Your guide to applying for universities in Ontario

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.

Here are the six steps of applying for admission to an Ontario university.

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

1. Applying to universities 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 late September. 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. You may need to provide documents such as transcripts or English language test scores. Some programs may require interviews, portfolios, or assignments.

The universities will likely email you details about the programs you've applied to, upcoming events, and any tips to help you complete the application process.

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

Universities will review your grades and any additional requirements 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.

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

"Our goal is to admit students that we're confident will succeed," 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.


A Waterloo campus tour.

Taking a campus tour is a great way to learn about the universities you've applied to. You can get a feel for the campus, visit residences and classrooms, and chat with students currently at that university. Most universities offer campus tours and open houses. At Waterloo, you can even connect with current students and ask them about their program and experiences.

5. University acceptance dates

Ontario universities make offers of admission between December and mid-May. 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.

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 (second semester mid-term grades from Ontario schools) often include courses which are required for admission (which we want to see before making an admission decision).

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, may automatically consider you for admission to related programs 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're admitted to a university, you'll receive an offer of admission, which 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 completing your high school diploma, 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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