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.
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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 | 26 Comments

Design Projects 2014

Been kind of busy lately, with several active research projects, teaching courses, and admissions stuff of course.  But here is a quick note about our fourth year (capstone) design projects for this year.

All engineering programs have a final year group design project, and this is the time of year when students showcase their results.  For potential applicants to an engineering program, this is very useful to look at, since it can give you a sense of the type of things you might do in a program.  Many of these fourth year projects are also the start of a commercialization effort by the students, so perhaps you’ll see some of these in the news in coming years.

This year, the Faculty of Engineering has made it easy to find out more about these projects, since they have created a one-stop webpage for all the programs.  Have a look through some of the links for programs at that page.  Not all of the programs have detailed project descriptions, but I think we’re working on it for future years.  I think that the Management Engineering program has some of the best descriptions (and very interesting projects too).

Let’s start an informal contest here.  Look through some of the project descriptions, and identify in the comments below which one you think is the “coolest” (if that’s a word people still use).

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Early Offers 2014

A revised and updated version of a post from 2013.

We just finished (February 20) processing our first round of offers for applicants who are Ontario high school students, and they have been posted in Quest.  It may take a few more days for OUAC to be updated and emails to go out.  Some of the processes were described in an earlier post, How to Get an Early Offer (which may be a bit outdated for 2014).  But to summarize, we took the data we had at that point and made enough offers to fill up to 1/3 of our available spaces in each program (more specifically, those spaces reserved for Canadians and Permanent Residents).  These are applications where we have enough data and it’s clear that they are competitive, based on previous experience.  We were quite conservative this year, and  gave out fewer offers than in 2013, since we want to leave lots of spaces for a fair competition in the final round in May.  In part, this is because application numbers are up significantly again this year and it’s hard to distinguish fairly between applicants when there are so many with similar grades.  So we think it’s better to hold off until the most complete data is available in late April.  We’ll be processing some non-Ontario applicant offers in the coming weeks.

Some universities give out a lot more earlier offers, but that’s simply because they have a lot less competition for spaces and can just go ahead with whatever they have. Continue reading

Posted in Application Insights, Information | Tagged | 295 Comments

Random News

I have various posts in mind, but not much time to write lately.  So here are just some random things that are going on.

  • March Open House:  we’re busy planning for our open house event on Saturday March 1, when applicants and others (like Grade 11 students) can visit, have a look around, and talk to students, staff and faculty.  In previous years we held this on a Tuesday during the Ontario high school March break, but it has become too big (traffic and parking!), so it’s been moved to a Saturday this year.
  • A couple of weeks ago I visited St. John’s NL on research-related business.  I also took the opportunity to meet with a few of our engineering applicants and their parents.  It was nice to meet with people who wouldn’t usually be able to visit us in Waterloo.  I like Newfoundland; beautiful land and nice people.
  • Our new Biomedical Engineering program has had an overwhelming response.  There are over 10 applicants for every available space, so I suspect that it will be our most competitive program for admission this year.
  • Since I teach air pollution control, I’m interested in meteorological phenomena.  So here is a picture of a radiation inversion from the other day.  You can see the vent emissions from our Engineering 6 building rising vertically, then hitting the inversion layer and moving horizontally.  Inversion layers inhibit vertical mixing.  I’ll use this in my lecture next year.


  • Applications to Waterloo engineering are up significantly this year, which is putting a strain on our systems.  We’ll have to ask for people’s patience as we work through all the materials and decision-making processes.  The bulk of our decisions will come out in early May, as usual, even if we have to work 24/7 to do it!
  • We’re currently working on Ontario student (OUAC Form 101) round 1 decisions.  Hopefully we’ll have some decisions going out by the end of this week (although sometimes the process gets hung up and delayed).
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Work Ethic

Here is a nice and interesting story about Waterloo Engineering from the American Society for Engineering Education.  I like the picture from our student machine shop.

Work Ethic.

Posted in Engineering Education, In the News | Tagged | 2 Comments

My Experience With The Job Hunt


I like these honest and factual posts. In Engineering we try to not “sugar-coat” things. It’s going to be hard, probably the hardest thing most of our admitted students have ever done in their lives so far.

Originally posted on Engineering Girls at University of Waterloo:

Marieta’s post, Apply, Interview, Rank, Repeat, is a great post on what the co-op job hunting process is like. Everyone has their own personal experience with the job hunting process though, so I thought I would share what my experience was like with this first co-op term.

Job hunting is stressful, to say the least. While you’re drowning in school work, you’re expected to carry the weight of having to find a co-op job on your back. It’s tough. Reality is, as a first-year student you’re going to run into more challenges with the job hunt than upper-year students. Experience is important and it’s something that comes with time. When I say experience, I’m talking about all sorts of experiences from work experience to experience in your career field. What kind of knowledge do you have in this specific area? How about that area? It is perfectly okay to…

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First Impression on My Co-op Term


Another interesting post about personal experiences in our co-op engineering program.

Originally posted on Engineering Girls at University of Waterloo:

Man, co-op terms can be amazing.

This is my first co-op term and I am working for General Dynamics Canada in Ottawa as a NATO AGS Software Engineering co-op. Yes, it is a wicked first job. For security reasons, I cannot speak much about what I do other than that I work with military and defense technology, I guess. So far, I haven’t done much work but I’ve learned about my team’s project and what goes on within my company. I’ve had the opportunity to look at the production plant and aircraft component construction so far, but next week I’ll be looking into tanks. How sick is that!? I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity with GD Canada. It’s an incredible start for me, as I do plan on working for the aerospace and national defense industry in the future.

I have to admit though, getting used to a new environment…

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