Your guide to the university admissions process

The six steps of applying for admission to an Ontario university

You've done your research, you've found the undergraduate programs that sound perfect, and it looks like you meet the admission requirements. Great! Now it's time to apply.

The university admissions process

 Apply, universities respond, you submit documents, universities review, you receive decisions, accept your preferred offer


Of course, there are lots of details beyond these steps!

1. You apply

If you're applying to be a full-time undergraduate student, you'll apply through the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC), which can simplify the application process for you. Say you're interested in five programs at four universities in Ontario. Instead of having to fill out four or five different forms, you can use the one OUAC application to apply to all four universities. So once you've applied, there are five steps that follow.

Say you're interested in five programs at four universities in Ontario. Instead of having to fill out four or five different forms, you can use the one OUAC application to apply to all four universities.

2. Universities will respond

The OUAC will send your application to the universities you applied to. In turn, those universities will email you to let you know about what you need to do next.

If you're an Ontario high school student, you don't have to worry about sending your grades. Your high school will submit your transcripts to the OUAC which will forward them to the universities you applied to.

There are some exceptions. If you've taken courses outside your regular day school or if you're not an Ontario high school student, you'll need to send us your required documents.

3. You submit documents

Once you've applied, universities will need to see whether you'll be a good fit for the program you applied to. There are different admission requirements for different types of programs. While all programs will require transcripts, additional requirements can include English language test scores, a personal essay, an interview, a portfolio of creative work, online assessments, math or science contests, and more.

Waterloo's Admission Information Form is an important part of many admission decisions – and is required for admission to some programs, including those in the faculties of Engineering and Mathematics.

 

Visit campus, ask questions

The admissions process can take a few months as we wait to receive updated grades from all applicants. While you're waiting, it can be incredibly valuable to tour the universities you applied to. Asking questions during a campus tour will let you learn what it's like to be a student at the university program you applied to and to experience different universities first hand.

 A campus tour with students and parents.

Taking a campus tour is a great way to learn about the universities you've applied to.

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4. Universities review applications

The grades needed for admission can change from year to year based on how many students apply and their qualifications.

Universities make admission decisions based on your grades and anything else they require for the program(s) you've applied to (which can range from a portfolio of creative work to a video interview or English language test scores).

If you meet all the requirements for that year, you'll likely receive an offer of admission. This provides details about the program you've been admitted to, which term you've been admitted for, and often information about residence.

You could receive an offer of admission for each university or program you applied to. At Waterloo, you'll receive a decision (yes or no) for each program you applied to. This isn't the case at all universities.

If you're like most students, you'll receive what's called a conditional offer of admission. This means that there are conditions you need to meet before you can register as a student.

Conditions often include finishing high school with a certain average or with minimum grades in courses that are required for admission.

Information about any scholarships or bursaries you've been awarded may come with your Offer of Admission or in mid-May, depending on the university.

 

How Waterloo makes admission decisions

André Jardin, Waterloo's associate registrar, explains what's involved with making an admission decision.

It's not great for anyone when a student struggles or is even required to withdraw from university based on poor grades. So it's better if we take time in the admissions process to collect as much information as we can.

ANDRE JARDIN, associate registrar, admissions

5. You receive admission decisions

Most universities make admission decisions between January and May, as they receive updated grades from all students. Admission decisions will be either no (you didn't meet the admission requirements required for the number of spaces in the program you applied to) or yes (and you'll receive an offer of admission).

If you don't receive an offer of admission before May, that's okay. You're still being considered.

If you don't receive an offer of admission before May, that's okay. You're still being considered. Most offers of admission at Waterloo are made in mid-May once we receive second semester mid-term grades from Ontario schools. By waiting, we can compare all students fairly by reviewing grades from both semesters. The grades we receive in May often include courses which are required for admission (which we want to see before making an admission decision).

"Our goal is to admit students that we're confident will succeed at Waterloo," says André Jardin, Waterloo's associate registrar, admissions. "It's not great for anyone when a student struggles or is even required to withdraw from university based on poor grades. So it's better if we take time in the admissions process to collect as much information as we can."

"Waterloo's degree completion (graduation) rate is higher than the provincial average, so the students we admit do well," he adds.

6. You accept your preferred Offer of Admission

If you receive one or more offers of admission, congratulations! You've worked hard in high school and it's paid off. Now's another great time to visit the university or universities you're considering to get any last-minute questions answered. Some schools have special open houses – or you can always book a campus tour.

To help make the decision, check out our nine factors to consider when choosing a university... or why you should choose Waterloo over your other options! We're always looking for great students to join our community. 

Remember the Ontario Universities' Application Centre website where you started the application process? That's where you'll go to accept an offer of admission regardless of which Ontario university you plan to attend.

Once you accept your Offer of Admission, we (or the university you've chosen) will email you about what's next, such as choosing courses, residence, visiting campus as a new students, paying fees, and more.

Many universities have resources such as Waterloo Ready to help you prepare for university, in addition to the Orientation that takes place in September to provide an academic and social start to your university studies.

 

So that's it! Good luck with your application. Hopefully we'll see you at Waterloo next year.


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