How to Get Into the University of Waterloo: Guide for US Students

In the US, some of the hardest colleges and universities to get into are selective and highly ranked ones. One institution outside of the country with such a status is the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo or Waterloo), which is a public research university located in Ontario, Canada.

Getting into the University of Waterloo begins with creating an OUAC 105 account. The application deadline for most undergraduate programs is February 1. UWaterloo accepts a little over half of all applicants, although competitive programs can be selective. The school also accepts AP exams for credit.

If you wish to earn a degree abroad and the University of Waterloo is somewhere near the top of your college list, don’t stop reading now for this post is specifically for you.

Below, I will talk about a number of things every American high schooler needs to know about applying and attending the high-ranking institution. By the time you are through reading this, you will have a much better idea of Waterloo’s specializations, rankings, cost of attendance, application requirements and more.

University of Waterloo

What is the University of Waterloo Best Known For?

One of the things the University of Waterloo is best known for is that it offers the largest co-op program in North America. This allows students to work on their respective degrees while obtaining work experience at the same time, letting them earn anywhere from Can$8,400 to Can$19,800 per work term.

A co-op program is also referred to as cooperative education.

Simply put, it combines classroom learning with real-world work experience in a related field. In the US, not too many colleges and universities offer co-op programs.

The University of Waterloo has one of the largest co-op programs on the face of the planet. That’s because it has a network of thousands of employers — they range anywhere from government agencies, non-profit organizations to some of the biggest companies all over the world. Some examples of UWaterloo’s partner employers include:

  • Amnesty International Canada
  • Apple
  • Bloomberg
  • Canadian Space Agency
  • City of Toronto
  • Facebook
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Google
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Honda
  • IBM
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Labatt Breweries
  • LinkedIn
  • Parks Canada
  • Pfizer
  • RBC Financial Group
  • Tim Horton Children’s Foundation
  • Toyota Motor Manufacturing
  • WhatsApp
  • Yelp

Undergraduate students, domestic and international alike, who are in co-op programs apply to jobs in fields or industries related to their studies, undergo job interviews and go through a process that matches them with employers. The work term is from January to April, May to August or September to December, depending on the year level.

One of the perks that come with attending a co-op program at Waterloo is that it helps increase marketability. As a matter of fact, up to 96% of the school’s co-op graduates are employed in a related field six months after graduation.

Because of this, the school is #24 in Graduate Employability Ranking by QS World University Rankings 2023.

University of Waterloo
University of Waterloo

Is the University of Waterloo a Top School?

In 2023, the University of Waterloo is ranked #154 in QS World University Rankings. It’s also ranked #24 in Graduate Employability Ranking by the same ranker in the same year. Meanwhile, UWaterloo is ranked by US News as #199 in Best Global Universities and #8 in Best Global Universities in Canada.

When deciding which institution to add to one’s college list, there are simply so many factors to consider.

This is especially true for high schoolers in the US who are planning on earning a degree outside the country — there are a lot of things they will have to sacrifice in exchange for a global diploma.

One of the ways through which college-bound teens can simplify the selection process is by checking out various college rankings. And based on what some of the most reliable college rankers say, there’s no denying that the University of Waterloo is one of the best institutions not only in Canada but also across the globe.

Besides the school itself, many of the University of Waterloo’s programs are recognized across the globe. Here are some of the program rankings of UWaterloo by US News:

  • #23 in Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • #37 in Energy and Fuels
  • #42 in Computer Science
  • #45 in Mechanical Engineering
  • #62 in Condensed Matter Physics
  • #77 in Mathematics
  • #78 in Civil Engineering
  • #89 in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • #90 in Materials Science
  • #93 in Chemical Engineering
  • #93 in Physical Chemistry

It’s true that the process of building a college list, including especially one that’s supposed to be filled with institutions outside the US, can be simplified with the help of college rankers. However, since college rankings have a touch of subjectivity to them, it’s also a good idea to make your own college ranking.

This can be done by considering factors that are personally important and giving each one a particular weight. Is cost more important than location? Is acceptance rate more important than program availability?

Is the University of Waterloo Hard to Get Into?

