Admissions 2017: How it’s going to work

An update on this popular post, with some revisions  for the upcoming September 2017 admissions cycle.  There are a few significant changes to note below…

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 difficult decision.  If so, start early and do lots of research on our websites and those of many other universities and professional organizations.  Those within reasonable travel distance of Waterloo might want to talk to arrange a visit .  Doing some upfront homework and picking a program that matches your interests is critical, because you may not 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 most people because our space is too limited.
  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 (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 first 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 tell us what alternate choice engineering program you’d like to be considered for, if your application isn’t competitive enough for your first choice.  (Note that this is a change for 2017:  we’re only considering one alternate choice.)  
  6. New for 2017:  Applicants will be invited to participate in an optional video interview process, sort of like a job interview.  This will be your chance to let us know more about you and score additional points for your application.
  7. 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.
  8. NOSS applicants will have to upload or 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.
  9. 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).
  10. We will review all the AIFs  and assign a score of up to 5 points.  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.
  11. We compile “adjustment factors” based on our historical student performance data and apply these.  The adjustment factor is simply the difference between the admission average and first year engineering average, broken down by school or region.  It accounts for differences in performance, and helps us to pick the applicants with the best chances of success in our programs.
  12. For every applicant, we generate an “admission score”.  This is the sum of the admission average + AIF score + adjustment factor + video interview points.  If any of the required Grade 12 courses have been repeated, we will usually use the grade from the first  attempt.   If the first attempt was really bad we will 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.
  13. Sometime in early March, we will take all the data we have and start making some admission decisions for OSS (Form 101) applicants.  For each program, we rank the applicants by admission score and start making offers to the top ones.  We typically aim to fill about 25%  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 an old post.  For Form 105 (NOSS) applicants, our first round this year will probably be in late March or early April.
  14. 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.
  15. In early May, we do the final selection of applicants based on admission scores, and we fill all 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 to be considered for their alternate choice program.  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.
  16. At the same time, we award the various Engineering entrance scholarships, based on grades and AIF scores.  Scholarship awards also go out in May.
  17. In early June, there is a deadline for accepting the offer and placing a deposit to secure a spot in residence (if desired).
  18. 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.
  19. 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.

28 thoughts on “Admissions 2017: How it’s going to work

  1. Hi, I was just wondering how OUAC priority works if you’re applying for different programs at the same school. For example if I were to apply to Computer Science as my number one choice and Computer Engineering as my number two. Would I still be considered for Computer Engineering if I receive an offer to Computer Science first? Also, would accepting my offer in Computer Science mean I would no longer be considered for Compute Engineering?


  2. Hi if i failed sph4u with a final mark of 4% (i forgot to drop it), and then after retaking it I got 99%. Which mark will be used and would there be any adjustments? thanks

  3. Hi Profbillanderson,
    First of all, you are an amazing person for posting all this info every year. I’ve been stressing over the fact that so many universities have a lack of information when it comes to admission, so it felt like a blessing when I found your blog. Although you’ve already clarified most of my questions over the AIF, there’s still one tiny thing that has been bothering me:
    1) I’m an Ontario student, but I’m also in the IB program. When I’m filling out the course section on the AIF, which courses do I list? I know people who only put their IB courses, but I read in one of your posts that you award bonus points for students who have a significant number of 12U courses. My IB courses amount to around eleven 12U credits – do AIF reviewers account for this? As of now, I listed my IB courses as well as their corresponding 12U credits. But, this feels like I’m duplicating my courses.
    Hoping that you can help clarify this!

    • The AIF reviewers don’t look at the course information, so I wouldn’t worry too about it. The admissions team looks at it, if necessary, to clarify transcript information. So just put down what you think best describes what you’re doing and we will figure it out.

  4. How will they calculate a calculus and vectors mark into the admissions average if it will be taken in second semester?

  5. Thank you very much for the great post! My question is about the “alternate choice engineering program”. Is it possible for Computer Sciences to be considered as an alternate choice if one applies to Software Engineering?

