Admissions 2018: How it’s going to work

An updated version of this popular post, with some revisions  for the upcoming September 2018 admissions cycle. 

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.

First, just note that there are two broad classes of applicants:  those who are currently attending a high school in Ontario (we call them “OSS” or “Form 101” applicants), and those who are not (“NOSS” or “Form 105” applicants, which includes people in other provinces and countries, transfer applicants, and those who graduated from high school already).  There is no advantage to being one type or the other, it’s just a different internal process because of the way data is provided to us, as explained below.  So, here’s the process:

  1. Decide which of our engineering programs you are most interested in.  That will be the one you officially apply to in Step #2.  For some people this is a difficult decision.  If so, start early and do lots of research on our websites and those of many other universities and professional organizations.  Those within reasonable travel distance of Waterloo might want to  arrange a visit .  Doing some upfront homework and picking a program that matches your interests is critical, because you may not be able to change your mind after May, once all the spaces are filled.  In fact, in recent years switching programs has not been possible for most people because our space is too limited.
  2. Apply to your chosen program through the online OUAC centre.  They provide all the necessary instructions on their website.  OSS applicants use “OUAC 101” and should apply by mid-January.  NOSS applicants use “OUAC 105” and have up to February 1 to apply (moved up from March 1 in previous years, so don’t miss this deadline!  We will absolutely not consider late applications.).
  3. Follow any additional instructions we send by email.  Check your spam or junk folder, where our emails sometimes end up.  You don’t want to miss anything important!  You will get information on how to set up your special online account at Waterloo (called “Quest”), and other things you need to do.
  4. If you need to meet our English Language Requirements, submit your TOEFL or IELTS or other English test score.  We won’t consider you at all if this is missing, no matter how good your grades are.  Sometimes we request English test scores even if you are theoretically exempted (we reserve the right to request English tests from any applicant).  English proficiency is very important to us, because it can significantly affect your chances at getting co-op jobs.
  5. Submit your Admission Information Form (AIF).   We recommend that you complete the AIF within three weeks of receiving the email from Waterloo confirming your application.  If we don’t get your AIF by the March 1st deadline, you may not be considered for an offer.  The AIF is your chance to tell us about your interests, awards, extra-curricular activities, employment experience, and any other significant things you want us to know about.  You can also tell us what alternate choice engineering program you’d like to be considered for, if your application isn’t competitive enough for your first choice.  (As in 2017,  we’re only considering one alternate choice.)  
  6. Within a few weeks of applying, applicants will be invited to participate in an optional online video interview process, sort of like a job interview.  This will be your chance to let us know more about you and score additional points for your application.  This should be completed by March 1 too.
  7. OSS applicants can sit back and wait (but don’t slack off!).  We will eventually get all your grade 11 and 12 marks directly from the school by electronic data transmission.  You do not need to decide which grades to send; in fact we get all of your Grade 11 and 12 grades for all courses.  We will pick out the grades we need to generate an admission average.
  8. NOSS applicants will have to upload or send us high school transcripts and predicted grades (if applicable), or university transcripts in the case of transfer applicants.  We will start going through this and compiling the grades data we need for decision-making.  With thousands of applicants and more than a dozen types of school systems, this is a labourious and time-consuming manual process, so please be patient!  If something is confusing or apparently missing, we will contact you for more information.
  9. We take the grade data and compile an “admission average”.  This is the average of the required courses (English, chemistry, physics, math; the exact courses depend on the type of school system).  If a required course grade doesn’t exist yet (usually because it will be taken in the next semester), we will use a similar course from an earlier year (for example, for an Ontario school we might use the SCH3U (Chemistry 11) mark if  SCH4U (Chemistry 12)  is not in progress yet).
  10. We will review all the AIFs  and assign a score of up to 5 points.  These points get added to your admission average to generate a score that is used for ranking applicants.  There are thousands of  AIFs to review, so this takes a while too.
  11. We compile “adjustment factors” based on our historical student performance data and apply these.  The adjustment factor is simply the difference between the admission average and first year engineering average, broken down by school or region.  It accounts for differences in performance, and helps us to pick the applicants with the best chances of success in our programs.
  12. For every applicant, we generate an “admission score”.  This is the sum of the admission average + AIF score + adjustment factor + video interview points.  If any of the required Grade 12 courses have been repeated, we will usually use the grade from the first  attempt.   If the first attempt was really bad we will use the second grade but deduct 5 points off the admission score, unless there are extenuating circumstances.  We may also make adjustments for unusually high grades in required courses taken outside of a regular day school, such as at summer, night or private school.
  13. Sometime in early March, we will take all the data we have and start making some admission decisions for OSS (Form 101) applicants.  For each program, we rank the applicants by admission score and start making offers to the top ones.  We typically aim to fill about 25to 30%  of the available spaces at this point.  We like to save a lot of spaces for later, to give a chance for those whose 2nd semester grades significantly improve their admission average, and for the NOSS applicant transcripts we are still processing.  This is our “early round”.  For Form 105 (NOSS) applicants, our first round this year will probably be in late March or early April.
  14. From March to April we continue processing transcripts and AIFs, and assembling the remaining data for the final round.  We are also waiting for the 2nd semester mid-term grades to be uploaded for the OSS applicants, and we review any updated transcripts from NOSS applicants.
  15. In early May, we do the final selection of applicants based on admission scores, and we fill all the remaining spaces in all the programs.  For those who don’t get admitted into their first choice program (the one they officially applied to on OUAC), we will put them into the pool to be considered for their alternate choice program.  Offers are posted online as soon as they are available, and mailings go out shortly after.  People that don’t get an offer are informed, and we will put them on a waitlist for re-consideration in June if they request it and space is available.
  16. At the same time, we award the various Engineering entrance scholarships, based on grades and AIF scores.  Scholarship awards also go out in May.
  17. In early June, there is a deadline for accepting the offer and placing a deposit to secure a spot in residence (if desired).
  18. After the deadline in early June, we check our acceptance numbers.  If there are any remaining spaces we will do a few late offers for those on our wait list.  Usually there are very few open spaces however.
  19. All of our admission offers are conditional on maintaining a minimum admission average and certain minimum grades in the required courses, and possibly some other things (the specifics depend on the type of school system and will be explained in the offer letter).  In July and August, we get the final grades and transcripts and check that these conditions have been met.  In a small number of cases, we have to revoke the offer during those months.