A little more than half of all applicants to the University of Waterloo get an offer to enroll. With an acceptance rate of 53%, the public research university is a moderately selective school. However, its most competitive degree programs tend to have lower acceptance rates, some of which can be as low as 3%.

When planning on becoming an international student, it’s important to consider schools where your chances of getting admitted are high. Otherwise, you may wind up being a domestic student.

You will be happy to learn that there’s a big possibility of you becoming one of the more than 7,000 students from overseas who are attending the University of Waterloo. That’s because the institution’s acceptance rate, despite being consistently on listings of the hardest schools in Canada to get into, is 53%.

With a high GPA and an impressive overall application, your odds of getting an acceptance letter are rather good.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that some of the most competitive programs Waterloo offers tend to have lower acceptance rates. The lower the high school grade, generally speaking, the lower the chances of getting admitted.

Let’s take computer engineering as an example.

If you are interested in enrolling in this particular program, your chances of receiving an offer to enroll are 70% if your GPA is a perfect 4.0. However, the odds slip down to 27% if your GPA is anywhere from 3.7 to 3.9. Your chances of getting accepted to UWaterloo’s computer engineering program drop to a measly 3% if your GPA is from 3.0 to 3.3.

The different co-op programs at UWaterloo are also known for having incredibly low acceptance rates, which is why only top-performing students, domestic and international alike, get in.

University of Waterloo
University of Waterloo

What GPA Do You Need to Get Into the University of Waterloo?

Like many colleges and universities in the US, the University of Waterloo does not have any published minimum high school GPA first-time, first-year applicants have to meet. However, most admits have an average high school grade of low 80s to mid-90s, which is equivalent to a GPA range of 2.7 to 4.0.

Because UWaterloo is a prestigious and selective school, it isn’t surprising why the vast majority of applicants as well as admits have above-average high school grades.

The higher the GPA, the more likely an applicant is to get an acceptance letter from its admissions office.

Refrain from assuming that a stellar high school grade is enough to get you into the University of Waterloo. The school itself says that hopefuls are evaluated based on their GPAs as well as their responses in the Admission Information Form (AIF). Simply put, the AIF consists of short answer questions — absolutely no long personal essays!

By the way, here are a couple of foolproof tips when filling out the AIF:

  • Highlight things about yourself and the extracurricular activities you partake in
  • Don’t feel too shy to brag a little

Since a few other things in applications are also taken into account, needless to say, Waterloo, just like many American institutions, has a holistic admissions policy.

But as mentioned earlier when we were talking about whether or not the University of Waterloo is hard to get into, the school’s competitive programs have lower acceptance rates, which is primarily because of the preference for applicants with some of the most impressive average high school grades.

Is the University of Waterloo Expensive?

Attending the University of Waterloo, as expected, is more expensive for international students than for domestic ones. Based on the academic year 2022 to 2023 rate, the estimated tuition for attendees from overseas ranges from Can$45,000 to Can$66,000, depending on which faculty the program is in.

There are more than 100 undergraduate degree programs offered by Waterloo both domestic and international students can choose from. And they are divided into the following:

  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Engineering
  • Faculty of Environment
  • Faculty of Health
  • Faculty of Mathematics
  • Faculty of Science

How much money you will have to shell out for tuition, as mentioned earlier, depends on the faculty where your chosen program is in. Typically, competitive programs, such as those in the STEM and healthcare fields, are some of the most expensive degrees to work on based on tuition costs alone.

Below are some of the estimated tuition for some of UWaterloo’s programs for international students:

Accounting and financial managementCan$45,000
Applied mathematicsCan$51,000
Business administrationCan$66,000
Computer scienceCan$66,000
Computing and financial managementCan$53,000
Fine artsCan$45,000
Global business and digital artsCan$50,000
Mathematical financeCan$51,000

Planning on taking a co-op program at UWaterloo? Then make sure that you have the budget to pay Can$745 more each term. The additional fee covers some of the cost of attending the co-op program.

Books and supplies can cost anywhere from Can$2,370 to Can$4,225, depending on the program.

