Here’s an update on a popular old post, with some new data and comments.
I’m never quite sure why people ask about failure rates, or what they are expecting. Do they want to hear that the failure rate is high, so they are convinced it’s a tough (and therefore good) program? Or maybe they don’t want the failure rate to be high, because they are concerned that they won’t be successful? I’m not sure what the motivation for the question is, but anyways let’s examine failure rates. Continue reading
Some interesting ideas in this article. Although written for permanent job seekers, it could also be very applicable to co-op students and high school students applying for university programs. Some of those things are what can make you stand out from the crowd, in my experience on the hiring and admissions side.
Stand up comedian? Competitive athlete? Find out what surprising skills should stay on your resume.
Source: 11 Surprising Things to Keep On Your Resume – Glassdoor Blog
Since I’ve left the Admissions role I’m not going to post my traditional graphic of chances for the upcoming cycle, BUT let me introduce you to a new Waterloo engineering admissions-focused blog where you can find it: The Road to Engineering
Follow that blog for updates on current Waterloo Engineering admissions news, suggestions and updates, including some information about the upcoming Ontario Universities Fair.
As high school students return to class, here is some key advice for those planning to apply to university or college. I strongly suggest that when applying to a post-secondary program, it should be treated like applying for a job or career. There should be some significant self-reflection and “selling yourself” to the university. The self-reflection part is derived from Prof. Larry Smith’s book, which I have briefly reviewed before. It’s very important to know why you’re doing something before doing it. The “selling yourself” part builds on this, and can be illustrated with an example that is a composite of stuff we see for Engineering applications. For this example, let’s consider two hypothetical applicants to Mechanical Engineering, both with similar grades (say low 90’s) and similar other activities. Each applicant writes something in their Admission Information Form, along the lines of the following… Continue reading
I get asked about the grade inflation that I’ve seen over the years. I know that there is anecdotal evidence of grade inflation from various sources. For example, the GCE A Level exams (based in the UK) had to introduce a new top grade (A*) because so many people were getting the previous top grade (A) that it was becoming somewhat meaningless. Likewise, as I mentioned in another post there are reports that over half of U.S. high school graduates have “A” averages. However from my side I can’t make any conclusions based on our admissions data. Here is why… Continue reading
The deadline is quickly approaching for accepting offers on the OUAC application site. Our deadline for Engineering offers is Friday June 1 at midnight (Toronto/Eastern time). As a word of advice, don’t leave it to the last few minutes. If you have computer problems and miss the deadline there aren’t any extensions available, the system closes.
Preliminary data indicates that we will likely meet or exceed our targets for the programs but we won’t know for sure for a few more weeks while we check the data and ensure that all the offer conditions have been met. However, if you’re accepting an offer with the intention of transferring into Computer Engineering, it is pretty clear now that there will be no spaces. If Computer Engineering is your true goal, you’re better off accepting an offer at another university if you have one.
This likely even applies to students in Electrical Engineering looking to switch to Computer. In the past this has been straightforward, but the numbers may make this switch difficult from now on due to upper year course space limits. Computer/Electrical Engineering transfers are generally possible in the early part of the programs, but there are never guarantees.
Overall, our general advice still applies: don’t accept an engineering offer with the intention of immediately trying to change programs. Generally, this is not going to happen because our lab and class facilities are full and going any further impacts on the quality we can offer the current students.
All offers and rejections for our Engineering programs have now been posted on our Quest system and the offers eventually show up on the OUAC system too. Every year’s admissions seems to get a little more challenging and complicated and this year was no different with about 13,000 applications and the launch of our new Architectural Engineering program. As usual, there are a few happy people and a lot that are not so happy. For perspective, a few statistics might be helpful:
- Applications overall were up between 5 and 10%, but a few programs stood out. Namely, Computer and Systems Design Engineering applications were up about 30% each, and Biomedical up about 15%. Increased applications means higher competition and more rejections since the available spaces didn’t change.
- Overall, about 75% of our applicants did not receive an offer. For some programs like Software and Biomedical Engineering, closer to 90% of applicants didn’t receive offers since there were so many applicants and a very limited number of spaces.
- As usual, we gave out some alternate choice offers in a number of programs, although there are limits to how many we will offer in any one program. This year, a lot of Software applicants put Computer Engineering as an alternate, which makes some sense. But with the 30% increase in Computer applications, there was quite a bottleneck and many were no doubt surprised to get no offer.
