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

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 | Leave a comment

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 , , | 6 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 , | 25 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

How our wait list works

I realize now that I’ve never written much about our wait list processes, so this is probably a good time to do that.  Our wait list operation depends a bit on the specific circumstances, so I’ll try to explain it along the lines of several common scenarios. Continue reading

Posted in Application Insights | 47 Comments

Final Admission Round 2014

After many hours of review and work by the admissions team, the final set of admissions decisions are done.  I’ll just summarize a few things for now.

  1. Offers are being posted to Quest initially, and will get updated on OUAC in the next few days.  Ontario (OUAC 101) offers come out first (like today), and out of province (OUAC 105) offers take a few more days to process, so probably by the end of this week.
  2. Emails should go out shortly too (I think).  Mailed packages take a bit more time to assemble and deliver.
  3. As we suspected, competition for the limited number of spaces was higher again this year, about 1,000 more applications than last year.  At the end, we received a bit over 10,000 applications, and made about 3,000 offers.  This should give us about 1,600 new students in September, which is our target.  On the downside, there will be about 7,000 disappointed applicants.
  4. At first glance, it seems that the increased competition pushed up the typical admission averages by about 1% across all the programs.  We will have to update our admission stats for the 2015 cycle in the coming weeks.
  5. Some people will call the office to find out why they didn’t get an offer, or didn’t get their first choice program.  It’s a bit pointless however, since the answer is always the same…in the ranked list of applicants, the program was filled before we got down to that part of the list.  In many programs we were filling the last few spots with applicants having low 90s averages, and there were still 500+ applicants left in the list.
  6. We will have a waitlist for those who want to be reconsidered in June if there are any open spaces.  You can ask to be put on the waitlist by emailing enginfo@uwaterloo.ca with your name, ID# and desired program.
  7. I see that there are dozens of comments on other posts that I haven’t had time to address.  Sorry, but I’ll have to delete most of them and start fresh, unless they are key questions of general interest.
Posted in Application Insights | Tagged | 157 Comments

April 2014 Admissions Update

Things continue to be extremely busy, so many of my planned posts are postponed.  Here are a few random comments that might be of interest.

  1. In late March we sent out a couple of hundred more offers to applicants from outside of Ontario.  By our estimates, most programs have now committed 40 to 50% of the available spaces.  We will give these remaining spaces away in the final round in early May.
  2. Currently, we’re waiting for the Ontario schools’ second semester mid-term grades to be uploaded.  And we’re frantically working through the remaining document submissions from the non-Ontario applicants.  Everything should be done by late April so we can do the early May offers.
  3. As soon as the early May offers are finalized, we will also make the scholarship decisions for all the offer holders (including those from the earlier rounds).
  4. Final application numbers are in, and it looks like we had a record number of applicants again this year.  Over 10,000 in total, for about 1,600 available spots.
  5. While scanning through some data, I noticed that one applicant had ranked Waterloo Engineering as #31 on OUAC (this might be a record in my experience).  As I have posted in the past, we don’t really care what ranking an applicant puts us as; if the grades are competitive we will make an offer.  But I have to wonder about people who are applying to so many programs (and spending so much money for the applications!).  And this is not an isolated case; there are a bunch that rank us in the 20s.  Surely they could be a bit more strategic and selective about their applications? When I was in high school (a long time ago, admittedly), we were only allowed to apply to a maximum of 3 programs.
  6. The AIF reading and scoring is pretty much done now.  Every year there are a bunch of applicants who didn’t press “Submit” for every part of the AIF (in spite of email reminders), so it doesn’t get read and scored because it’s not fully completed.  Unfortunately they won’t get any significant AIF bonus.
  7. We’re starting to finalize plans for our open house on May 24 for admitted students.  Hopefully the weather will be nicer by then!
  8. New this year, some of our 4th year design groups submitted 90 second videos to describe their “capstone” projects.  These can be viewed on our Youtube channel.  I haven’t had time to look at them all, but there are some very interesting ones, and they give a nice flavour of what some students do.
  9. Various other interesting items appear on our Facebook page.  I highly recommend it for exploring Waterloo Engineering activities and news, since it covers much more than I have time to look at.

That’s all for now.  More later, when I finish up some of the more pressing items.


Posted in Application Insights | Tagged | 46 Comments