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.  

PreliminaryChances2016The Biomedical results were not unexpected, given the number of applicants (over 900) and limited number of spaces (about 50).  But the Software (SE) applicant pool was unexpectedly stronger than before, partly due to a small increase in applicant numbers, but the number of people with strong grades seemed to increase too.  The result for 2015 was that the Biomed and SE programs were extremely competitive, moving into a class all their own.  Having 95+% admission average was still not a sure thing, and obviously a lot of applicants with 90 to 95% were disappointed.

Other programs were similar to last year with a few variations.  Nanotechnology was a bit easier to get an offer for, as many of their likely applicants seemed to go for Biomedical instead.  Mechatronics was somewhat easier too, due to the increase in the number of available spaces over the past two years.  Electrical and Computer Engineering were a bit more competitive, as some strong applicants to Software had these as second choices when they didn’t get their first choice.

So these are the results we will likely publish in our 2016 materials, but as we saw this year “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.  But it’s about the best estimate we can make to help future applicants make realistic choices and manage expectations.



90 thoughts on “Reviewing Results

  1. Dear Prof. Anderson,

    Can you provide admission rates for Waterloo Engineering as a whole, and then specifically for the most competitive programs, Biomed and SE?


    • Yes, Architecture is part of Engineering but they have their own separate and distinct admissions process that I am not involved in. They get over 1000 applicants and have only about 75 spaces, so it’s very competitive too.

  2. What a crazy year… the top student at my high school applied to software with a 96% average and got an alternate to computer engineering.

  3. How is Waterloo admissions going to deal with HS mark inflation? At this rate, in 5-10 years, almost every applicant will have low-mid 90s. Average admission to SE/Biomed will be around 97-98%? Don’t you think by then, admissions become more about the inflation of each HS (which is not easy to accurately gauge) and the meticulousness of each student when taking tests rather than the true quality of the student? How does Waterloo, being a school in which marks are weighed heavily in admission standards plan to combat this?

    • We still see lots of applicants with averages in the 70s and 80s. The climbing admission averages are more a function of increasing competition at Waterloo, rather than grade inflation. Applicant numbers have been increasing by 1,000 per year for several years now.

  4. These statistics really help students in future years. When people realize the rising difficulty for acceptance into Waterloo Engineering, it really helps them expect things better. It would be sick if you can have similar statistics like these for Waterloo Math faculty cause I heard competition increased significantly there too.

  5. Do you ever see the possibility of doing standardized testing procedures for when the competition gets too out of control (say everyone has 95+ average)

    • Standardized testing has its own issues, as one can see in India, China, and some other places. In the more competitive US schools the SATs are not even all that useful, because many applicants have top scores in those. Anyway, we probably don’t have the resources to do such a thing ourselves.

  6. Do these include raw averages for international students as well ?
    On a sidenote, are averages from education systems which are harder and more rigorous than the Canadian system, taken as is, or do they fall into the ‘other factors’ you mentioned?

    • These are primarily based on Canadian high schools. Other education systems may be taken as is, or re-calibrated depending on our experiences with the students from that system, so it could be part of the “other factors”.

  7. Hi Professor,
    Is there any reason to believe that the strength of the applicant pool this year (For Software & Biomed) will continue on with next years applicants. I’m currently sitting at a 92% average, and it just seems disconcerting that only 10% of applicants at the 90-95 range are getting acceptance. How many students do you accept (on average) into your software and computer engineering programs? Should students enter their program choice’s strategically? Does that increase one’s chances at getting acceptance?

      • Hello again sir, i undertsand that you can not accurately predict an answer to the following question, however in your oppinion would a student that attends turner fenton ( one of the most vigorous and hard school sin peel) with a 93.5-94 average and 3-4 work experiences in a related field, starting a programming club, robotics club, chess club, hackathons, fluent in several coading languages, some volunteer work, and work in non related feilds, have a good chance at a software engineering admissions? Thank you for all of the hard work, and again i just want to know based off of what you saw this year, i also took 12u physics in grade 11

      • Thank you for the quick reply sir, is there anything i can do to increase my chances? Also due to the unfortunate strike my sph4u mark was affected, is there a way i would be able to let those looking at addmissions of why my mark is slightly lower then all of my others?

  8. Wow, just look at that mark inflation this year. Are you guys even going to address the issue? Its seriously unfair to deny people who are much more qualified for the program than those who are not, but still have an higher average. You guys need to put a standardized test right away because this is just getting ridiculous and utterly pathetic. Do you honestly believe that there were over a thousand students with 95+ averages? You guys are almost setting yourself up as an Ivey league school yet you don’t even make the QS 100 list, heck even the top 150. Really embarrassing considering your setting up your entrance averages similar to Harvard and Stanford. Hopefully this hits the news and things change cause this school is way out of its position to be having these type of entrance averages.

