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Top 5 tips for getting into globally competitive engineering programs

Inside info on how to put forward your strongest application, from the University of Toronto’s director of recruitment for the engineering faculty
BY Michelle Beaton |   25-10-2017
Michelle Beaton, Associate Director of Recruitment for University of Toronto (U of T) Engineering

When it comes to applying to the top engineering schools in the world — whether in Canada, the UK or the US — preparation is critical to a strong application. The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Canada’s #1-ranked engineering program and one of the best in the world, admits one student for every 12 applications. Although competition for those spots is intense, there are several simple steps students can take to make their applications shine — and they start as early as Grades 10 and 11. Here are some tips to help you strengthen your application.

1. Select secondary school courses that will ensure you have adequate preparation the core prerequisite subjects.

Start with the basics! The first and most obvious thing you can do to ensure your application moves forward is have the required prerequisites. This may take some planning. Depending on your high school program, ensure you’re registered to take:

  • Indian high school: XII Math, XII Chemistry, XII Physics
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): Math, Chemistry, Physics (HL may be preferred or required)

2. Express your personality and passion.

While academic performance remains the most important criterion for admission to highly selective engineering schools, some may require a student profile. The student profile will outline prescribed parameters that give you the opportunity to highlight extracurricular involvement that demonstrates leadership and commitment. Consider that admissions officers are looking for the quality versus the quantity of your involvement — choose activities that truly allow you to contribute in fields you are passionate about, and be confident in expressing that passion in your application. This information will also be reviewed for scholarship consideration — U of T Engineering offers 17 x $20,000 renewable entrance scholarships for international students, as well as the Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships that cover tuition, books, incidental fees and residence costs for four years.


First-year students in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering work with a robotic arm in the
undergraduate robotics and systems control laboratory (photo by Roberta Baker, courtesy University of Toronto)

3. Practice problem-solving.

Be prepared to demonstrate your communication and problem-solving skills in real-time. As part of the supplemental application process, many globally selective engineering schools will ask applicants to answer pre-recorded questions in real time via video. The video is saved as part of your application, and reviewed by trained evaluators who assign a score to your responses. This real-time response component of the application is designed to showcase your ability to think on your feet and articulate your ideas clearly. Applicants are not judged on their language skills or vocabulary — just on creativity, critical thinking and self-expression. As with most things in life, practice makes perfect, so prepare by thinking through sample problems out loud in front of a parent, friend or an advisor and get their feedback on your performance. This kind of rehearsal will make you much more comfortable when it’s time for the real thing, and feeling comfortable and confident allows your creativity to shine.

4. Put a roof over your head.

Regardless of where you choose to attend university, when you arrive in a new town or city to start the next big chapter of your life, you need to have a place to sleep! One of the best ways to do this is to live in residence, at least for your first year. Ensure that you apply for residence accommodation as part of the application process — this is often a separate application, submitted following your academic application. At U of T Engineering, we guarantee a spot in residence for all first-year students. Many globally competitive schools do the same, so make sure to reserve yours when you apply!

5. Don’t miss key deadlines!

None of the other four tips matter without this one: Pay attention to deadline dates and submit all required documentation by the stated dates. These can vary by school and country, so we recommend creating a master spreadsheet that lays out the key dates in all of your applications so you don’t lose track. Highly selective engineering schools require submission of your secondary school transcripts, including interim grades (interim, pre-board or predicted grades) for your current, final year of secondary study by the end of January or early February. Offers of admission will be made on a rolling basis between February and May, and will be conditional pending receipt of your final results.


Interested in studying engineering? Check out the links below!
Interview with Michelle Beaton
New Zealand universities invite applications for 35 scholarships
Meet Anantha P Chandrakasan, Dean of MITs School of Engineering
Why Artificial Intelligence graduates are in red hot demand
5 Simple Tips to Cracking the GATE
6 questions with materials science researcher Sudip Ray
5 questions on Aerospace Engineering with Dr. Firoz Alam



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