2021 Admissions Guide for Waterloo Engineering Applicants

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At the beginning of the Fall 2020 term, the Industry 4.0 Design Team had many new students join the team during their 1A term. As grade 12 students begin to apply to university this winter, we wanted to gain some insight from our new marketing team members to help high school students who are applying to Waterloo Engineering this year.

We conducted a short interview with multiple members of our team and had them share their tips from their application experience last year. We interviewed six different members of the marketing team to account for each member’s unique insights and perspective regarding the process.

  1. What clubs/extracurriculars were you a part of in high school?
  • Chloe: In high school, I was the Vice President of Social Affairs for my high school’s Eco Team and an Executive for my high school’s Entrepreneurship club! I also danced up until grade 10 and volunteered for a couple of charities!
  • Vyomesh: I was Conference Chair for a leadership conference, Student Team Lead at my local hospital, leadership developer for a couple of conferences, took part in DECA and HOSA, lead actor in my school’s cultural showcase, and a soup kitchen volunteer.
  • Yi Nan: I was an executive on my school’s Music Council, Secretary for our Athletic council, and a DECA executive. I also took part in creating our yearbook for 3 consecutive years as an editor.
  • Tiana: I had created a Women’s Empowerment Club at a nearby elementary school and worked with the YWCA to promote STEM related fields to young women. I was also my student council’s Social Committee head. I was a member of a Culturally Responsive and Pedagogy Club advocating for pluralism. I also was on my school’s badminton team.
  • Omkaar: I organized a coding competition to get the younger students interested in coding.
  • Yaathavi: In high school, I was an executive of the club UNICEF in which I helped raise awareness and raise money for children in need all over the world. I was also a member of my school’s Eco Team and Computer Science club.

2. The most difficult part about applying?

  • Chloe: For me, it was the overwhelming amount of logins and new information during the application season. There were so many deadlines for early admission deadlines, portal codes, and 40 other things to keep track of!
  • Vyomesh: Personally, it was trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to get out of my university experience and how I could translate that into the programs I applied to. I found it very difficult to narrow down my interests into just one program, but found that doing a lot of research really helped!
  • Yi Nan: If I’m being completely honest, I found applying to Waterloo to be relatively easy compared to some of the other university’s supplementary applications. The most challenging part was trying to finish my AIF to meet the word count :)
  • Tiana: Personally, the most challenging part about applying was not knowing what I wanted to do. I was stuck in between medicine and engineering, which were two different extremes. Due to this, I had to apply to a high number of schools that ended up making my decision even more difficult.
  • Omkaar: The AIF was really long to complete, but thankfully, the structure was pretty much the same as my other university applications. Make sure you do the video interview, I am pretty sure that increases acceptance chances!
  • Yaathavi: The most difficult part about applying for me was keeping track of all the deadlines for OUAC and various universities’ supplementary applications. Keeping track of my login information for the different universities was also quite tedious.

3. AIF tips/advice?

  • Chloe: Instead of trying to answer the questions based on what you thought the University wanted to hear, answer the questions honestly. Also, do the AIF early so you have time to edit it and focus on high school work!
  • Vyomesh: Do lots of research into the program and understand why you want to go into it! Showing why your interests align with the program and how your past experiences can help you really showcases your personality. Universities don’t have a select recipe for what they are looking for, they’re looking to see what makes you an individual person and how your personal strengths will help you in the future. Also, while you should make sure to get your AIF edited and have other people look at it to get a different perspective, make sure that all your work still feels uniquely true to you and your thoughts.
  • Yi Nan: Definitely look into your specific program and other appealing features that Waterloo has (CO-OP!). Your AIF should sound like you have a goal in mind for your future and that Waterloo would be the best institution to help you achieve that. A good idea would be to highlight some aspects of the program/university that stood out to you (i.e. Capstone design, facilities, program structure).
  • Tiana: Show character in your AIF. Do not be afraid to express who you are. I think that being original and unique at times can actually bring you to an advantage. When I applied I tried to make it clear to the university that I did my research which showed that I knew exactly why Waterloo was the perfect school for me. I mentioned things like Co-op, and clubs that interested me such as Coffee ‘N Code. Being in management engineering, which is quite a unique program, I talked about what I could gain from this degree that I could not obtain elsewhere.
  • Yaathavi: When writing your AIF, make sure to show why you truly want to go to Waterloo for whatever program you applied to. Don’t just say that it’s because Waterloo has coop or that they’re ranked well for Engineering/CS, as those are generic answers. Although those are good to mention, it’s important to give an answer that’s more unique to you which shows your passion as well for most questions. Proofreading and editing your AIF is also important as spelling or grammar mistakes show that you did not spend much time on your AIF. The last tip I have is to submit your AIF at least 2 hours before the deadline so that you can account for any technical difficulties.

