Chances for 2015

Here is an updated version of a post I’ve been creating for several years.

The 2015 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.  It seems that many people find it useful for getting a realistic impression of their chances at admission, so that they can plan accordingly.  In the graphic below is a copy of the latest version.  This is based on the 2014 results and as usual we caution that 2015 may be different, since it all depends on the competition level (which is unknown in advance).  In 2014 the level of competition went up quite a bit, as illustrated in a previous post.  Maybe it will go down in 2015, since we know that’s the general direction of the demographics in Ontario, but we’ll see. Continue reading

Admission Pressures

Many people are aware that the competition to get into engineering programs has been rising in recent years.  This is often seen in the rising admission averages required to get an offer, due to this increased level of competition.  Although many people acknowledge this, they may be surprised at some of the numbers so I’ve compiled some graphs to help visualize it.  First, let’s look at application numbers to engineering programs. Continue reading

Is IB Worth It?

I get asked whether the International Baccalaureate program is “worth it” every year, and it’s one of those questions with no obvious general answer.  Certainly the curriculum and expectations seem to be good preparation for university, from what we see on our side.  But whether the extra challenge, time commitments, cost etc. are “worth it” has to be more of an individual family decision.  For example, if you had to commute 2 hours a day to an IB school and give up your sports and part-time job, maybe that’s not “worth it”.  I don’t know.  I can point out that Waterloo Engineering (and most Canadian engineering schools as far as I’ve seen) does not grant credit for IB courses, so it won’t save you any time or money in university from that perspective.

However, the other common part of the question is this:  “if I do the IB program, will my chances for admission to Waterloo Engineering be compromised?”.  The assumption here is that the grades will be lower than they could have been in a regular high school program.  This question I can answer (to a certain extent), using an analysis of our admissions data as follows. Continue reading

CEGEP Applicants

At our recent Fall Open House I met several prospective applicants who are enrolled in the CEGEP system.  That’s a long trip for a few hours at an open house, but it was nice to meet them.

The Province of Québec has a somewhat unique junior college system that starts after Grade 11, called CEGEP.  We don’t get a whole lot of applicants from CEGEPs, but we certainly admit a few each year and they tend to do quite well in our engineering programs.

The posted admission requirements for CEGEP are:

Linear Algebra; 2 English 603 or 604 series; Calculus I (Calculus II recommended); Chemistry I and II; and Mechanics plus either Electricity & Magnetism; or Waves, Optics & Modern Physics, with a total of 12 academic courses.

It’s sometimes difficult for CEGEP students to complete all those courses in their first year (especially Linear Algebra), so many applicants come from the second year of CEGEP.  Since our programs are designed with to work with the Ontario high school curriculum, CEGEP applicants tend to be over-prepared (which is probably why they do so well), but that’s better than being under-prepared.

The good news is that our generic posted admission averages don’t really directly apply to CEGEP applicants.  Our adjustment factors for CEGEP will allow for applicants with average grades (for the required courses) in the low 80’s to have a decent chance at admission to most programs (but as usual, the higher the grades the better).  So CEGEP applicants should pay no attention to stuff they see online about needing 90s or 95s to get into Waterloo.

Why Do We Care About High School English?

Although Grade 12 English (or something equivalent) is one of our admission requirements, we sometimes get applicants who question what it’s good for, and why should it hurt their chances of admission if they got low marks in that subject.  After all, engineering is just about physics, calculus, problem-solving, writing code, designing bridges and other hardware, …, isn’t it? Continue reading

Comparing Software to Computer Engineering

Another installment from Prof. Patrick Lam, the Associate Director of Software Engineering.  A previous one compared Software Engineering to Computer Science. With these various posts, you should have a good overview of the differences and many similarities between the three programs. Note:  for Waterloo you can only apply to one of Software or Computer Engineering.  If you’re interested in Computer Science too, you need to submit a separate application for that program.

Comparing the BSE in Software Engineering to the BASc in Computer Engineering

Summary: Waterloo’s Software Engineering (SE) and Computer Engineering (CE) programmes are both CEAB-accredited Engineering programmes. After the first year (which is quite similar), Software Engineering takes a deeper and more Computer Science-centric view of the material and focuses less on hardware, while Computer Engineering provides a broader overview of material and includes more hardware content. You must have experience with writing programs to be admitted to (and to succeed in) Software Engineering.

Employment outcomes from SE, CE, and Computer Science (CS) are broadly similar. What you get out of a university education depends less on your specific courses and more on what you put into your courses, your interaction with peers, and your work experience. However, the programmes do differ. To help you choose which programme is the best fit for you, here are some of my personal observations about culture and courses. Continue reading

Chances for 2014

The 2014 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded.  Last year, for the first time, we included a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges.  It seemed to be well-received and many people found it to be useful, so we revised and updated a new one for 2014.  Below is a copy of it (sorry about the image quality).  This is based on the 2013 results and as usual we caution that 2014 may be different, since it all depends on the competition level (which is unknown in advance). Continue reading

Switching Engineering Programs

A prior post dealt with transferring into Waterloo Engineering from some other program or university.  More frequently, the question is “can I switch to X Engineering if I start in Y Engineering?” (where X and Y are two of our own engineering programs).  This is an “internal transfer” process, so no OUAC application is necessary and there is a bit more flexibility.  But it is also potentially more confusing, so let’s look at some scenarios. Continue reading

Transferring to Waterloo Enginering

Another common question during our admission cycle is whether someone can start a program (let’s assume engineering) at another university, then transfer into Waterloo for 2nd or 3rd year.  These might be people who didn’t get an offer to Waterloo, or maybe want to try another place first but keep their options open.  The short answer is that yes, it is technically feasible, but the likelihood of successful admission to 2nd year is pretty low.  Here are some of the major reasons why: Continue reading

Boosting Grades at Summer School

While working through our application and admission data, we see quite a few applicants who have done a required course at summer school, especially among Ontario residents.  (It doesn’t seem to be so common in other provinces.  I wonder why?)  We know that the theory/rumour is that you can get higher grades at summer school and thereby boost your admission average and chances of acceptance into the more competitive programs.  We also hear concerns from other applicants and parents that this is an unfair advantage, because some are unable to attend summer school for various reasons.  Currently we don’t penalize applicants taking summer school courses (unless it is to repeat a required course), but maybe we should?  Since we like evidence-based decision-making, let’s use some data to see if summer school does give a significant advantage. Continue reading