I manage the University of Waterloo’s Engineering undergraduate admission process, which has become one of the most competitive in Canada.  So, I’ve created this blog to help applicants and their friends and families understand more about how the admissions process works from an insider’s perspective.  I’ll offer news and insights throughout the year as we work through the next admissions cycle.  I’ll also comment on interesting items related to engineering research, education, and teaching from time to time.  Click the “Follow” button to the right to keep up to date on admission developments and information.
Posted in Information

Sunscreen warning markers earn top grades at Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp

Sunscreen warning markers earn top grades at Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.

Here is an interesting story about some of our Nanotechnology Engineering students, who used their creativity and expertise in materials science to develop a business idea for a compound that warns you when you need to re-apply sunscreen.  They won a $15,000 prize to help carry on building their start-up company.

There was another story a while ago about nanotechnology engineering graduates who were developing an improved de-icer compound for use in frost removal or control.  Just a couple of examples of what nanotechnology engineering students do in the area of entrepreneurship.

Posted in In the News, Research, Students | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Most In-Demand (And Aging) Engineering Jobs

The Most In-Demand (And Aging) Engineering Jobs.

Our Dean of Engineering, Prof. Pearl Sullivan, pointed out this interesting article from Forbes magazine.  Much of the information I’ve seen before in various places, but it’s a nice compilation and summary.  Also, it’s based on U.S. statistics, so it’s hard to tell how the Canadian situation may compare but the general ideas are likely similar.  There are a few things to point out:

“Industrial Engineering” seems to be in big demand.  At Waterloo, this would roughly correspond to our “Management Engineering” program.

I’m disappointed that my discipline, Chemical Engineering, was lumped into the “All Other Engineers” category!  I guess this also includes Biomedical, Software, etc.

One of the problems with these surveys is that various groups use different classification schemes for the various disciplines, and they don’t always correspond to the name of the university or college program.  For example, “Aerospace Engineers” in this article probably refers to the job title, which could be filled by people with mechanical, mechatronics, or other degrees.  Likewise a “Petroleum Engineer” may be a chemical or mechanical engineering graduate.  Just something to keep in mind.

Posted in Engineering Education, In the News, Information | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Application Insights, Information | Tagged | 28 Comments

Preparing for the OUF

The Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF) is coming up next weekend (Sept 19-21), and the admissions staff have been busy preparing.  There are travel and hotel arrangements, training of volunteers, and all sorts of other things to do.  The OUF is held in the Toronto Convention Centre, and all Ontario universities have people there to meet with prospective students, parents, etc.  There is a website with more information. Continue reading

Posted in Engineering Education, Events, Information | Tagged | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Application Insights | Tagged , , | 8 Comments


It’s been quite a while since I’ve even looked at this blog, due to time issues I’ll describe below.  But a new admission cycle is gearing up, so I’ll try to keep up with it again.  I see quite a few comments awaiting moderation and response, and frankly I probably can’t catch up with those and many are probably “stale” now anyway.  So I’m going to delete those waiting comments and start fresh (sorry if you had a recent comment; just post it again).

When people discover that I’m a professor, they sometimes ask in April or May about my plans for the summer, perhaps thinking that we get the summer off like high school teachers.  However, that’s not  the case and professors in Canada are usually expected to work 12 months per year (unlike the U.S. where professors often hold 9 month appointments).  Of course, we do get some vacation time but not the entire summer.  Actually, because of our co-op structure, quite a few of my colleagues teach courses during the summer, so Waterloo never really slows down much.

Here’s my version of that old school essay we would have to do each year, “what I did during my summer”: Continue reading

Posted in Research | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Considering an Alternate Offer 2014

Here’s an updated re-post from 2013, which might be useful.

When people apply to Waterloo Engineering, they apply to the program of most interest but can also identify a second and third choice on their AIF.  That way, if they are not quite competitive for the 1st choice, we can still consider them for one of the other two.  We assume that the choices are ranked in descending order of preference, so we try to get the 2nd choice if possible, then the 3rd.  Typically around 300 to 350 people get one of these alternate offers to their 2nd or 3rd choice (not a target, just a typical number each year).  Some people are quite happy with their alternate offer.  Others, not so much.  Those holding an alternate offer will have to decide what to do with it, so here are a few questions that commonly come up. Continue reading

Posted in Application Insights | Tagged , | 28 Comments