Besides tuition costs, residence fees are some of those that make working on a college degree expensive, particularly for those who live on-campus such as out-of-state students and international attendees. At Waterloo, some of the on-campus housing options to choose from are:

  • Traditional residence (dorm) – single room, double room, semi-private double room, interconnecting
  • Suite (apartment) – single room, 2-bedroom suite, 3-bedroom, 4-bedroom

Per year, UWaterloo room and board can cost anywhere from as low as Can$2,451 to as high as Can$4,893.

In order to bring down the cost of attending the University of Waterloo, there are scholarships available. Awards can range anywhere from Can$500 to Can$25,000 or more. There are scholarships exclusive to international students, and one example is the University of Waterloo International Student Scholarship.

Other available scholarship programs for international undergraduate students are valued at Can$10,000 each.

How Do International Students Apply to the University of Waterloo?

Because the University of Waterloo is located in Ontario, students who wish to apply to it should do so by creating an Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) account. International students as well as Canadian students from high schools outside of Ontario should opt for the OUAC 105 application.

Many US colleges and universities use the Common App and Coalition App. Institutions of higher education in Ontario, on the other hand, use the OUAC.

There are many different kinds of OUAC accounts, depending on the type of degree and student.

As an international student who likes to attend UWaterloo, you should create an OUAC 105 account. Just like what was mentioned earlier, it’s intended for incoming first-time, first-year students who are either from other countries who are not attending Ontario high schools or Canadians who are attending high schools outside of Ontario.

High schoolers in Ontario, on the other hand, should apply to Waterloo by coming up with an OUAC 101 account. It’s also for traditional students who have not attended any college and are below 21 years of age.

After successfully creating your OUAC 105 account, there are a couple of important things to bear in mind:

  • Within two weeks of applying to the University of Waterloo by means of the OUAC 105, the school will send you your Waterloo student number as well as instructions on other steps you might have to take.
  • The school recommends adding [email protected] to your contacts in order to make sure that the emails the school will send you won’t end up in the spam folder.
  • International students can apply to a maximum of three degree programs, which can help increase admissions chances. However, you can apply to only a single engineering program.

Earlier, we talked about co-op programs the University of Waterloo offers. If you are interested in applying to one of the school’s various co-op programs, you simply have to check the co-op box on your OUAC 105 application.

But it’s important to note that co-op programs are some of the most selective degree programs available at the Canadian public research university. As a matter of fact, the acceptance rates for most of them are just a little over 4%. Just in case you are not admitted to a co-op program, you will be considered for a non-co-op counterpart automatically.

Most undergraduate degree programs at the University of Waterloo have an application deadline of February 1. On the other hand, the deadline for the submission of supporting documents is February 17.

University of Waterloo
University of Waterloo

Does the University of Waterloo Give Credit for AP Exams?

Like many colleges and universities in and out of the US, the University of Waterloo awards college credits for AP exams. However, only AP exams with a minimum grade of 4 are considered. The maximum number of credits resulting from AP exams varies from program to program. Students may decline receiving credits.

Taking AP courses in high school can help increase your chances of gaining admission to selective schools, including those that are situated outside of the country.

And getting high AP exam grades can also let you earn an undergraduate degree faster and cheaper.

At the University of Waterloo, your high-scoring AP exams can be converted into college credits. But your AP exam grades have to be either a 4 or a 5 in order for you to get awarded with credits. How many credits you can have will depend on the UWaterloo degree program you are enrolling in.

Let’s take a look at some of Waterloo’s programs and the most number of credits you can get from AP exams:

Accounting and financial management2 courses
Communication arts8 courses
Environment and business2 courses
Geomatics8 courses
International development2 courses
Kinesiology8 courses
Liberal studies8 courses
Planning2 courses
Political science8 courses
Public health3 courses
Recreation and leisure studies8 courses
Sociology8 courses

Just Before You Apply to the University of Waterloo

With the right information, you will find it easier to apply to the University of Waterloo. You will also have a much better idea of whether or not your chances of getting an offer to enroll in it are good.

There are many wonderful things that Waterloo has in store, from highly ranked programs to co-op offerings.

Above, we discussed a wide variety of things every future international student needs to know about working on a degree program available at UWaterloo. Before you decide to create your OUAC 105 account in order to get the application process started, consider everything that you have read above and weigh the pros and cons of attending it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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