    Or is it necessary to apply to each program officially through OUAC in order to be considered for both?

  6. Hi Prof Anderson,
    Thank you for all the information via your blog! It is a great help in deciphering the admissions process. If an applicant goes to a non semestered school, are the interim grade 12 January exam marks used to calculate the admission average or do you also look at grade 11 marks? Are the marks weighted differently if they are all grade 12 marks rather than an average that has to use grade 11 marks as an estimate of grade 12 performance? Finally, how much consideration is given to the adjustment based on historcal student performance for each school? (I am curious because I attend a non semestered school that is very challenging and highly ranked in the Fraser report).
    Many thanks.

  7. My top 6 (predicted) average is around the high-90’s range, but my adfunc mark is an 87 (however gr. 11 functions mark was low-90s). Will this affect my admissions chances or do admissions only care about the overall average? I’m also applying for computer science. Thanks!

  8. Hi Mr. Anderson,

    I have a question regarding the self reported marks under the “Courses” section from the AIF.
    I understand that University of Waterloo calculates the student average using the best mark either before the diploma, or the blended mark with the diploma in a course with the exception for English. Which one do I report on my AIF? Is it possible for me to receive a penalty for inputting the mark before the diploma (my higher mark) rather than the official mark after the diploma?


  9. Hi Professor,

    I have a few questions, and would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time to answer them:

    1 . Students need a minimum of three 12 U courses completed in order to qualify for early admissions, right? In addition, which courses can count towards these 12 U courses (for example, would grade 12 computer science count?)?

    2. In the AIF, what things are “weighted” more? For example, which one would result in a higher AIF score boost – co-op experience or scoring top 20 in CCC Senior (for students applying to software engineering)?

    Thank you very much!

    • 1. We generally like to see three 12U required courses completed, so computer science would not be included in this.
      2. there’s no straightforward answer, it all depends on what it is and the overall context.

  10. Hi Mr. Anderson,
    Firstly, I appreciate all the posts you have done. I took a Kinesiology (4U) course in an online course last summer (got 98%), and I put it down on my AIF, but I am applying for Engineering and I have 6 other 4U courses (the required ones, all taken regular school), so would the admissions team really consider that Kinesiology summer course, or would they consider the other 6 (even though some of them are lower than the kinesiology mark)

  11. Hi, Professor Andersen!

    I wanted to ask whether Waterloo looks down upon applicants that have fast-tracked a grade 12 U course in grade 11 regular school. Also, do they prefer applicants that have a full 8-course grade 12 year instead of applicants with a 6-course or 7-course grade 12 year? My guidance counselor told me that they prefer students who have more courses in their grade 12 year because that shows that they can get a higher average under a greater course load.

    Please advise.


    • No, we have no preference for when you do the 12U courses (i.e. fast tracked or not). There is no preference for course load either, it depends on the individual and what they choose to do with their time. Some choose a heavier load for individual reasons, and perhaps participate in fewer other things. Others do the minimum courses but play sports or music or work. We’re interested in the overall person.

  12. Hi Professor Anderson,

    In previous posts (2016 How it’s going to work post and 2015 Differentiation post), you mentioned that there are opportunities to score additional points through participation in academic enrichment programs. Is this still the case?


  13. Hi Professor Anderson, when is the deadline for us to upload transcripts in Quest? Is it the same date as documents submission along with the AIF (Feb 03 for early admissions) or could we submit it later?

  14. Good morning Prof.
    I’ll be applying to the University of Waterloo for admission in “Software engineering” in Fall 2018. I’m following British A-level curriculum and since we have exams at school (mocks to prepare for the official Cambridge exams) and also official Cambridge exams, I got confused which transcripts i shall submit, school transcripts and Cambridge official transcripts or just the second ?! Also if I must submit the school transcripts, will it make any effect on my admission chances if my marks are low in the school transcript but got awesome grades (A / A*) in Cambridge A-level official exams ?!

    • We generally recommend applicants submit everything including school transcripts and exam results to give us the best overall picture of the student’s performance. We know that school results are often much lower than exams and take that into account.

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