The University Application Process Explained

By University of Waterloo Modified on December 15, 2020

What you can expect when applying for admission to an Ontario university.

What you can expect when applying for admission to an Ontario university.

You've done your research, narrowed down the programs and schools you'll apply to, and it looks like you meet the admission requirements. Like many other students, you may be wondering what's next. Well, now it's time to apply.

This is a step-by-step overview of what to expect in your application journey.


If you're a high school or transfer student applying to be a full-time student, you'll apply through the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC). If you're an Ontario high school student use the OUAC 101 application; all other students should use the OUAC 105 application.

If you're interested in multiple Ontario universities, you can use one OUAC application to apply to all your chosen schools and programs. Ontario high school students are encouraged to apply by January 15, 2021. However, Waterloo will accept applications from all students until February 1, 2021. Remember, each university will have different deadlines so be sure to familiarize yourself with the timelines for the schools you're interested in.

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 — you can expect a follow-up from Waterloo within two weeks.

You submit documents

All programs will require transcripts. Additional requirements can include English language test scores, an interview, online assessments, math or science contests, and more.

If you're an Ontario high school student, you don't have to worry about sending your grades as your high school will do this for you. 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 your required documents. The schools you apply to will provide you instructions on what required documents to submit and how to do it.

Universities review applications and send offers

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). You can expect to hear back from most universities between January and May.

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. Learn more about how COVID-19 will impact your offer of admission.

If you're like most students, you'll receive what's called a conditional offer of admission that has certain requirements that need to be met by a certain date (usually over the summer). Conditions can include submitting final transcripts, achieving a specific grade in a course, having a minimum final average, and sending English language requirements.

Accept your offer

Now, for the final step: if you receive one or more offers of admission, congratulations! It's important to pick the university that best caters to your goals, so here are nine factors to consider when choosing a university. Find out more about how Waterloo can help you reach your goals by learning about what makes Waterloo different from other universities.

When you've made your choice, it's time to accept your offer! You'll go to the OUAC website and accept the offer of admission from the Ontario university you plan to attend. Once you accept, the university you've chosen will email you about what's next, such as choosing courses, residence, paying fees, and more.

While we know this process can seem daunting, we hope this guide helped ease your stress. Good luck, hopefully we'll see you at Waterloo next year!

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