Chances for 2018

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).

Biomedical:  70
Chemical:  140
Civil:  125
Computer + Electrical:  360  (these programs are combined for admission purposes)
Environmental:  70
Geological:  25
Management:  70
Mechanical:  210
Mechatronics:  205
Nanotechnology:  115
Software:  115
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).

86 thoughts on “Chances for 2018

  1. Hi Professor,

    For first round offers are elective course marks looked at, a possible top 6 mark? Or are only the marks available from the 5 engineering prerequisite courses used to calculate an average and from those that are not available, are the grade 11 equivalents looked at? Please help!

      • Hi professor,
        The information above was helpful but i was wondering if you could answer just one question.
        I’m a mechanical engineer studying at NUST Pakistan asd wanted to know about the pre requisites required to apply in mechanical engineering program at your University.

      • If you’re already studying in an undergraduate engineering program, I generally don’t encourage you to apply. You need to be in the top end of the class, with no low grades in any course to even be considered. If admitted you would start over again in year 1, with very few transfer credits (because of Canadian engineering accreditation requirements), and the program will take 5 years to complete. It’s generally better to complete your program and apply to Waterloo for graduate school, where your chances are a bit higher.

  2. Hi Prof. Anderson,
    I was wondering about the admissions from IB schools (in Ontario). For the HL courses that are currently being taken, will we submit our mid-term marks for first semester for early acceptance, or are the HL marks from grade 11 the only ones that will be looked at? Also, at our school, we do not receive the Advanced Functions or Calculus and Vectors credit until after gr. 12 ends, so the HL math mark from grade 11 only consists of mdm4u, will this mark still be considered?


  3. Hi Prof,
    Thank you for providing us with these information, I am pretty sure it will be very useful for all the students applying this year, just some quick questions
    1.Are there going to be bonus points for the AIF this year as well? Are AIF Readers awarding the extra point?
    2. Is there still bonus point for whose course load is full during the current academic year? If yes, does that matter whether it is an 4U,4O or 3M course? I have 7 courses right now and school does not have any empty grade 12 academic course that i have prerequisite of and I can only pick from 3M courses and 4O(gym) courses. Do you think this time(the spare if nothing is taken) should be used on extracurricular activities(FRC and VEX Robotics in this case) or in one of those gym courses?

    • Reviewers always have the option to award bonus points for applicants that stand out in some way.
      A bonus point for heavy course load is still operational, but they need to be academic, senior level courses.

    • All of these are approximations based on dozens of different school systems and “noisey” data that fluctuates from year to year. So, both assessments are equally accurate (or inaccurate), and are only good as rough indications. In engineering, you have to get used to dealing with significant uncertainty in data.

  4. I am thinking of putting a program on the blue line as my first choice and a program on the green line as my alternate choice. Do I have a reduced chance of getting into my alternate choice program, compared to if I put this program as my first choice? Ie are applicants given equal admission consideration for a program regardless of whether they have ranked it as their first or second choice?

    • Applicants are considered equally for their alternate choice program, if not admitted to their primary choice. But there is a limit to how many alternate choice applicants we will put into a program. For example, we won’t fill up the Computer Engineering program with a whole lot of people who chose it as an alternate to Software Engineering. In most programs, the limit is between 15 and 20%. Once the limit is reached, we stop admitting alternate choices to that program.

  5. Hey Professor,
    I was just wondering as I’ve noticed system design engineering is on the green line just like last year, but I’ve seen on the site that system design engineering is now mid 90’s, is this true?

  6. Hi Professor,
    I am interested in applying for Systems Design Engineering. I wonder if there are 90 people who can get into the program, what is the ratio between International students and Local students? ( I am an international student and I am studying Grade 12 at a high school in Toronto)

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  8. Hello Prof,

    I was just wondering if having a spare (empty period) could jeopardizes/lowers my chances of getting into my program? Next semester, I do have a full course-load however.


  9. Our school is known to have a hard maths program, most of the math teachers went to Waterloo for math and one teacher told us that Waterloo looks at the school average and bases ur average off of that, that was there reasoning to have a hard curriculum, I would like to know if thats true and how many applicants did you guys have last year?

  10. Hello prof,

    I’m a student following british curriculum, completed my a levels from gr11, and got […]
    Note: I’m an international applicant, applying for software engineering.

