Selecting Your Offer

Offers to Ontario engineering programs will probably be wrapping up over the next two to three weeks (mid-May?).  Then people have until some date in early June to pick the one they want (see your offer or  OUAC for specific deadlines) and put down some sort of deposit.  It seems like most people apply to multiple universities and programs these days.  In the “old days” you could only apply to 3 in total, but I think the average now is around 5 or 6.  I’ve seen some applications in the high 20’s!

So assuming you have 2 or more offers to choose from, how do you decide?  Ultimately it’s going to be a very personal decision, but here are a few common factors to consider:

  1. Program:  do you really know what it’s about, and how well it fits your interests, skills and temperament?  Ignore your family and friends ideas about the “best” program for the future and jobs.  It’s your future.
  2. Location:  is quick and easy travel back home on weekends important to you or necessary for some reasons?  Or, are you fine with staying away for weeks and months and connecting by Skype or whatever?
  3. Costs:  some programs are expensive.  Some cities are expensive to live in.  How do the total costs add up for your budget?  Is there an internship or co-op program to help with the costs, and how much does it help?
  4. Facilities and Extracurriculars:  is there something that you really want or need to do, apart from the academic program?  Does the university have that opportunity available?  Are there clubs or sports opportunities that you are particularly interested in?
  5. Scholarships:  are these important for your budget and affordability?  Did you get a really big scholarship spread over 4 years?  If so, are there performance conditions, such as maintaining an 80% average?  Note that many students have difficulties maintaining these averages, so the scholarship may not  really be that reliable for future budgeting purposes.
  6. Prestige:  studies from the US generally show that going to a “prestigious” school has no particular influence on career (with the possible exception of politics).  Ignore “prestige” or rankings and go for the place and program that is the best fit for you and your interests.  An engaged and interested student will always do well wherever they are, versus a miserable student at a “prestigious” university or program.
  7. Other? Possibly there are some other factors that are more individual?  I can’t think of any more general ones at the moment, but suggestions in the comments are welcomed.

11 Surprising Things to Keep On Your Resume – Glassdoor Blog

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

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

Admissions Decisions Finished

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

A Few Offers So Far

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.

Architectural Engineering is Here!!

The University of Waterloo recently approved the launch of a new program in Architectural Engineering for September 2018 (subject to approval by the Ontario Quality Council).  We will be looking to take in about 85 students in the fall, and we’re rapidly gearing up space and teaching resources.  The official announcement is here, and applications are now open!  Here are a few key points about the program and admissions for this coming Fall. Continue reading