4. How did you find the interview for engineering?

  • Chloe: The interview was super great! I was really nervous before, however, they ask casual questions that are pretty straightforward.
  • Vyomesh: It was honestly not stressful at all, I had a whole bunch of cue cards written out beforehand about what I thought they might ask but all the questions were pretty intuitive and didn’t require any additional research/knowledge. Similar to the AIF, it’s just to get to know you better, and how you’ll fit into the mold of the university.
  • Yi Nan: The interview was one of the harder ones for me since I expected it to be more situational, get to know you type questions, but it was very specific to my goals in engineering and the university. I don’t think that I did very well on it since I was taken aback by how specific the questions were, but as long as you know yourself and what you want to get out of Waterloo, you should have no problem with the interview!
  • Tiana: Honestly don’t over stress it! Before I did the interview, they gave me practice questions. I found it extremely useful to be able to go over these first as they were similar to the actual interview.
  • Omkaar: I winged it, and it worked out well for me :) I obviously had my dad ask me questions the day before but the interview was much easier than anticipated.
  • Yaathavi: If you do the practice questions a few times, you will be fine! I recommend practicing until you get used to thinking of answers fast and become less nervous.

5. What did you wish you knew before applying to engineering?

  • Chloe: I think I should have researched a little more about the program and what engineering is at first. I still don’t know what it is :)
  • Vyomesh: I wish I knew how versatile you can make your experience, engineering isn’t just the math and physics courses you take, and really understanding what you can do in upper years is helpful when choosing which engineering discipline you want to enter.
  • Yi Nan: I wish I knew more about job prospects and specific job titles for my program. Also, I wish I did more research into the industry globally and not just in Canada.
  • Tiana: I wish I knew more about engineering. I feel like many students don’t really understand the job of an engineer, or realize how many opportunities an engineering degree can open for you. I wish I also knew how strong the support system was especially here at the University of Waterloo. I was scared at first going into a male dominated field, however everyone here is so supportive, so for all the women applying, don’t worry! Also, when applying to university in general there are so many unclaimed scholarships, make sure you apply, as even the small ones add up!
  • Omkaar: Make a list of what you might want to do in the future (if you are uncertain like me), and then tally up which degree includes the highest number of jobs from your list. Choose that. I got lucky since I didn’t do this before applying, but still made a good decision.
  • Yaathavi: I wish I knew more about some programs, such as Management Engineering and Systems Design Engineering, as these are less traditional programs. For example, knowing more about the job prospects for co-op and after graduation would have been useful.

6. When did you start applying/when did you hear back?

  • Chloe: I started applying in November and I heard back around the end of March.
  • Vyomesh: I started applying in November, submitted my AIF and interview in February, and heard back in the middle of May.
  • Yi Nan: I started applying in December and I heard back in mid-March.
  • Tiana: I started applying in December and I heard back in March.
  • Omkaar: I started applying in October and I heard back in mid-May.
  • Yaathavi: I applied in December and I heard back in March.

7. Do you think having access to upper years to ask them questions would have been helpful?

  • Chloe: Yes! I talked to a prior graduate in Management engineering and it gave me a better view of what the program entails! Without her, I wouldn’t be here!
  • Vyomesh: Yep! I attended a Waterloo Shadow Day, had video calls, stalked people on LinkedIn and talked to many students. It really helped me understand the program, why I wanted to join and what I could get out of it.
  • Yi Nan: ABSOLUTELY! I didn’t have the connections at the time to have such conversations with upper years but it is something I highly suggest. The information you see on the university’s official website is very formal and objective, but if you really want to get a grasp of what a program is all about, there’s no one better to ask than an upper year. They’ll tell you all the ups and downs, what they wish they knew beforehand, how they’re enjoying it now, etc. which is the most useful when deciding whether or not to apply.
  • Tiana: Definitely! Personally, having an older sister attending the University of Waterloo was super beneficial, and so I truly think that having the ability to talk to upper years would be great!
  • Omkaar: I contacted a few upper years through LinkedIn and Reddit, and I feel like it definitely helped!
  • Yaathavi: I reached out to 2 upper years in Management Engineering before accepting my offer and it was really useful! I asked questions regarding how the course load, professors, and experience finding coop was. Getting insight from actual students in the program was more helpful than reading the information on Waterloo’s official site as they didn’t try to convince me to choose Waterloo but rather gave me an honest perspective of their experience in the program.

We hope that these answers provide valuable insights to help with the application process. Furthermore, if you are a high school student wanting to speak to upper-year students regarding student life at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo Engineering, and/or the Industry 4.0 Engineering Design Team, please fill out the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible! All meetings will be held over Zoom.

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A design team at the University of Waterloo focusing on Management Engineering concepts - process and flow analysis, and turning data into information.

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