the case of being rejected for mechatronics as a first choice, by the time I am considered for mechanical there will be less spots left and so a lower chance of getting accepted to that as well. Also, I thought we were supposed to actually apply to the different engineering courses we were interested in, but after reading some of your recent posts, I sounds like we just apply for 1 and we state what other ones we are interested in in the AIF. Could I get some clarification/reassurance on this.

  30. Hello sir,
    I have several questions I’d like to ask:

    1. For the AIF, do we need to complete it all in one sitting? And do we need to complete it directly on the website? Or can we write it in Word or another word processor and copy and paste it in? For me, I don’t really like writing things like these directly onto webpages, especially since my computer is prone to crash randomly sometimes.

    2. I took a course (not a prerequisite for any of the programs I’m applying to) in summer school. I did this because in grade 11 I very nearly didn’t get math or physics due to timetable conflicts. I thought if I took something in summer school, it would free up my timetable to I would have a better chance of switching courses around if there was another conflict. Would this count negatively toward my application? And if this mark were to be my highest, could it count as the one other academic course (other than the prerequisites)?

    3. This is a bit irrelevant to the AIF but I figure since I’m already here, I might as well just ask everything in one comment. Do you consider the school we go to? I know some schools tend to give out lower marks and some others inflate marks so students get 99 averages in courses.

    4. If I applied before the February deadline but was not given an early offer, will I still be considered in the main round?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’m sorry for such a long comment.

    • 1. you can work on the AIF over time, and cut and paste if you want. The space is limited though. 2. we don’t care about non-required courses done in summer. 3. school adjustment factors are used in a few cases. 4. Everyone continues to be considered in the main round.

  31. Hey!
    Just wondering, does your high school being either termed or semestered ever affect admissions in anyway or does it make no difference?

  32. Hello,

    Regarding admissions:
    For the 6th 4U or M level credit, can a second semester midterm mark (that is the highest but not yet completed) be used to fill that category? Or is that mark selected from a previously completed 4U/M course?

  33. Hello,

    If I have already taken ENG4U1 last year in grade 11, then decide to take it as an AP course in grade 12, will I be deducted the 5% penalty?

  34. Dear Professor,
    In my OUAC 101 application I am allowed to list maximum 3 programs per university. So if I choose; (1) Computer Engineering (WWH), (2) Computer Science (WCS), and (3) Mathematics/Business application WMB) on my OUAC 101, and then list Electrical Engineering (WWF) and Management Engineering (WEM) as my 2nd and 3rd Engineering choices in my AIF, then the Faculty of Engineering will consider me in the following order WWH > WWF > WEM irrespective of what the Faculty of Mathematics does. Correct?
    Thank you for your time.

  35. Hello professor. I am applying through the OUAC 105 form for software engineering as a second degree. I am finishing my Arts degree this coming April, and I am wondering if my university grades would be weighted more than my high school grades. Also, I understand that the admissions average for high school students are around 95% before adjustments. Since university grades are considerably lower than high schools, would the university GPA be adjusted to be comparable to the high school averages?

    Thank you!

    • That’s a complicated situation, and you are better off contacting our admissions staff for individualized information. However yes, university grades and high school grades are different, so we apply adjustments when comparing them.

  36. Hello Professor,

    I am an Indian student presently in class 12.
    A great post by you has cleared many of my confusions, but I still have some.I want to know if my class 11 marks matter or not, because our school has strict marking rule for class 11 and class 12 mid terms.
    Moreover can you please tell me how can I send my final class 12 marks as my result will be coming in mid May.
    Another question, due to some tight schedule, I couldn’t participate in much EC(infact no) in class 11 and 12, but I do have certificates regarding Cancer awareness programs and code of conduct from class 9 and 8.
    So will it help?

    • We look at class 11 results, but we also know about typical grading practices in Indian schools, so don’t worry about that. You will receive information on sending grades. For ECs, just mention whatever it is that you do. It is common that students outside of Canada have fewer EC opportunities.

  37. Hi professor,

    I am an Indian student. Can you please elaborate the term expected grades, are these grades just an assumption by us or by our teachers

    • Expected or predicted grades are what the school often sends to us, indicating your likely outcome on the Grade XII exams. These are based on in-school performance, results on mock exams, etc.

  38. Hey professor,

    I was wondering how taking Gr.12 English in summer school would affect my chances if I have taken English in summer school in Gr.11 as well and my marks have not changed much from gr.10 to gr.11 because of summer school. If I received an 87 in Gr.10 English, 89 in Gr.11 summer school English, at what mark would there be an adjustment made if I took Gr.12 summer school English?


  39. Hi, I’m looking to apply to Waterloo (in 2017, but looking at universities now), but I’m worried that my GCSE grades will affect my average. Is it possible to know how they’re weighted? I’m doing my AS Levels now, and will be doing my A Levels next year.

    My grades in GCSE were AABBCD
    My predicted grades for AS Level is AAAAA.

    Do I still have a chance of getting accepted, provided I achieve my predicted grades? (and hopefully get A*A*A*A*A* in A Levels!)

  40. Is Waterloo undergrad biomedical engineering able to make conditional decisions based on uploaded transcripts? If so, would it put me at a disadvantage if I did not provide official transcripts right away?

  41. Is advanced functions still double weighted for early admission if there is no mark for calculus? I recently found this and wanted to know if it was still the case, as my advanced functions mark is no where near where I would want it to be (mid 80) while my data management course is 95. I am in IB and am taking HL Math, and so the curriculum is very skewed (half the calculus content was covered during the data management course). Also, is there any particular points you give on the AIF for completing the IB program?

  42. Hi,

    I am currently a Grade 11 student.

    For next semester, I am enrolled in enriched Math (MCR3U3). I was wondering if the Admissions staff take into account the fact that enriched is harder than academic and do some some sort of mark adjustment, or if they are considered equal. Last year I earned a mark of 94% in grade 10 enriched math, but I am worried that the same mark in Grade 11 may not be competitive enough (if considered), or may drop due to course difficulty. In order to achieve a higher mark and remain or become even more competitive, I am considering switching to normal academic Math to if it makes no difference in the eyes of the admissions staff.

    Also, my school isn’t included on the Fraser Institute’s Secondary School Rankings, due to the fact that we only run from grades 10 to 12 (no grade 9). Although I doubt it will have any effect on admission, I am still curious and would like an answer as to if a high school’s reputation may possibly influence an admissions decision.


    • Marks in Grade 11 courses are largely irrelevant for admissions (except for the early offer round). We always encourage people to challenge themselves with enriched courses if they are up to it, and let us know on the Admission Information Form. The Fraser Institute rankings have no impact on our decisions.

  43. I have already applied to Waterloo’s SYDE engineering program and received a confirmation email. If I decide to change engineering programs (for example to mechatronics engineering) on my OUAC on early February. will I be on some sort of waitlist or be given less priority into that program (tron)?

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  45. I have ~97 average with math 30, 31, physics 20, and chemistry 20; but 70s in English 20 and 80 currently in English 30 (English is notoriously hard on my school). How much will my English affect my application?

  46. Professor,

    Is it still possible to get early offer if I’m an Ontario 101 applicant but I took Grade 11 outside of Canada (I have 5 GCSEs though)?
    And is it too late to change my program on OUAC when I have already submitted my AIF?
    Thank you.

  47. Pingback: February News and Plans | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering

  48. Hi Professor,

    You recommended that students do some “real world” involvement. Could you tell me some suggestions on what involvements does Waterloo want to see in their engineering applicants.


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