Understanding admission requirements

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As a student, you want to be successful at university and earn your degree. As universities, we also want students to succeed and go on to meaningful personal and professional lives after graduation.

To ensure students are academically well prepared to succeed, universities have specific requirements that need to be met as part of the application process. These "admission requirements" can include

  • a specific set of high school courses;
  • personal statements where you can let universities know about your goals, interests, and any extracurricular activities;
  • a portfolio of creative work;
  • an interview or audition;
  • an online assessment or test; and/or
  • English language test scores for students whose first language is not English.

Admission requirements vary greatly between universities and types of programs. Depending on the type of the program, requirements can range from one Grade 12 English course to Grade 12 English, Chemistry, Physics, and two math courses.


A big part of understanding admission requirements is learning about the terminology universities use.

Required courses

Each university program will have a specific set of high school courses (or equivalents) you need to complete to be considered for admission. Some universities (such as Waterloo) may require a minimum final grade in some or all of the required courses to ensure you're well prepared.

Sample required courses

Some requirements are quite broad while others are very specific. If you're applying from outside Ontario, we'll require the courses that are equivalent to the Ontario courses listed here.

Honours Arts and Business Geological Engineering Public Health

Any Grade 12 U English*

  • Advanced Functions*
  • Calculus and Vectors*
  • Chemistry*
  • English 4U*
  • Physics*
  • Any Grade 12 U English**
  • Any Grade 12 U Math*

* = minimum final grade of 70% required; ** = minimum final grade of 75% required. Be sure to check our admission requirements for the most current and complete requirements.

Admission average

Your admission average will play a big role in determining whether you're admitted to the programs you applied to.

At Waterloo, your admission average will be the average of your top six Grade 12 courses (U or M courses for Ontario students) including the courses which are required for the program you're applying to.

If you take more than six Grade 12 courses, we'll use the courses required for admission to your program of interest plus your other courses with the highest grades.

Ontario C (college), O (open), and co-op courses are not included in your admission average for Waterloo.

If you're not an Ontario high school student, the number of courses in your admission average will depend on your educational system.

You can review the admission requirements for your province, country, or system for specific details.


How do we calculate an admission average?

Let's say you apply to a program that requires English, Biology, Chemistry, and a math course. You've chosen to take eight Grade 12 courses with the following final or mid-term marks.

  • English (82%)
  • Music (86%)
  • International Business (81%)
  • Biology (84%)
  • Math (78%)
  • Geometry (75%)
  • Chemistry (80%)
  • Dramatic Arts (83%)

Your admission average would be 82.2%. To get this, we take 82 + 84 + 80 + 78 from the four required courses, add 86 (Music) + 83 (Dramatic Arts) to get a total of six courses, and then divide by six. If you don't have final grades in some of your courses, we'll use mid-term or predicted grades.

At Waterloo, your admission average will be the average of your top 6 Grade 12 courses or equivalents including the courses which are required for the program you're applying to.

Admission range / grade range

To give you an idea of the grades you might need to be considered, universities will provide ranges such as mid-80s, 80-84%, or low 90s. This means that most students admitted the previous year had admission averages in that range or higher.

The ranges, which depend on the number of spaces available in a program, the number of students who apply, and their qualifications, vary by program and from year to year.

Recommended courses

Some programs list "recommended" courses along with the courses that are required for admission.

These recommended courses are not required for admission and whether you take them or not will not affect your application. However, they will be helpful background for understanding some of the material in your first-year courses.


Admission Information Form

Many universities will ask you to complete a supplemental form or written statement about yourself once you've applied. At Waterloo, we use the Admission Information Form (AIF) in place of personal statements or essays that other universities may require. The AIF helps us learn about your interests, extracurriculars, goals, and more. The details you provide can help universities when they make admission and scholarship decisions.

Making your application stand out

For programs where the number of students applying greatly outnumbers the spaces available, universities need ways to distinguish between many students who have similar averages.

That's where personal statements (such as Waterloo's Admission Information Form), interviews, math or science contest results, and portfolios can be used by universities to learn about students' academic and personal backgrounds.

If you apply to a highly competitive program at Waterloo and have opportunities (such as math or science contests) to make your application stand out, these will only enhance your application and will never work against you if you happen not to do well.


Common questions about admission requirements

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