Admissions Decisions Finished

All offers and rejections for our Engineering programs have now been posted on our Quest system and the offers eventually show up on the OUAC system too.  Every year’s admissions seems to get a little more challenging and complicated and this year was no different with about 13,000 applications and the launch of our new Architectural Engineering program.  As usual, there are a few happy people and a lot that are not so happy.  For perspective, a few statistics might be helpful:

  1. Applications overall were up between 5 and 10%, but a few programs stood out.  Namely, Computer and Systems Design Engineering applications were up about 30% each, and Biomedical up about 15%.  Increased applications means higher competition and more rejections since the available spaces didn’t change.
  2. Overall, about 75% of our applicants did not receive an offer.  For some programs like Software and Biomedical Engineering, closer to 90% of applicants didn’t receive offers since there were so many applicants and a very limited number of spaces.
  3. As usual, we gave out some alternate choice offers in a number of programs, although there are limits to how many we will offer in any one program.  This year, a lot of Software applicants put Computer Engineering as an alternate, which makes some sense.  But with the 30% increase in Computer applications, there was quite a bottleneck and many were no doubt surprised to get no offer.

At this stage, all of our spaces are now allocated and we wait until the summer to see if the predicted number of people accept the offers.  We don’t have an appeal or reconsideration process, because the spaces are filled to the limits (and beyond).  We make more offers than there are spaces, with the assumption that a certain fraction will choose to go somewhere else.  Generally our predictions are accurate within 1 or 2%, and there are usually no spaces opening up during the summer.

For those with offers to engineering and are thinking about wanting to change programs, our suggestion is to forget about it.  Recent experience suggests that it is not likely to happen because of space limitations in most programs, even after first year.  The engineering programs have no obligation to take transfers, and lately many have refused to do so.  Therefore, if you’re not reasonably sure that you will be satisfied with the offer you have, you should seriously consider another offer.  Our open house event for admitted applicants on Saturday May 26 is a good last chance to visit and discuss your potential future program with faculty and students.

Gearing Up for Final Round

So many interesting things to blog about, and so little time (and energy).  I just finished grading exams and uploading marks for my Winter term course on Air Pollution Control, and am getting stuff ready for my Spring term course that starts tomorrow.

In the mean time, the admissions staff are busily working away at last minute things, and we are (patiently?) waiting for the Ontario high schools to finish uploading their second semester mid-term grades.  We are in a bit of a holding pattern until we get that data, which will hopefully be completed over the next week.

Once all the data is available, we’ll spend several days filling the remaining spaces in our programs, considering alternate choice programs, double-checking various things, and helping with scholarship selection decisions.  It’s hard to say exactly when we’ll finish, but we do go as fast as we can (including weekends and evenings) until completed.

Waterloo AI Institute

Recently Waterloo launched an Artificial Intelligence Institute to act as a focal point for research and other activities related to AI.  It’s a joint effort between Engineering and Mathematics, but includes researchers from other areas too.  A short introductory video is available that highlights a few interesting points.

The AI Institute’s website also has a list of some interesting feature projects, including cancer detection, forest fire control, and hockey analytics.  Although these are advanced research projects with Masters and PhD students, it is not unusual to find undergraduate students participating too, either as co-op work term students, or part-time as undergraduate research assistants (during academic terms).  There are almost 100 faculty members involved, so lots of variety of potential opportunities.

The New Year Starts

Another year started with new classes and courses on January 3 (our Christmas break is shorter than high schools).  And our admissions season is ramping up quickly now too, with lots of applications flowing in.  Our new Architectural Engineering program seems to be attracting a reasonable number of applications so far, so I guess the word is getting out.

AIFs and interviews are starting to be submitted in increasing volumes and we are starting to review them.  Some people are asking when the AIF should be submitted by to be considered for the early round.  There isn’t really a good answer for that, because it depends on volumes and timelines that we can’t predict.  My suggestion is to get it submitted as soon as you can.  Putting it off doesn’t really gain anything, and every year some people forget to submit it and don’t get seriously considered.

Consider Geological Engineering

Waterloo has a Geological Engineering program that seems to get overlooked by many prospective applicants for some reason.  Maybe because it’s small, only about 25 to 30 available spaces.  Or maybe people just don’t realize what it’s about.  So I talked with the current director of the program, Prof. Stephen Evans, and he gave me some insights and nice photographs of geological engineering examples.  I’ll summarize a few key ideas about the Geological Engineering program:

  • It’s the intersection of civil engineering and earth science, and provides the ability to assess how the changing earth might affect the integrity and long term security of civil engineering structures and our societies.
  • There are a wide variety of jobs involving foundations for major buildings and structures, natural resource management (mining, hydroelectric, oil & gas), infrastructure construction and safety (dams, reservoirs, roads, railways), and managing geohazards (landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes).
  • It may be for you if you like travel, sustainable design, engineering to minimize natural hazard risks, and the interactions of infrastructure and nature.

Below are some pictures Prof. Evans has taken of geological engineering examples.  Several of these are from field trip locations our students have travelled to in past years.



More About Geological Engineering

Starting Up Admissions

In a previous post I gave an overview of how the 2018 admissions cycle would unfold.  Here is a quick update on where we are now and what’s happening.

  • The OUAC application centre has been open since October and some people have applied.  Most people apply sometime between now and February 1 (the final deadline).
  • Our Admissions Officers have started reviewing the 2,000+ applications from outside Ontario that we’ve received so far.  There seem to be a lot more than in previous years at this date, but we will have better information in a few weeks.
  • We will probably start sending out invitations to our optional video interview sometime in early to mid-December, to those who have applied.  Invitations will continue to be sent out in batches every few weeks, so if you apply and don’t get an invitation right away, just be patient.
  • We usually don’t start reviewing Admission Information Forms until January, when there are a decent number to work with.  In the meantime, we work on getting our systems updated and ready to go.

Behind the scenes we’re also working on an exciting program announcement that will be coming out within the next couple of weeks.  Once everything is ready to go, I’ll give more information and insights here on the blog.

All Offers are Final

One of our messages this year is to encourage engineering applicants to do their “homework” before applying, because we have no general first year.  This means carefully reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses, interests, aptitudes, career goals, etc.   Then carefully examining our different programs, courses, typical career paths, co-op job examples, etc., and selecting the program which seems to be the right fit.  Quite possibly, engineering is not the right fit and you should consider something else.  In general, people who put some effort into this process will end up in the right program and do well.  Why is this so important? Continue reading

Common American Questions

After attending some U.S. STEM college fairs and talking to lots of students and families, I’ve noticed that there are some common themes and questions that come up.  For all those who we weren’t able to meet, maybe it’s worthwhile summarising them here with our responses (as usual, these are specific to engineering, and it’s not just Americans that ask these questions). Continue reading

New York STEM College Fair

On Sunday October 15 2017 we will be attending a STEM College Fair in New York City.  We are looking forward to the chance to meet some high school students and their parents, and to talk about Waterloo Engineering, co-op education, and studying in Canada.

At the same event last year, held on the campus of Columbia University, we were pleased to meet a number of parents that mentioned that they already knew something about Waterloo because their co-workers were alumni, or their company  hired our co-op students.  We had some interesting conversations with many others who didn’t know about Waterloo or had questions about studying in Canada.

If there are any blog readers from the New York area, Karyn  and I would be happy to meet you at the STEM College Fair.  We will also be around for a couple of days doing some engineering workshops at local high schools and meeting independent guidance counsellors, so anyone who wants to meet us but can’t attend the College Fair can always send us an email ( and we’ll see if we can arrange something.