Your guide to applying to university

The six steps of applying for admission to an Ontario university

Three students walking on University of Waterloo campus.

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

The university application process

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

1. Apply for university in Ontario

If you're applying to be a full-time student at any of Ontario's universities, you'll apply through the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC).

Say you're interested in five programs at four universities in Ontario. Instead of having to fill out four or five applications, you only need to apply once through the OUAC.

You'll usually be able to start applying to Ontario universities in October and November. Application deadlines can be in February and March.

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 five programs.

2. Universities will let you know what's next

The OUAC will send your application information to the universities you applied to. In turn, those universities will email you about what you need to do next, such as providing any documents they need to review your application.

3. Submit any required 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 requirements for different types of programs.

All programs will require your transcripts. Additional requirements can include English language test scores, a personal essay, an interview, a portfolio of creative work, online assessments, and math or science contests.

If you're an Ontario high school student, you don't have to worry about sending your grades. Your high school will submit them for you.

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.

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


Most universities review applications and make admission decisions between December and May, as they receive updated grades from students.

4. Universities review applications

Most universities review applications and make admission decisions between December and May, as they receive updated grades from schools.

Universities will review your grades and anything else required for the programs you've applied to. The grades needed to be admitted to a program can change from year to year based on how many students apply and their qualifications.

At Waterloo, by waiting until May to make many of our decisions, we can compare all students fairly by reviewing grades from your entire final year of high school. The grades we receive in May (which can be mid-term marks) 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 because of poor grades. So it's better if we take time in the admissions process to collect as much information as we can about the grades of students who have applied."

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


Tip: Visit in-person or virtually and ask questions!

The application process can take a few months as universities wait to receive updated grades from all applicants. While you're waiting, it's a great time to really get to know the universities you applied to.

Most universities offer in-person and virtual tours and webinars. At Waterloo, you can even connect with current students and ask them about their program and experiences.

A Waterloo campus tour.

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

5. The waiting game

If you don't receive an offer of admission before May, that's okay. You're still being considered. This is especially true of programs that are highly competitive for admission. Most offers of admission at Waterloo are made in mid-May once we receive second semester mid-term grades from Ontario schools.

Admission decisions will be either yes (and you'll receive an offer of admission) or no (you didn't meet the admission requirements for this year). Some universities, including Waterloo, will automatically consider you for admission to related programs and for which you meet the requirements.

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

If you meet all the requirements for that year, you'll likely receive an offer of admission. This is the official notification from the university with details about the program you've been admitted to.

You'll likely receive an email letting you know that you've been admitted. You'll also be able to check your account on the Ontario Universities' Application Centre website.

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

Conditions often include finishing high school with a certain average or graduating with minimum grades in specific courses.

Information about any scholarships or bursaries you've been awarded may come with your Offer of Admission or separately.


6. Accept an 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 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 if those are available.

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, the university you've chosen will email you about what's next, such as choosing courses, residence, paying fees, and more.

Many universities have resources such as Waterloo Ready to help you prepare for university over the summer.

In addition, Orientation in September provides a great academic and social start to your time at university.


How Waterloo makes admission decisions

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

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