Chances for 2018

To start the new academic year and next admission cycle, the 2018 Admissions brochures for Engineering and other programs have recently been uploaded on the Waterloo website.  We continue to include a table showing admission probabilities (“chances”) for different programs and grade ranges (at the end of the brochure, and another online version is available here).  Many people find it useful for assessing  their chances at admission, and  then they can plan accordingly and have realistic expectations.   This is based on the 2017 results and as usual we caution that 2018 may be different, since it all depends on the number of applicants (which is unknown in advance and can fluctuate).

For convenience and readability in a table, we lump the grades into ranges.  Some people find the big jumps in probability between the different grade ranges to be difficult to understand or interpret, so I have been generating graphs that provide interpolations between the various grades in finer detail (see the end of the post for methodology, if interested).  As usual, the grades shown below are the raw, unadjusted averages of the Grade 12 required courses (or equivalents), not including any other factors such as scores for extracurriculars, work experience, or awards.

Canadians and Permanent Residents

We have about 1,375 spaces reserved in Engineering programs for applicants who are Canadians or Permanent Residents of Canada.  For this group, the chances for various  programs are shown in the following graph.

How to interpret this:  for example, of all the applicants to Chemical Engineering with an 87% admission average, about 30% of them got an offer.

The various programs were chosen to be lumped together because their chances are very  similar, so using a different line for each program is not useful.  All the interpolated lines look pretty good, with no odd bends or dips.  For this year I started the graph at 85%, since this is our nominal minimum required average.  “Admission Average” is the average of the required courses (maths, physics, chemistry, English), which depend on the school system and details can be found online.

Clearly some programs like Biomedical and Software are very competitive (lots of applicants for a small number of spaces).  Other programs have more spaces and a bit fewer applicants per space, so not quite so competitive.  Level of competition has nothing to do with quality or career prospects, it’s just a matter of supply and demand for spaces.

As usual, these are rough estimates and not guarantees of any kind.  It’s possible to have a 100% average and not get admitted if, for example, you don’t submit an Admission Information Form or other required document, or don’t meet the English language proficiency requirements (although you might get an offer to the BASE or iBASE programs for top applicants who need a bit of English proficiency help).  It’s also possible that changes in competition levels will move a certain program from one line to another (either left or right) in the upcoming admissions competition.

Also, these admission averages are for typical secondary school grades, not CEGEP grades which are typically a bit lower.  So if you’re an applicant from a CEGEP your chances are probably higher than this graph would suggest.

Study Permit Applicants

We only have around 220 available spaces in our Engineering programs for non-Canadians, and last year there were just over 4,000 applicants for those spaces.  So the competition is pretty intense for this group of applicants, and it takes a very strong application and some luck to get an offer.   These applicants are generally considered as a whole, not so much on a program by program basis, and so there is only one line in this graph.

The interpolated line is a little wobbly, but not bad overall.  Clearly, it’s not easy to get an offer for Waterloo Engineering if you’re not a Canadian or Permanent Resident.  Again, we do have the BASE and iBASE programs for top applicants who don’t quite meet our English proficiency requirements.

For applicants not in a system using percentage grades, what is a 95%+?  It’s difficult to say exactly, but for IB students the grades should be pretty much all 6’s and 7’s.  For the British curriculum, the AS and A level grades (predicted or actual) should be all A’s or better (A*), and likewise for the GCSE levels (in the maths and sciences).  Having a B or C grade for AS or A levels will reduce your chances significantly.

Knowing your chances, here are some suggestions for a successful senior year in high school from one of our current Engineering students.

How Many Spaces?

We are often asked about how many spaces there are available in each program, so here is an estimate of total spaces for each (subject to change).

Biomedical:  70
Chemical:  140
Civil:  125
Computer + Electrical:  360  (these programs are combined for admission purposes)
Environmental:  70
Geological:  25
Management:  70
Mechanical:  210
Mechatronics:  205
Nanotechnology:  115
Software:  115
Systems Design:  90

Program sizes are limited by a number of factors including classroom size and availability, teaching lab space and equipment scheduling, and the number of available faculty and teaching assistants.  Therefore we have to be careful not to overload programs because the effects carry through all 4 academic years., That’s why we have to turn away many fine applicants for many programs.

Interpolation Plotting Methods

For the past few years I have used a cubic spline interpolation technique (with linear endpoints), which is one popular method for finding values between sparse data points.  The results seem visually OK overall, so I continue to use the same method.  This year I assumed that the probability in the table  corresponds to the mid-point of the grade range, and that there is zero probability below 85% (our nominal minimum grade), and 99% with an average grade of 100% (philosophically, there is never a 100% chance).  As before, I used MathCAD for the number crunching (here is a nice description, for those that might be interested in more details).