    • I can’t predict or advise at this point. But I will mention that you should submit all available grades, including predicted grades. We will make a decision on a case by case basis.

  11. Hello Prof,
    I’m an international student and I’m interested in software engineering program, I am wondering that how many international student got admission for this application last year ( approximately ) . And what can I do to gain my chance to get into this program.

  12. Hello Professor

    Would you say that interest for Systems Design Engineering has increased recently?
    If so, do you think that the green line on the graph is still a good representation for chances of getting in to the program?

  13. Hello prof,

    Purely basing off the graph of 2017 and 2018, I noticed how Chemical Engineering “moved” to the green line. I was just wondering if it’s because Chemical Engineering is becoming less popular, therefore less competitive.


    • There is some moving around of programs once in a while depending on fluctuations in the number of applicants and their grades. Chemical engineering moved down slightly and we decided to lump the programs together slightly differently.

  14. Hello Professor Anderson,

    Does Waterloo take the higher mark for IB grades compared with Alberta provincial grades? Also, is there any point of submitting SAT scores, and SAT Subject Test scores to Waterloo as a Canadian? How high of a score would you recommend that I have if I choose to send my scores? Lastly, how many bonus points are awarded to the AIF? I have heard some people say 5 and others say 10.

    Thank you

    • Different schools submit different things, so there is no single answer. We generally use whatever is more favourable for the applicant. Test scores are always welcomed, as they help provide a better overall picture. We generally expect that scores will be in the upper 25 percentile. The AIF bonus in engineering is up to 5.

  15. Dear Sir,

    Please advise when is the deadline to submit the IELTs result as one of requirements for undergraduate applying for international students who didn’t study full four years in Ontario’s high schools.

    Kind regards,
    Mariam Keryakous

  16. Hi Prof,

    As a Canadian resident living in the US I have taken the SAT and ACT. Does engineering admission look at SAT 2 tests?

  17. Hi professor,
    I am UW graduate (Civil MEng, 2005) working in Houston, TX, now my 12th grade son wants to go back to his early year place and pursue Mech Eng at UW. We are still Canadian citizens.

    Based on the statistics, his chance looks quite tight for him. Is that only based on GPA, or including SAT or ACT as well? His GPA is 87 percentile, but SAT and ACT are 99%. Also he is a high school varsity swimmer. Test scores and extracurricular can be significant plus for him?

    • Yes, test scores and higher level extracurriculars (like varsity sports) can be positive factors and are taken into account. We were recently in Houston and enjoyed our college fair and school visits there.

  18. Hey Prof, do you know what the applicant to spot ratio for ECE was last year and possible what it would be for this year?

  19. Hello Prof

    I was wondering if ‘scheduling conflict’ is the only valid reason to do an online course, and to not get adjusted. Is this true?

    Also, how much do you adjust the mark by?

  20. Hi Prof, I was just wondering how having a repeated course or course taken in summer school might jeopardizes my chances of getting into computer science program?

  21. Hi Prof:
    I am an international student studying in Ontario for high school. I applied the OUAC through 101, but for engineering, do I still compete with others for that limited spaces for international students? In addition, the possibility of getting in software engineering with average of 97 seems to very low for international students, does it mean I am likely to be declined for the program? Thanks.

  22. Hi Professor,

    I received my confirmation on my application to the Engineering Faculty at the University of Waterloo. One of the recommended details for the AIF is to submit it within three weeks of confirmation of application. If I don’t submit within the three weeks recommended time but submit well before the deadline of March 1st, is there any impact on my application? Thanks!

  23. Hi Professor,

    If we do not submit our AIF within the three weeks recommended time from when we apply on OUAC, are we not considered for early round offers? I heard that AIF submissions for initial round offers are due February 1st. Thanks!

    • There are no specific deadlines to be considered in the early rounds because it’s all subject to internal workflows and timings that are not known in advance. Therefore our recommendation is to get it in within the 3 weeks.

  24. Hello prof,

    I understand that Waterloo normally looks at 5 specific courses for the admission of BC students. And I’m wondering whether or not the admissions team will consider adding a 6th course into the admission average if the BC student does very well in one of the other academic courses like Biology 12.

  25. Happy New Year Prof,
    I will complete all the required courses for engineering by the end of the first term, and I have applied to the program very early. My Grade 12 average is much higher than Grade 11. In this circumstance, am I likely to get an early admission result or still have to wait until the final round?

