Our applications continue to flow in at this time of year. I haven’t seen any detailed information yet, but there are indications that our applicant numbers from outside Ontario are up significantly. We’ll probably know more in a few weeks, but it seems likely that this year certainly won’t be any less competitive than last. With competition for limited spaces, it pays to be strategic about your applications.
To assist potential applicants, we try to provide as much useful information as we can about required courses, grades, careers, what to expect, etc. On this blog I provide some data on likely chances for admission and selecting programs. Using all this information, hopefully applicants can make realistic and suitable decisions about programs and what to apply for. Here is a list of typical strategic mistakes that a few people make when applying, based on our experience:
- Applying to one of the less competitive engineering, math, science or other programs, assuming that you’ll get an offer and can then switch to the more competitive program you really want. For Waterloo Engineering, this switch is unlikely to happen and you will probably be somewhat stuck in the program you picked. There is rarely any space for switching into the more competitive programs.
- Applying to a program that you don’t know much about, figuring that you can give it a try and see how you like it. That’s OK, but if you don’t like it you are again somewhat stuck and may have to lose a year to switch to something else, if it’s even possible.
- Applying to the most competitive programs (like Software and Biomedical) just to see if you get an offer, but assuming that you will get your alternate choice because your grades are quite good. This is one of the worst strategic mistakes. Why? We have a limit on how many alternate choice people we will put into a given program. For example, we don’t want a Computer Engineering class that is full of people who’s first choice was Software and Biomedical Engineering. We do want a majority of people in Computer Engineering who have researched the program and have decided that it is a good fit with their main interests. There were a lot of applicants to Software and Biomedical Engineering last year who got no offer to any engineering program because of these factors.
- Applying to programs without looking at the full curriculum, especially the upper year courses. Most engineering programs have some overlap in the first year, so just looking at those courses is not a good indication of what the program is like. If you look at the upper year and elective courses and they don’t strike your interest, then that’s a warning sign. It’s better to look ahead before applying than after you arrive and start the program.
So those are a few of the key mistakes we see, and the solution should be obvious for each one. Carefully research the programs, consider your level of competitiveness, apply to the program that is really the best fit, and keep your options open at other universities too.