So that’s the process, more or less.

23 thoughts on “Admissions 2018: How it’s going to work

  1. Hi Professor,

    In point 13 you mentioned that there is space saved for those whose admission average improves significantly over the second semester. Does this mean that the university receives updated transcripts automatically or do students have to send them?

  2. Hello Professor,

    As a (soon to be) applicant for Software Engineering, is it possible for my alternate choice to be Computer Science, even though its part of the Faculty of Math?


  3. I finished high school last year and am on gap year. As a 105D applicant with all prerequisites completed, will I have an equal chance at early admission compared to 101 applicants? Are there more seats allocated for 101 applicants, or does it not make a difference whether you are 101 or 105D? I completed high school in ontario and am a candian citizen. Since I have all prerequisites completed, and have a 95% average, will I be able to get early admission into ECE?

    • Grade 11 and first semester Grade 12 averages of 100% are ideal for any program. (this question is an example of what we would call a constrained optimization problem in mathematics. The optimal grades approach infinity, but are constrained by an upper limit of 100% for most grading schemes.)

  4. Hello Professor
    I’ve heard that they optional video interview is being made mandatory for engineering students. Is this true?
    Thank you

  5. Hello Professor,
    I am an international student, and for September 2018 I am going to apply to an Engineering program as my first Waterloo choice and an Arts program as my second Waterloo choice. Will the minimum acceptance grade range for me be different from someone who put that Arts program as their first choice?
    Thank you in advance!

  6. Hi prof, What if an applicants average is low (high 70s) in grade 11 courses and then significantly improves in grade 12 (mid 90s), would the grade 11 average decrease their chances of getting an offer in any way?.

  7. Hello Professor
    How plausible is it to get in with an admission average of 89-91? Does the adjustment factor favour Alberta and/or IB students?

  8. Hello professor, I am currently in the IB program and I was just wondering what physics mark they would use towards my admission average, I’m taking Hl physics and so as a result I have to take physics for three semesters. I took grade 11 physics and I’m currently taking a course called IDC4UH (interdisciplinary studies) this course is just grade 12 physics but because IBs have to take 3 semesters of physics while in Ontario there is only two courses SP3UH and SP4UH, our school uses IDC4UH. I will be taking SP4UH next semester, and the reason why our school does this for all IBs is because in previous years once they finished SP4UH then they wouldn’t try the next semester because they had already gotten into uni because the school told me that the midterm marks of second semester would be looked at for admissions please clarify, thanks.

  9. Hello professor,
    I wanted to know whether or not taking calculus and vectors in night school during the second semester will cause my admission score to be adjusted. The reason I have to take it in night school is that all spaces in school are taken up and there is no guarantee that I will have a spot in class for the second semester, thus to get the MCVU credit I have to take it either in night school or online.

  10. Pingback: Starting Up Admissions | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering


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