Applying to University Should be Like Applying for Jobs

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

Submitting Your Admission Information Form 2017

Updated version of a past post for the 2017 admission cycle, as there have been a few small changes.

The Admission Information Form, or AIF, is the primary vehicle for applicants to tell us about themselves.  Our admission decisions are mainly based on grades, but the AIF information can help us distinguish between people who have similar grades, and we award up to 5  points onto the admission average for outstanding applicants.  Let’s go through the various parts of the AIF and see what is involved. Continue reading

Round 1 2016

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve finished our first round of engineering offers, and they should be all posted on Quest by now.  As mentioned in other places, we aimed to fill around 25% of our spaces at this point, and the rest of the offers will be processed in early May.  In the meantime, we’re waiting for the Ontario second semester grades to come in April, and we continue processing the transcripts and documents sent in by the other applicants (Form 105 applicants).

With the increase in application numbers, things seemed  a bit more competitive again this year.  But it will be impossible to quantify that until everything is over in May, so I can’t really comment any further.

So for those who recently got an offer, congratulations.  Make sure you think carefully about the program, and whether Waterloo is a good fit for you.  Maybe try to attend our open house on March 19, or come for a visit some other day.

For the 10,000+ people who didn’t get an offer, make sure your AIF (and any other required documents) are submitted, and just sit tight.  We’ll have the rest of the decisions in early May. (note, for the AIF make sure it’s “submitted” and not just “saved” on Quest.)

What are Extracurriculars?

When faced with the task of submitting our Admission Information Form (AIF), there is sometimes some confusion over what to list in the “Extracurriculars” section.  According to some dictionaries, “extracurricular” refers to activities at a school, but outside the regular classroom (or curriculum).  While that is true, for university admissions the definition is usually much broader in practice.  So, extracurriculars are not just school clubs and sports.  We look for anything that takes place outside of a classroom, whether organized through the school or not.  This would include activities with community groups, religious organizations, political and activist groups, recreational or competitive sports with community organizations (e.g. hockey and soccer leagues), cultural groups (theatre, choir, orchestra, art), cadets (army, navy and air) and scouts, and many other similar things.

It also includes things you might do on a more individual level, like music (perhaps Grade 8 or 10 RCM exams, or a band or performing group), art/photography, skiing, landscaping, automotive restoration, etc.  It will also include hobby types of activities, like writing poetry or blogs, reading 19th century literature, music, model trains, writing software, raising show dogs or horses, gaming, stock market investing, …

So, for our purposes “extracurricular” means essentially anything outside the classroom.  If it’s something you’re truly interested in and spend some time at, then certainly list it.  This is your chance to show us more about who you are, aside from the grades we see on transcripts.

On the other hand, don’t make a long list of little things that you tried for a few hours now and then.  It is not impressive.  Stick with the significant things you’ve done over a long period, or that required a lot of hours over a short period.

Don’t worry if you only have a few extracurriculars.  That is actually fairly normal and completely understandable.  Also don’t worry if your extracurriculars are not “engineering” related.  We don’t really expect them to be.  Again, this is about you telling us about yourself.  We don’t have any preconceived notions about what people should do in their spare time, so don’t try to second guess what it is we are looking for.