At this stage, all of our spaces are now allocated and we wait until the summer to see if the predicted number of people accept the offers. We don’t have an appeal or reconsideration process, because the spaces are filled to the limits (and beyond). We make more offers than there are spaces, with the assumption that a certain fraction will choose to go somewhere else. Generally our predictions are accurate within 1 or 2%, and there are usually no spaces opening up during the summer.
For those with offers to engineering and are thinking about wanting to change programs, our suggestion is to forget about it. Recent experience suggests that it is not likely to happen because of space limitations in most programs, even after first year. The engineering programs have no obligation to take transfers, and lately many have refused to do so. Therefore, if you’re not reasonably sure that you will be satisfied with the offer you have, you should seriously consider another offer. Our open house event for admitted applicants on Saturday May 26 is a good last chance to visit and discuss your potential future program with faculty and students.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, seems to be the popular topic in media these days, and I have had a number of questions about it from prospective students and families over the past year. The short answer is yes, we do have AI in our Engineering programs. In fact, we have an “Option in Artificial Intelligence” available for students in any engineering program. This is essentially like a “Minor” in the topic, a package of courses related to the field (at Waterloo our terminology is a bit different, so we don’t call it a “minor”). If you complete the package of courses, you’ll have the designation on your transcript and diploma when you graduate.
Although AI seems new and exciting, the roots and development are actually fairly old, having a basis in ancient philosophy and mathematics. Even the more modern versions and applications of AI go back over 50 years to the initial developments in computational machines. One misunderstanding is that AI is all about programming, but it is actually highly mathematical at its core. Programming is just a tool for implementing the math and various algorithms.
Some people may be surprised to know that the mathematical tools and foundations for AI are not even limited to computer science or computer engineering. My colleagues in Chemical Engineering have been using them for decades for various purposes, and here are a few quick examples with links for further information.
Optimization methods are often a part of chemical plant design, scheduling, cost minimization, and various other things like this example on planning electricity generation. The control of complex chemical plant processes has been researched using artificial neural networks, like this simpler example of crude oil desalting. Bayesian inference methods are employed for dealing with the significant uncertainties in chemical processes, even by me many years ago. Kalman filter techniques are used to help us handle the noisy data coming from chemical processes, including this example from biotechnology. And there are lots of other examples, just in Chemical Engineering alone, not even looking at Civil, Mechanical and others (where I know they also use these advanced mathematical techniques).
Just another example of how broad and diverse the engineering fields are, and how concepts and tools are spread and shared across all these disciplines.
Recently we were able to process a batch of offers for applicants from outside the Ontario high school system (Form 105 applicants). Similar to our earlier Form 101 round of offers, this is a limited number based on what documents we have reviewed so far. There are still something like 60 to 70% of the spaces in each program unfilled at this point, and everyone continues to be considered in our upcoming round.
From now until about the end of April we continue to review documents, AIFs, and interviews in preparation for our main round of offers in May. The exact timing of those offers is impossible to predict. We have to wait to get the electronic grade data from Ontario high schools before we can start, so it’s somewhat dependent on them. I guess we’ll see how it goes. Thankfully our offers can now be electronically posted on our Quest system, so we’re not scrambling to mail them to applicants in a narrow window of time.
As usual around this time of year, we have processed a few offers for applicants who are currently in an Ontario high school. Generally this will fill less than 25% of the available spaces in each program, leaving the large majority of spaces for our final round of decisions in May when we have more complete data for a fair comparison. People who don’t get an offer at this stage are automatically carried forward for consideration then.
The selection process is a bit random at this stage, which is why I don’t like to commit very many spaces. Typically, people with offers at this point have consistently high grade 11 and 12 math, English & science marks, and at least 3 Grade 12 required courses completed. Also they probably ranked in the top end of all the program applicants, taking into account an AIF score (and optional interview score, if one was submitted). It takes us until mid-April to complete all the AIF and interview scoring, so at this stage it’s somewhat random whether those play a significant role or not for any one individual.
Eventually (by the end of April), we get all the Grade 12 marks and other scores, and then it’s much fairer to compare everyone on the same basis. Any high scoring applicants who missed out on the early round will get selected at that point.
For out-of-province applicants (OUAC Form 105), we’ll do a bit of a preliminary offer round in a few weeks when we have more data compiled from transcripts. It’s difficult to say exactly when (it depends on many things), but hopefully by early April to help out those with May 1 offer acceptance deadlines at U.S. universities.