    • Our relatively low failure rates in first year seem to suggest that we’re picking qualified applicants. We don’t set up the entrance average. We just pick enough applicants to fill the programs, and this is the result when you have 11,000 applicants and only around 1,500 spaces. With these ratios, there are going to be a lot of qualified people who don’t get in.

  9. I know I’m dealing with a shamefully small sample size here, but from the applicants I’ve talked to, software engineering is starting to become more of a popular choice because it has (by all available measures, it seems), the best career prospects at the moment. A lot of students seem to be worried about the engineering job market in the future and are gravitating towards “safer” disciplines as a result.

    That would be my guess as to why the software program attracted more “top” applicants this year.

    • That’s probably a factor. Not the best reason to pick a program though. As we saw in the “dot com” bust in 2000, a “sure thing” can go downhill very quickly. There is no particular reason to believe any of the other disciplines have a poorer outlook in the future, so I would go with what is most interesting.

  10. How is the AIF and the Admission average scored together? (ie what is the weigth factor of the AIF and the admission average).
    Also, in some schools, it is more difficult to obtain a higher mark than in other schools, and different level of courses will result in different marks. Is this taken into account when viewing admission averages? Thanks.

  11. There’s currently a discussion going on about standardized testing for university admissions in /r/uwaterloo ( ) , but what is your opinion about that?

    The results for BIOMEDE and SE are shocking since at that point, the grades are already so high that you can’t distinguish much of a real difference between, say, a student from Highschool A with 94% and a student from Highschool B with 95%, especially since each highschool has different methods for testing and grading, yet student from A will have a 10% chance of getting in, while student from B will have a 70% chance of getting in.

    Do you think that standardized testing is required for admissions?

    • People have been talking about standardized testing since the 1960s when the Ontario “departmental exams” were eliminated. I don’t see it happening anytime soon, and even Alberta and B.C. are moving away from their provincial exams.

  12. Hello sir,
    Are these the overall results, or just early acceptance results? Is there a chance the SE averages is so high due to the strike (mid term marks being used) in some boards? How much did school rankings affect the results?

  13. Hello, Mr. Anderson.

    Don’t you think this is a little crazy?! 97% for SE! What can be done about this? In 3 years, will you need 100% + AIF to be considered for SE?

  14. Do the number of applicants for each program ever get released?

    It would be interesting to see how competitive the lower tier programs still are, especially the programs that changed tiers this year (such as nano).

    • No, in part because they are somewhat meaningless on their own. Some programs have a smaller number of applicants, but they tend to have high grades, and other programs vice versa. The “chances” charts are much better indicators of competition.

  15. I’d just like to know the competition levels of your management enginneering program, has it increased or decreased from previous years? What is your projection for the selection of 2016 applicants to this program?

  16. I was denied due to an issue with sending documentation in time. Would this be held against me if I re-applied next year?

  17. Hi Prof.,

    Looking at the table, I’ve roughly calculated that in a class of 100 for CIVE, ENVE, GEOE, MGTE, NE, or SYDE the breakdown of the admitted students is as follows:

    80-85 5 Admitted Students
    85-90 14 Admitted Students
    90-95 36 Admitted Students
    95-100 45 Admitted Students

    Is there a significant difference in graduation rate for admitted students in the 80-85 range as opposed to 95-100?

    Many thanks,


    • No, I wouldn’t say there is a large difference. There is some correlation between admission average and success, but it is very “noisy” at an individual level. Some students with the 95%+ average fail out in the first term, and some with the 80-85% average have their grades go up in university. Trying to predict who will succeed is the biggest challenge for admissions at any university.

  18. Hi Professor
    I am a student in one of the boards affected by the unfortunate strikes. Currently, it does not appear that these strikes will be resolved soon and with only four weeks of school left I am worried about how this would affect my ability to attend Waterloo’s engineering program next year. How is the engineering admissions office planning to deal with students like myself? If worse comes to worse would it be possible to defer by admission dispite the fact that I may not graduate this year?

  19. Hi Professor
    Given the already high admission average for Software Engineering, where even a 95% may not be enough to get in, how would Waterloo deal with the increasing competition in the future, resulting in even more applicants with even higher admission averages? Would it continue to the point where any average below 95% would have virtually zero chance of getting in and the remainder would have to rely on having an even higher average of good AIF, or would Waterloo implement other means to differentiate students, such as more weight on the AIF, or requiring attendance in Waterloo competitions, such as the CCC, and taking into heavy consideration the student’s results on it as well.

    • We will be continuing to look at this. The AIF already makes a difference, but it could be weighted more heavily I suppose. We will probably post new information in the coming months.

