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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- At the same time, we award the various Engineering entrance scholarships, based on grades and AIF scores. Scholarship awards also go out in May.
- In early June, there is a deadline for accepting the offer and placing a deposit to secure a spot in residence (if desired).
- 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.
- 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.