    • That’s impossible to say. It depends on whether you seem to be in the top end of the applicant pool or not. We typically only make offers to people who are clearly in the top 30% and have finished enough courses.

  26. Hello Prof,

    I plan on applying to ECE (mainly CE) and I was wondering if it would be a wise choice to put EE as my backup. If I do not make it into CE, will I still be considered for EE, or are my chances close to none due to the fact that they are bunched together for admissions purposes? I’m considering putting something completely different as my backup if that is the case, thanks!

    • Computer and electrical engineering admissions are lumped together, so if you don’t get into one you won’t get into the other either. It’s best to put another alternative, that seems like a reasonable fit with your interests.

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  28. Hello Professor,

    1.Do the 105D applicants get assessed with the 101 applicants or the 105F applicants? Specifically, should I expect to hear an admission decision in early March or late March/Early April?
    2. I see that Waterloo Engineering has statistics for how many spaces are reserved for students in Canada do these spaces apply to the 105D applicants or are 105D applicants considered, for statistics purposes, with the 105F applicants?

    • 1. The form 105 decisions will start to come out in early April. They take longer to assess than form 101.
      2. Form 105D applicants are Canadians, and are therefore competing for the Canadian spaces. Form 105F applicants are competing for the smaller number of visa spaces (together with Form 101 applicants who are not Canadian).

  29. Hello, i wanted to know, do you consider a visa applicant, currently studying outside of Canada, and a visa applicant, studying in Canada, any differently?in other words, does studying in Canada as an international student improve your chances? thanks!

    • Visa students are considered on the same basis no matter where they study. Likewise, Canadian applicants are treated with the same process whether they are studying in Canada or not.

  30. Hi I’m a student in Ghana offering metallurgical engineering. I’m in 2nd year and I wanna know if it is possible to be enrolled in your university and also gain full scholarship to study

  31. Dear Professor:

    Hello, I am slightly confused and shocked at the numbers presented. on the website for the faculty of engineering, it stated that there were 7630 enrolled undergraduates, you have stated that there are only around 1600 open places, including international students. Is that the number of students enrolled at a specific admission date, or have the decreased the number of spaces?

  32. Hi,
    I appreciate that I may be a little behind in submitting application for admission as an undergraduate student in civil engineering, for fall 2018.
    I will like to explore posibility of admission to the winter session. Grateful if you can please advise. Thank you.

  33. Hello Prof,

    I’m applying the faculty of chemical engineering in fall 2018 and I was just wondering if the Chem 13 exam research award also applies to chemical engineering as well. The website specified anyone enrolling in an Honours Chemistry or Honours Biochemistry program, but did chemical engineering.


  34. I have now decided to apply to Process and Chemical for the september 2018 admission. Can i still apply

  35. Hello prof,
    Just a few questions here:

    1) What was last year’s applicant to spot ratio for Chemical Engineering? And how does that data compare to this year’s ratio?

    2) I’m constantly hearing about the abysmal ChE employment opportunities for both Co-op and entry level jobs. I’m curious about your thoughts on the popular opinion regarding the bleak future of Chemical Engineers.

    3) I’m quite interested in the URA( even though URA is only for undergraduates from 2A to 4B). And on the Waterloo website, I see how there’s only 7 positions open for URA positions regarding Chemical Engineering, but 18 positions open for Civil/Environmental Engineering. I was wondering if one may apply for a position that’s outside of their own discipline.

    4) Lastly, how’s the competition for URA positions? In general, what is usually the applicant to spot ratio for the position?

    Thanks for taking the time to read over my questions. Much appreciated. 🙂

    • 1) the ratio has been about 5 applicants per spot for the past few years.

      2) statistics out of the U.S. show continuing growth in Chemical Engineering employment, similar to others ( There may be softening in specific locations and fields at the moment, like the oil sands in Alberta, but for someone just starting a degree program that will take 5 years to finish, that’s an unreliable piece of data to use for a decision because it can fluctuate significantly from year to year. It also ignores the fact that Chemical Engineers are employed in a wide range of industries including nuclear power, automotive, electronics, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, environmental consulting, metallurgy, software, and many more.