  20. Pingback: Accepted to Software Engineering at the University of Waterloo | Thoughts on the Loose

  21. Hi Professor,
    How many applicants were there this year for Software Engineering? What was the percentage of applicants that were accepted?

  22. Hello Sir,

    For Mechanical Engineering, I have a 92.4% average among my top 6. On the chart above, it is stated that 55% of applicants between 90-95% get in. Of the 45% not admitted, is it due to illegitimate reasons(AIF late, etc…), or due to not being higher in the spectrum for mechanical engineering?

    I appreciate your reply.

  23. Hi Professor,
    I was just wondering, does the Math/CS department make exceptions at all for exceptional experience/contest results? I am fairly concerned about my grade 11 english mark, which is based on two assignments marked by a supply teacher before the strike in the Peel region.

  24. Do you know anything about university averages needed for acceptance to Waterloo Engineering? I would be coming from a CS program from another Canadian university. Also, if you have recommendations for something better than getting a second Bachelor’s degree, I would love to hear. Thanks.

    • It’s hard to make general comments about university transfers because of the many variables, but marks in the A range (80%+) are generally necessary. For people with a math or science degree, we usually recommend that they look into doing a Masters in engineering, rather than a second Bachelor’s degree. It’s faster and cheaper.

  25. Hey Professor,

    I am a grade 11 student and am currently taking grade 12 advanced functions this semester(in normal day school as I just wanted to have a course I enjoy in my schedule). Will this affect my admission in any way? Also I am planning to take ENG4U in summer school so that I can take an extra optional in grade 12.I have read your posts in regards to summer school.. Will this have a significant impact on my AIF and admission score for next year if the mark increase from ENG3U to ENG4U is under 10%?

    Thanks in advance!

  26. Hi, professor,

    My kid is in home school in Ontario, Canada. How many home school students got into UW engineering each year? and what kind of requirements you are looking to have from home school students? and how you compare them with the normal high school student?

    • That’s a good topic for a future post. But quick answer, we typically get a few applications each year (1 to 5?) and many are admitted. We are looking for evidence of performance equal to any other Grade 12 level student in the required subjects. It’s best if home-schooled applicants contact us early in the admission cycle (say September, or even in Grade 11) and we can help with putting together the necessary information.

  27. Would Waterloo prefer Ontario students than out-of-province or does this type of data make no difference in the decision making/average ranking out of the applicants?

  28. Hello Professor,
    How many applications does the University of Waterloo usually get for Nanotechnology Engineering? What percentage of the applicants this year received an offer?

  29. How much of this admission rate categorisation based on admission averages is reflective of students coming in internationally with grades A-Levels and/or other systems?
    Is there any available decomposition of those statistics? Being awarded the Presidential Scholarship of Academic Distinction for example stipulates a 95% or above admission average criterion which to my understanding is markedly harder to attain in a standard British A-Level curricula as opposed to Ontario ones, how is this worked around in practice?

    • The admission averages reported are based on Ontario/Canadian grading, and are not directly comparable with other systems. We use our own internal methods for comparing and calibrating different systems. For A-levels, roughly a minimum of AAB would be required for the less competitive programs, and A*AA (or better) for the more competitive ones like Software. I hope to make a post in the coming months about A-level and IB grades.

  30. I want to apply to software engineering this year but I noticed that it said only the people who have a 95+ average have a 70% chance of getting in. What about the applicants whose average is exactly 95 or only a few decimals higher than 95 (95.5) do they still have a good chance considering that their aif is competent?
    Also, If I am taking english 12 in second semester do I have to show my grade 11 mark?

    • You’re “splitting hairs” if you are worrying about a few decimal places either way. The data is too noisy and variable to give any definitive answers. We get all the grade 11 and 12 results from your transcripts; you don’t get to choose which results you show.

  31. I go to a non-semestered school, so I’m taking all of my grade 12 courses right now. Does this mean that for the early round of admissions, you will consider my grade 12 marks only, and none of my grade 11 ones, since I will have marks available for all my grade 12 courses by then?
    Thank you for this blog.

  32. If you didnt take civics and careers are you automatically ineligible for engineering? This is assuming you are a permanent resident in Ontario.

  33. How many people typically apply for Systems Design? It doesn’t seem to be as well known as CE, ECE, SE, BME, NE, ME or BME. And how many spots are there?

    I know this sounds silly, Considering how high the averages are, but have you ever had a year where one of the engineering departments have not fully filled the required spots?

    • Systems Design Engineering has about 85 to 90 spots, and typically about 400 applicants. Some years we have a few unfilled spots in various programs, and we may do a few late offers in June to fill them. The numbers are quite small however.


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