29 thoughts on “Chances for 2018

  1. Hi Professor,

    For first round offers are elective course marks looked at, a possible top 6 mark? Or are only the marks available from the 5 engineering prerequisite courses used to calculate an average and from those that are not available, are the grade 11 equivalents looked at? Please help!

  2. Hi Prof. Anderson,
    I was wondering about the admissions from IB schools (in Ontario). For the HL courses that are currently being taken, will we submit our mid-term marks for first semester for early acceptance, or are the HL marks from grade 11 the only ones that will be looked at? Also, at our school, we do not receive the Advanced Functions or Calculus and Vectors credit until after gr. 12 ends, so the HL math mark from grade 11 only consists of mdm4u, will this mark still be considered?


  3. Hi Prof,
    Thank you for providing us with these information, I am pretty sure it will be very useful for all the students applying this year, just some quick questions
    1.Are there going to be bonus points for the AIF this year as well? Are AIF Readers awarding the extra point?
    2. Is there still bonus point for whose course load is full during the current academic year? If yes, does that matter whether it is an 4U,4O or 3M course? I have 7 courses right now and school does not have any empty grade 12 academic course that i have prerequisite of and I can only pick from 3M courses and 4O(gym) courses. Do you think this time(the spare if nothing is taken) should be used on extracurricular activities(FRC and VEX Robotics in this case) or in one of those gym courses?

    • Reviewers always have the option to award bonus points for applicants that stand out in some way.
      A bonus point for heavy course load is still operational, but they need to be academic, senior level courses.

    • All of these are approximations based on dozens of different school systems and “noisey” data that fluctuates from year to year. So, both assessments are equally accurate (or inaccurate), and are only good as rough indications. In engineering, you have to get used to dealing with significant uncertainty in data.

  4. I am thinking of putting a program on the blue line as my first choice and a program on the green line as my alternate choice. Do I have a reduced chance of getting into my alternate choice program, compared to if I put this program as my first choice? Ie are applicants given equal admission consideration for a program regardless of whether they have ranked it as their first or second choice?

    • Applicants are considered equally for their alternate choice program, if not admitted to their primary choice. But there is a limit to how many alternate choice applicants we will put into a program. For example, we won’t fill up the Computer Engineering program with a whole lot of people who chose it as an alternate to Software Engineering. In most programs, the limit is between 15 and 20%. Once the limit is reached, we stop admitting alternate choices to that program.

  5. Hey Professor,
    I was just wondering as I’ve noticed system design engineering is on the green line just like last year, but I’ve seen on the site that system design engineering is now mid 90’s, is this true?

  6. Hi Professor,
    I am interested in applying for Systems Design Engineering. I wonder if there are 90 people who can get into the program, what is the ratio between International students and Local students? ( I am an international student and I am studying Grade 12 at a high school in Toronto)

  7. Pingback: Ontario Universities Fair 2017 | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering

  8. Hello Prof,

    I was just wondering if having a spare (empty period) could jeopardizes/lowers my chances of getting into my program? Next semester, I do have a full course-load however.


  9. Our school is known to have a hard maths program, most of the math teachers went to Waterloo for math and one teacher told us that Waterloo looks at the school average and bases ur average off of that, that was there reasoning to have a hard curriculum, I would like to know if thats true and how many applicants did you guys have last year?

  10. Hello prof,

    I’m a student following british curriculum, completed my a levels from gr11, and got […]
    Note: I’m an international applicant, applying for software engineering.

  11. Hello Professor Anderson,

    Does Waterloo take the higher mark for IB grades compared with Alberta provincial grades? Also, is there any point of submitting SAT scores, and SAT Subject Test scores to Waterloo as a Canadian? How high of a score would you recommend that I have if I choose to send my scores? Lastly, how many bonus points are awarded to the AIF? I have heard some people say 5 and others say 10.

    Thank you

    • Different schools submit different things, so there is no single answer. We generally use whatever is more favourable for the applicant. Test scores are always welcomed, as they help provide a better overall picture. We generally expect that scores will be in the upper 25 percentile. The AIF bonus in engineering is up to 5.

  12. Dear Sir,

    Please advise when is the deadline to submit the IELTs result as one of requirements for undergraduate applying for international students who didn’t study full four years in Ontario’s high schools.

    Kind regards,
    Mariam Keryakous


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