To start the new academic year and next admission cycle, the 2018 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded on the Waterloo website. We continue to include a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges (at the end of the brochure, and another online version is available here). Many people find it useful for assessing their chances at admission, and then they can plan accordingly and have realistic expectations. This is based on the 2017 results and as usual we caution that 2018 may be different, since it all depends on the number of applicants (which is unknown in advance and can fluctuate).
For convenience and readability in a table, we lump the grades into ranges. Some people find the big jumps in probability between the different grade ranges to be difficult to understand or interpret, so I have been generating graphs that provide interpolations between the various grades in finer detail (see the end of the post for methodology, if interested). As usual, the grades shown below are the raw, unadjusted averages of the Grade 12 required courses (or equivalents), not including any other factors such as scores for extracurriculars, work experience, or awards.
Canadians and Permanent Residents
We have about 1,375 spaces reserved in Engineering programs for applicants who are Canadians or Permanent Residents of Canada. For this group, the chances for various programs are shown in the following graph.
How to interpret this: for example, of all the applicants to Chemical Engineering with an 87% admission average, about 30% of them got an offer.
The various programs were chosen to be lumped together because their chances are very similar, so using a different line for each program is not useful. All the interpolated lines look pretty good, with no odd bends or dips. For this year I started the graph at 85%, since this is our nominal minimum required average. “Admission Average” is the average of the required courses (maths, physics, chemistry, English), which depend on the school system and details can be found online.
Clearly some programs like Biomedical and Software are very competitive (lots of applicants for a small number of spaces). Other programs have more spaces and a bit fewer applicants per space, so not quite so competitive. Level of competition has nothing to do with quality or career prospects, it’s just a matter of supply and demand for spaces.
As usual, these are rough estimates and not guarantees of any kind. It’s possible to have a 100% average and not get admitted if, for example, you don’t submit an Admission Information Form or other required document, or don’t meet the English language proficiency requirements (although you might get an offer to the BASE or iBASE programs for top applicants who need a bit of English proficiency help). It’s also possible that changes in competition levels will move a certain program from one line to another (either left or right) in the upcoming admissions competition.
Also, these admission averages are for typical secondary school grades, not CEGEP grades which are typically a bit lower. So if you’re an applicant from a CEGEP your chances are probably higher than this graph would suggest.
Study Permit Applicants
We only have around 220 available spaces in our Engineering programs for non-Canadians, and last year there were just over 4,000 applicants for those spaces. So the competition is pretty intense for this group of applicants, and it takes a very strong application and some luck to get an offer. These applicants are generally considered as a whole, not so much on a program by program basis, and so there is only one line in this graph.
The interpolated line is a little wobbly, but not bad overall. Clearly, it’s not easy to get an offer for Waterloo Engineering if you’re not a Canadian or Permanent Resident. Again, we do have the BASE and iBASE programs for top applicants who don’t quite meet our English proficiency requirements.
For applicants not in a system using percentage grades, what is a 95%+? It’s difficult to say exactly, but for IB students the grades should be pretty much all 6’s and 7’s. For the British curriculum, the AS and A level grades (predicted or actual) should be all A’s or better (A*), and likewise for the GCSE levels (in the maths and sciences). Having a B or C grade for AS or A levels will reduce your chances significantly.
Knowing your chances, here are some suggestions for a successful senior year in high school from one of our current Engineering students.
How Many Spaces?
We are often asked about how many spaces there are available in each program, so here is an estimate of total spaces for each (subject to change).
Computer + Electrical: 360 (these programs are combined for admission purposes)
Systems Design: 90
Program sizes are limited by a number of factors including classroom size and availability, teaching lab space and equipment scheduling, and the number of available faculty and teaching assistants. Therefore we have to be careful not to overload programs because the effects carry through all 4 academic years., That’s why we have to turn away many fine applicants for many programs.
Interpolation Plotting Methods
For the past few years I have used a cubic spline interpolation technique (with linear endpoints), which is one popular method for finding values between sparse data points. The results seem visually OK overall, so I continue to use the same method. This year I assumed that the probability in the table corresponds to the mid-point of the grade range, and that there is zero probability below 85% (our nominal minimum grade), and 99% with an average grade of 100% (philosophically, there is never a 100% chance). As before, I used MathCAD for the number crunching (here is a nice description, for those that might be interested in more details).