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.  Comments are welcomed, but I can’t give opinions on specific applications or circumstances.
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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.
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Engineering breaking ground today for new building

Exciting news about the start of construction for our new building, as well as support for automotive research and education, design, and entrepreneurship.

The University of Waterloo breaks ground today on Engineering 7, an $88-million building that will feature some of the best engineering research and teaching facilities in the world.The ground-breaking event will take place on Thursday November 12, at 1:30 pm at Engineering 5 on the University’s east campus.The new Engineering 7 (E7) facility will feature an additive manufacturing—or 3D printing—laboratory and an indoor flight arena for testing autonomous and robotic vehicles.It will also accommodate growth from Waterloo’s new biomedical engineering program and the expansion of the Faculty of Engineering’s highly popular mechatronics engineering program. It will house the Faculty’s new teaching innovation, the multidisciplinary Engineering Ideas Clinic™, where undergraduate students will integrate classroom theory with hands-on learning as they design, build, test and refine ideas.Part of the funding for E7 will come from the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign, a $70-million fundraising effort that will help the Faculty of Engineering achieve its goal to become a world-class engineering school.Earlier this week, GM Canada announced $1 million in funding to support the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign. This support will fund a Research Chair in advanced materials while also sponsoring Waterloo Engineering’s Capstone Design projects involving software development, which is key to GM Canada’s work on “the connected car.”E7 will also become the new home for the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre. It will have dedicated study and social spaces for students, lecture halls and entrepreneurial support areas, along with areas for student teams to prototype their Capstone Design projects.

Source: Thursday, November 12, 2015 | Daily Bulletin

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Campus Visits

It’s the season for campus visits and open houses, including our own on November 7 2015.  (See here for arranging visits to Waterloo.)  Here are a few thoughts on how to maximize the benefit of a campus visit, here or anywhere else. Continue reading

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How co-op breaks the mould of linear education

1022petersAn interesting story from the Waterloo website about one of our Chemical Engineering students.  I like the story because of the broad range of experiences, including web administration (not a traditional Chem Eng area!), and an international job placement.

by Nicole Simec.

“Co-op showed me that I am not one-dimensional,” says Sheryl Peters, a fourth-year chemical engineering student finishing up her last work term.When people think about chemical engineering, they often think about jobs in oil and gas – but Sheryl says because of co-op, it is so much more than that. Currently, Sheryl is on the other side of the world helping to develop a graduate course for the National University of Singapore. “Co-op has been an amazing and diverse experience. I purposely wanted to try many things, not just the expected.”Sheryl says the proudest moment of her co-op experience came when she was working as a web administrator for Lug Life, a travel accessory company. During her time there, she initiated a number of projects to re-design and enhance their website.“I didn’t get to see all of my work and ideas carried out because my co-op term was ending but when I checked back later I saw that all of my initial ideas were being implemented.”In another work term, Sheryl was able to apply almost everything she had learned academically while working as a process engineering technician for Fluor, a multi-national engineering and construction firm. This role taught Sheryl how to work for a very large and established company. Sheryl also learned how to collaborate with other engineers and organizations on a multi-million dollar project which enhanced her project management, communication and teamwork skills.Some of the roles Sheryl has held throughout her co-op career may seem unconventional for a chemical engineering student, but this is exactly why the program is so great. Sheryl explained how her program teaches students to manage and prioritize large workloads and hasty deadlines. It has also taught her what she calls “a very practical way of thinking and problem solving”. This real-world application of skills, in conjunction with a strong educational background, is what allows chemical engineering students and grads to excel in any field. With her graduation on the horizon, Sheryl is thankful for her time at Waterloo and admits that her initial attraction to the university was its reputation for innovation and being the world leader in co-operative education.Sheryl admits that landing your first job is tough. “Co-op gets your foot in the door and gives you a way to prove that you can apply your knowledge in the workplace.” Co-op also offers students up to two years of work experience, which Sheryl thinks helps to alleviate the struggle of finding a job after graduation since most employers prefer practiced applicants.“By fourth-year, I quickly realized that I could do anything I wanted. This gave me a sense of empowerment – I felt prepared and I felt valuable.”Thanks to co-op, Sheryl has a clear picture of what her future has in store: either chemical process engineering or working with a startup to enhance their web presence. Sheryl’s story is a shining example of how chemical engineering students possess the skills that are desperately needed in the workplace. Employers of chemical engineering students can be sure that they have hired intelligent, hardworking individuals capable of problem solving, project management, and exceeding expectations.

Source: Thursday, October 22, 2015 | Daily Bulletin

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Admissions 2016: How it’s going to work

We are getting ready for our first major Open House event on November 7, and that reminds me that I should do an update on this popular post, with some revisions and clarification for the upcoming September 2016 admissions cycle.  No major changes from last year.

Here is an overview on how the process works and the approximate timelines.  As usual, this is specific to Waterloo Engineering admissions; other programs and universities will have their own unique variations.  Also, make sure you look through our admissions webpages for exact deadlines and official requirements since this is just an unofficial, quick overview and I can’t cover every detail for every variety of applicant and situation. Continue reading

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Visit to Qatar

Here’s an update from our Associate Director of Engineering Admissions, Ally Morrow, who is currently meeting with prospective applicants and parents in the Gulf region, as mentioned in a previous post.

We have final arrangements for the Study in Canada fair in Qatar.  It will be on Sunday October 25th from 5:00 to 9:00 pm at the Mercure Grand Hotel, Musherib Street, Doha.  If you’re in the area we hope to see you there.

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Chances for 2016

As frequently requested, here is an updated version of a popular post.

The 2016 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.   The online version of this table can be found here.  This is based on the 2015 results and as usual we caution that 2016 may be different, since it all depends on the competition level (which is unknown in advance).  In 2015 the level of competition continued to increase, but maybe it will go down in 2016, since we know that’s the general direction of the demographics in Ontario. Continue reading

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