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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Startup city: The high-tech fever reshaping Kitchener-Waterloo – The Globe and Mail

An interesting article on the Waterloo area and start-up company activity in recent years, including the impact of Waterloo Engineering and co-op education.

Startup city: The high-tech fever reshaping Kitchener-Waterloo – The Globe and Mail.

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Canada versus U.S.

"Flags-of-usa-and-canada" by Makaristos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flags-of-usa-and-canada.jpg#/media/File:Flags-of-usa-and-canada.jpgUsually, when Canadians speak of “Canada vs. U.S.” here it is with reference to a hockey series.  However, in celebration of Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day (July 4) holidays, here I’m going to point out a few differences in terminology and other things that you might run across when looking at engineering programs at Canadian and U.S. post-secondary institutions. (these are based on my observations, and there will be exceptions of course, because this is a huge and complex topic) Continue reading

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Decision Time

We are approaching the June 1 2015 (midnight) deadline to accept the offers we have sent out this cycle.  Quite a few have already accepted, but others are maybe still weighing their options.  A couple of years ago I posted a decision matrix method that is sometimes used by engineers and others to compare options in a somewhat objective way.  Might be worth a look.

Probably the most difficult decision scenario is for those who got an offer to an alternative program, or whose interests have recently changed to another program.  Perhaps they are thinking about accepting the offer, then going for a transfer to the program of more interest.  Our general advice:  do not accept your Waterloo Engineering offer if you do not think that you will be happy with that program!!  You cannot count on a transfer happening, due to a variety of issues including lack of space.  It’s impossible to say for certain, but here are some projections for transfers between programs based on recent years and space availability.

Very unlikely:  transfers into Software, Biomedical, Systems Design, Mechatronics, Nanotechnology.  Space is tight, and a lot of people want to transfer  to these.

Might be possible:  transfers into Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, but depends from year to year on space.

Often possible:  transfers into Civil, Environmental, Geological, Management.  These have a little bit more flexibility for space.

For those who have already inquired about switching programs, we will start looking at that in mid-June once we can see what the exact space situation is like.

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Reviewing Results

After finishing the offers for the current cycle, we start to review the statistics to prepare material for the next (2016) cycle, including an update to the “probabilities table” like the one shown in a previous post and in our applicant information.  We have compiled the preliminary results from the 2015 cycle and these are shown below, where “Probability” is the percent of applicants with an admission average in the given grade range who received an offer to their first choice program.  These are raw admission averages, without any other bonus or factors.  The results show some surprising changes from what we have seen in the past and expected.   Continue reading

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Final Offers 2015

It’s been a while since I have had much time to get to this blog…very busy with courses, research projects, and admissions of course.

So we’ve finished the decisions and they are being processed.  As of today (May 4) the Ontario (Form  101) offers have been posted on Quest (and will be followed shortly by email and OUAC).  The out-of-province (Form 105) take a bit longer to process and will probably show up on Quest by the end of this week (May 8).  We are working on scholarship decisions, and those should be available next week I believe.

This year seemed to be particularly complicated.  A thousand more applicants (about 11,000 total), and very strong competition for Biomedical and Software especially.  The net result is that a lot of applicants got offers to their alternate choices, or not at all, even though they may have had very good grades.  It’s unfortunate, but we only have so many spaces to go around.

The next step is for those with offers to seriously think about whether Waterloo Engineering is the right place for them, before the deadline in early June.  There is one last open house on May 23 to get information to help with that decision.  I’ll try to post some thoughts about the alternate offers in the near future.

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Innovation Track Record

There was a recent article in the New York Times about the panic and anxiety surrounding applicants trying to get into the “elite” U.S. schools like Stanford and Harvard.  It contains this interesting little comment:

I also spoke with Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, one of the best-known providers of first-step seed money for tech start-ups. I asked him if any one school stood out in terms of students and graduates whose ideas took off. “Yes,” he responded, and I was sure of the name I’d hear next: Stanford. It’s his alma mater, though he left before he graduated, and it’s famous as a feeder of Silicon Valley success.

But this is what he said: “The University of Waterloo.” It’s a public school in the Canadian province of Ontario, and as of last summer, it was the source of eight proud ventures that Y Combinator had helped along. “To my chagrin,” Altman told me, “Stanford has not had a really great track record.”

Here is the link to the full article.

Posted in Engineering Education, In the News, International | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Capstone Design Projects

March is the season for “Capstone Design Project” presentations at Waterloo Engineering.  These are events where groups of graduating students present and explain the design projects they have been working on for the past 8 to 12 months.  Working on a significant, open-ended design project is a feature in all engineering programs in Waterloo and across Canada, to my knowledge.  These “Design Symposia” are open to the public.

Where do the topics for these design projects come from?  There are 3 typical sources:  1) some professors provide an idea, likely related to their ongoing research projects; 2) companies approach us with ideas that they would like someone to work on; 3) the student groups come up with their own ideas.

For companies, this is an opportunity to have some ideas explored in more detail and for free (other than some time spent).  Many companies have some new ideas or side-projects that would be nice to do, but they don’t have the time or resources to follow-up on them right away.  Having a student group work on it can help them scope-out the idea and see if it is worthwhile to pursue more aggressively in the future.  For the students, they get more experience working on a real-world problem, possibly in an industry sector they want to learn more about.  This can be a nice addition to the experience they already gained during their co-op work terms.

Student groups that come up with their own idea are often the source of new innovations and start-up companies that they build after graduation.  At Waterloo, any novel idea that a student creates is owned by them.  The university supports innovation and entrepreneurship, but doesn’t attempt to take it over in any way.

For high school students who are thinking about pursuing engineering, these projects are a good way to get a feeling for what you can do in the different disciplines.  So check out these links for project titles or descriptions:

Management Engineering
Nanotechnology Engineering
Software Engineering
Civil, Environmental, Geological Engineering
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Mechatronics Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Systems Design Engineering

A couple of programs are missing their project lists, but will probably be updated in the coming days.  See this link.

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