Applying Strategically

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. Continue reading

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. 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

Chances for 2017

The 2017 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded.  We have continued to include a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges.  Many people find it useful for getting a realistic impression of their chances at admission, and  then they can plan accordingly.   The online version of this table can be found here.  This is based on the 2016 results and as usual we caution that 2017 may be different, since it all depends on the competition level (which is unknown in advance).

One difference this year:  I’m going to break the chances data up into two categories, “Visa” (or study permit) applicants, and “Canadians and Permanent Residents” applicants.  The tables mentioned above lump everyone together, but looking back at  the last year or two it seems like it may be too pessimistic for Canadians and overly-optimistic for Visa applicants, as we’ll see below. Continue reading

English Proficiency Requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English we have a set of proficiency requirements.  Details are on this website (English Language Requirements), but in summary we are looking for TOEFL scores of 90 and higher (with at least 25 Writing and Speaking), or IELTS scores of at least 6.5 overall (with 6.5 Writing and Speaking and 6.0  in other bands) (see that website for other test system requirements).  For Engineering admissions, we’ve been pretty strict about the scores and regularly reject people who don’t meet them (no matter what their other grades are like).  This is because our co-op work experience starts right away in first year, so we need students to be as fluent as possible so that they can have interviews, get jobs and have a successful work term with the employer.  There is no time to try to learn better English as you start our program.

Some universities have programs that you can sign up for to improve English proficiency.  We don’t, but in the last couple of years we have been testing a couple of special programs, called BASE and iBASE .  You can’t actually apply directly for these programs, they are by invitation only, and are for applicants to our engineering programs who have excellent academic credentials but come up short on the English proficiency tests.  So for these applicants, if they successfully complete the BASE or iBASE program they will be automatically enrolled in the engineering program they were aiming for.  Let’s look at these programs in a bit more detail. Continue reading

Admission Myths and Misconceptions

There are always a few myths and misunderstandings we encounter when talking to applicants.  Here are a few of the most common ones.  As usual, these items are specific to Waterloo Engineering, and other programs or universities may be different.

  1. Waterloo should be ranked #1 on the OUAC application to be seriously considered.  No, it really doesn’t matter at all to us how you rank us.  We’ve sent offers to people who ranked us as #15 or 20 in past years (why do people apply to that many places!?).  The ranking is just used for statistical and predictive purposes.  Our philosophy is that if you applied and paid the fees, you deserve serious consideration like everyone else.
  2. You need a 95% average to get an offer.  That would help, of course, but most of our programs do have lots of people admitted with averages less than 95%.
  3. We have a quota for female admissions.  Wrong.  We (and the engineering profession in general) certainly encourage female interest and participation in engineering, but gender is not used for admission decisions.  In my opinion that would violate the spirit of human rights legislation.
  4. We have a quota for Ontario residents.  No, there are no reserved spaces for Ontario applicants.  Our spaces are open for Canadians and Permanent Residents of Canada, no matter where they are coming from.
  5. We have a quota for non-Canadians.  Actually this is true, not a myth.  We have only about 210 spaces in Engineering for “visa students”, and the rest (about 1,350) are reserved for Canadians (or Permanent Residents).
  6. Visa students are taking away spaces from Canadians.  No, not at Waterloo.  Those 210 spaces are not government-funded, so if we didn’t fill them with visa students, then they wouldn’t be available to anyone at all.  Visa students are charged much higher tuition fees to make up for the fact that there is no government funding to support those spaces and associated costs.
  7. People can apply for early admission.  No, there is no early admission application process.  People just apply, and we might decide to send a few of them offers in March (which is “early” for us).  Most offers go out in May.
  8. People apply with their “top 6” grades.  No, you just apply and we receive all your grades electronically (from Ontario schools, universities, and CEGEP), or you arrange for your transcript to be sent to us.  There is no need (or ability) to select certain grades for us.  We will pick out what we want.
  9. The admission average is based on the “top 6” grades.  For us, “top 6” is somewhat of a misnomer.  For Ontario applicants, the admission average is based on the 5 required Grade 12 courses plus the highest other 4U/M course.  It’s possible that those 5 required courses are not your “top” grades.  Also, a number of other school systems don’t have 6 courses in the admission requirements, so “top 6” doesn’t apply to them.
  10. The timing of when you submit your application can affect your chances.  No, our systems are set up to ensure everyone has a fair review and chance at admission by the time the final set of offers come out in May.  As long as you meet the deadlines and submit the required stuff, your application will be given equal consideration like all the others.