      3&4) the URA (undergraduate research assistantships) can be pursued in any discipline, I believe. It’s up to you to convince the professor that you’re a good fit for their research project. The number of positions shown on a website are not a very reliable indicator of actual opportunities. Many of us professors don’t routinely advertise for a URA, but will consider taking one if approached by a good candidate. I’m not sure about the competition for URAs; it probably depends on the type of project and how popular or trending it is. URAs are used by some professors to do preliminary screening for potential graduate students.

  36. Professor Anderson,
    With all due respect, how does the admission process distinguish between increasingly inflated marks and students who are truly capable of achieving 90+ percent in all required subject areas? There has been an increase in recent years of what I can only label as fraudulent marking in many Ontario schools. I am speaking specifically of English marks. Students in high schools all across Ontario, some without legitimate skills, are being given excessively high marks in order to be able to compete with their peers who excel in all subject areas. To maintain the same integrity and standards I have had for the past seventeen years as an English teacher, teaching ENG4U specifically, I am unfairly labelled as the “Gate Keeper” who is responsible for destroying the hopes and dreams of students who see Waterloo Engineering as their only option, yet are not yet capable of achieving sophistication in literary analysis and writing. Those students may achieve excellent marks in Maths and other subjects specific to the study of Engineering; however, through various factors, are not truly achieving those marks in English.
    Why does the ENG4U mark continue to be given such regard and weight when the marks students may receive do not correlate with their skill level? What was once an 80% now must be seen as a 90% or higher; the standards have seemingly lowered in secondary school and yet have risen in some universities. It has become a rather vicious cycle, where teachers inflate marks to help students compete, and university programs increase admission requirements to “weed out” those who do not belong, and then teachers inflate marks even higher, and so on.

    What are your thoughts on this? Are you noticing these changes as well? How can I help my Grade 12 students achieve their post-secondary goals while also ensuring they do not have “delusions of grandeur” as far as skill and ability?

    • I and my colleagues appreciate those who try to maintain good standards in English and other courses. I routinely fail/reject student reports that are poorly written, and there are English proficiency exam and course requirements in engineering programs that have to be satisfied. Some students with poor communication skills will be prevented from advancing in their Engineering program until they improve to some satisfactory level. It’s hard to say whether I can see the grade inflation or not, since I’m only looking at a very specific set of applicants. It would be nice if the schools or school boards compiled course averages data across the province, then we could see where the trends and outliers might be.

      When engineering programs across Canada undergo their regular accreditation reviews, we have to report on class averages and failure rates for every course. That helps put a damper on grade inflation tendencies in university, because it could affect our professional accreditation.

  37. Hello Prof,
    I heard that after the first round of admissions 80% of the engineering spots are filled leaving 20% of the spots open for the second round in May. Is this true, if so does that mean everyone who didn’t get accepted into the first round will fight for those last spots? Also, does UW engineering look down on online courses and courses taken outside a traditional classroom? For example, my school doesn’t offer Earth and Space Science in-school so I was forced to take it online. Would UW treat this mark as if it was taken in-class?

  38. Hello Professor,
    I am a international student currently studying in Ontario with a student visa. I would like to know if I have a better score on my language proficiency test (such as IELTS), would it boost my probability of getting admitted? Also, during the admission process, are there any different admission requirement for international students currently studying in a Ontario public school (applied through OUAC)? In other words, is it harder for me to get than Canadian citizens in if I’m a visa student, even though we’re attending the same high school?

    • You have to meet our required minimum IELTS scores to be considered. Getting higher than the minimum doesn’t provide any advantage. You’re competing for the limited number of spaces available for non-Canadians, so yes it is much harder to get an offer. Where you attend school doesn’t make any difference to this competition.

  39. Hello Professor,

    I am a rising high school student from Santiago, Chile, and am looking to apply to the Software Engineering program when possible. My school in and of itself does not offer computer science courses, but I have gone to college-credit engineering programs before, as well as taught myself how to develop full-stack, etc. I believe I have a fairly advanced level of coding, but I don’t have any “proof” (in terms of course work). Will that play against me during my application?


    • I left one part of my questions out as well. If I get accepted into one program, say Computer Science, is it possible to transfer into another one in the future? I’m going to be applying to S.E as my very top choice, and C.S as my second choice.

    • For Software Engineering, if there is no proof of a course then we rely on your description of your experience in the Admission Information Form. That’s usually satisfactory for our purposes.

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