Prospective University of Waterloo Applicants – Q&A

I split this up from my other blog post that talks more specifically about CS and SoftEng at Waterloo. Check it out here.

In this post, I will be covering some other common questions unrelated to these programs that apply to the majority of Waterloo applicants. I may talk about AFM just because I got into AFM-PA when I applied to university (but did not take the offer).

1. First Year Experience

How’s the social life at Waterloo? I hear it sucks.
It sucks if you want it to suck. People aren’t going to come to you, you have to go to them. There are tons of ways to meet people and have fun, res parties happening all the time. It gets better when everyone starts living off campus, easier to have parties without getting noise complaints.

I personally had a really good time during first year, even though I didn’t have a very active floor (I lived at UWP Wellesley South). My 3 suite mates are now my very close friends, and I’m happy that I gained close friends rather than a bunch of acquaintances.

If you don’t cook (and don’t plan to that often), you should expect yourself to be at V1or REV caf a lot if living at MKV, and the Plaza if you’re going to be living at UWP. UWP is closer to the Eng buildings, but MKV is closer to the rest of the residences, so there are more social activities. This doesn’t limit people who live at UWP though, as there’s a shuttle service that runs at night that takes you to various locations on campus.

And of course, it’s obvious that MKV is more expensive than UWP. For good reason though – the rooms are a LOT bigger, the common area is huge, and there are many study rooms on every floor, which is super convenient.

How is the workload compared to university?
It can be a big step for people. For me, high school is a joke compared to university. 1st term was not that bad because everything was a review. It gets harder when all the content is new, and it’s important to catch up if you’re falling behind.

In the views of Engineering, the work is not difficult, it’s just tedious and in larger amounts. You spend a lot of time in lectures, thus giving you less time to do other things. Of course you can always skip class if you feel that you know the material pretty well, or think you can study without going to lectures. I don’t encourage it, but it works out for some people (especially for classes that have good online notes).

Do you get proper sleep?

When you’re away from your parents and don’t have someone nagging you to go to sleep, it’s hard not to stay up til 3 or 4 am every night. Especially if you have roommates with classes that don’t start til noon :P

Staying up may become a habit, but not getting enough sleep is a different story. I did a lot of staying up back in first year, and for a while, I had 4 hours of sleep every day. It honestly differs for everyone, there are people who still sleep at midnight everyday.

How was your 1st term average compared to your high school average?

Went down about 8 percent, which I was happy about. I still did well compared to the rest of my class. For some people, their average may drop by quite a bit if they had a hard time getting used to the workload, teaching styles of their profs, and time management.

2. 8-stream vs. 4-stream for ECE & Other Eng Programs
This is a tough decision. I believe you get to choose at some point after you accept your offer, but you may or may not get your choice. In most cases I have to say 8-stream is better just because employers will have university marks to look at rather than a blank Package. 4-stream students start interviews in October – so Frosh Week in September, then they immediately start the PD (Professional Development) presentations and resume/interview prepping, and off you go to your job applications. It’s very rushed IMO, and you are at a huge disadvantage if you’ve had no prior work experience (at all). If you’ve had prior work experience related to your program, then you should be ahead of the game and not have much to worry about.

The only big advantage I see with 4-stream is that you are applying for Winter jobs rather than Summer jobs. Remember that Waterloo is pretty much the only school that actually counts Spring as a real, permanent term, while many other schools count it as summer, and most students will have summers off. Thus, you will be competing with a bunch of other students interested in summer positions. Versus winter, where the majority of the student population is still in school.

2. AIF Specific Questions

How does applying to 3 engineering programs work for Waterloo?
I don’t know if they do this for other faculties, but if you apply for one engineering program through OUAC, the application counts for 3 engineering programs at Waterloo, but this is filled out on your AIF. So if you put down 1. MechEng 2. SoftEng 3. ElecEng, they will see if you have the requirements for MechEng, if so they will offer you MechEng and not consider you for the other two. If you don’t make it for MechEng, they consider you for SoftEng, and etc. So you will never end up getting 3 engineering offers from Waterloo (unfortunately).

There is a special case for SoftEng where you can check off CS as one of the options, but it is rather pointless because they tell you that you will be considered for CS anyway if you don’t get into SoftEng. (This is one of the reasons why people claim that SE is better than CS, but the real reason is that there are only ~130 seats vs many hundreds in CS).

How were your marks when you applied & what were your ECs?
I had a mid 90 average for top 6. For my ECs, I had various tutoring roles, badminton team, Junior Achievement, a couple of conferences, DECA, volunteering @ library & kids camps, Shad Valley… I had a ton of ECs during HS. And I only applied to SE, CS and AFM all at Waterloo during my uni applications.

How much are ECs weighted compared to marks?
Here is how they calculate your ‘entrance score’: top 6 average + AIF score out of 12. So as you can tell, marks are still essential, and your AIF gives you that boost.

Specifically for CS – if you apply in late Oct, early Nov, you may be lucky to get early acceptance and might not even have to fill out your AIF. This is obtained through having a good grade 11 average, because obviously, Waterloo still hasn’t even received your final grade 12 marks for 1st semester. I have no idea for non-semestered schools.

Specifically for SE (and other eng. programs can be generalized to this) – there’s likely no chance you’ll get early admission just because SE relies a little more on looking at the AIF, making sure students have at least some background in CS, making sure students seem capable of handling the workload, etc. There are a lot less seats for SE, thus it makes sense that it is harder to get into. More on that in another question.

Other programs – AFM – AFAIK, marks, ECs, and your AFMAA are equally weighted (1/3 each). The program is extremely competitive to get into. If you have decent writing skills, AFMAA should be a huge boost. It’s hard to win with ECs and marks because there is such a huge competition to get into the accounting programs at Waterloo, and plus, there are not a lot of top-6 requirements.

Do grade 11 marks matter?
They only matter if you apply early (November, December), and if you happen to apply to programs that do early acceptance – ie. Science and Math I have seen many friends get early acceptance, even someone got Double Degree when they applied early. Otherwise if you apply in January, they will definitely wait for your grade 12 marks.

Gr 11 marks definitely help though, as they would expect your Gr 12 average to be pretty similar.

Special case for AFM – I don’t know if they still go by this rule, but back when I applied, you NEEDED to have a 75% in Gr 11 English OR Gr 12 English if you took it and completed it in 1st semester or summer school. So if you’re taking Gr 12 English in 2nd semester and had 74 or below in grade 12, you will NOT get an AFMAA invitation. If you are still keen on applying, you should contact Admissions.

That’s it for now, I’ll keep this updated as I see more frequently asked questions.


4 thoughts on “Prospective University of Waterloo Applicants – Q&A

  1. Pingback: University of Waterloo – Software Engineering vs. Computer Science – Q&A | there, then, and now.

  2. Hi there,
    I’m currently a gr11 student in BC. I am really grateful for the information you provided, it helps a lot.
    Does early acceptance apply to SE? I’ve finish PreCalculus12 with 93% and currently taking Calculus, 91% so far. And since I’m in BC, do I need to send my transcript in October when I apply or is waterloo able to access my grades electronically?


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