Everything You Need to Know About the Waterloo

So you’re thinking of going to Waterloo? That’s no surprise! With almost 100,000 applicants every year, the University of Waterloo has become one of Canada’s most prestigious schools. But, before you make your commitment, check out our list of the top things you need to know about the University of Waterloo! There is no way we can fit everything there is to know about Waterloo in one article, but think of this as a beginner’s guide to Waterloo. Whether you’re a high school senior anxiously waiting for an acceptance offer, or a junior still doing some research about possible post-secondary options, this article’s for you. Read along as we break down the top things you need to know about the University of Waterloo, both on a factual and experiential level.



Waterloo’s co-op program is arguably its most appealing feature. It is North America’s largest co-op orgram and has given hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to dip their feet into the workplace. In case you’re uncertain of what co-op is, it’s paid job experience that is integrated into the university’s programs. So, for example, an engineering student will start their first semester in the fall and then work during the winter. They will then alternate between studying and working for four months until their degree is complete. When you start your co-op varies from program to program so make sure to do some research on co-op for the program you’re interested in. This does mean that you will not get many summers. Most Waterloo students spend their (most of the time) five year education between school and work and only get to catch a breath during the few weeks off between terms.

At Waterloo, you’ll graduate with 2 years of paid co-op. While it’s a lot of work, it can be worth it! On average, students earn $12,700 per term. You can use this money to pay back your student loans, buy groceries while on residence or buy those airpods you’ve been wanting for ages. 


Waterloo’s co-op program has earned the university the number 1 spot in Canada for experiential learning according to Maclean’s 2020 and the number 1 spot in Canada for employer-student connections according to QS graduate Employability Rankings 2020. But in addition to those, Waterloo also holds the title for number 1 in computer science, engineering and mathematics according to Maclean’s, who also titled the university the number 3 best overall university in Canada.


If you’ve been to ANY Waterloo event or open house, you’ve probably heard the word innovation countless times. But there’s a reason the school takes pride in its innovation. Waterloo is very research intensive and many of the professors are doing cutting edge technology. For example, in 2018, Donna Strickland, Physics and Astronomy professor was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. That’s not something you hear everyday! 

International students also make up a huge part of Waterloo’s student body. 22% of undergraduate students and 40% of  graduate students are international. This creates a super strong and diverse academic community where you can meet people from all over the world and work with them on cool projects! In fact, with 220,000 alumni in 151 countries, many students end up leaving the country and are recognized all over the world by their Waterloo degree. 


Waterloo’s main Campus in Waterloo, Ontario is a 1000 acre property with over 100 buildings. It will take you about 25 minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other (which you will rarely have to do since most of your classes will be close to one another). Many green spaces on campus will help with that walk 😉 However, the university of Waterloo also has other campuses:

  • School of Architecture Campus in Cambridge, Ontario
  • School of Pharmacy in Kitchener, Ontario
  • Stratford school of interaction design and business in Stratford, Ontario

Depending on your program, you might not even be on main campus at all! For example, Architecture students only have classes at the Cambridge campus.

The University of Waterloo also has four affiliated and federated institutions which offer different experiences:

  • Conrad grebel University College
  • Rension University College
  • St. Jerome’s University
  • St. Paul’s University College


Now that you know a little bit about the University of Waterloo, where do you fit in? Here are the top things you need to know about studying at the University of Waterloo:


Now, this is not to say that you will never reach your standards, but university is totally different than high school. Expect to not perform to the best of your ability on some exams and projects and be okay with it if that happens (which to put it bluntly, it will)! At the University of Waterloo, you learn by doing, and so sometimes you may not feel like you’re ready, but its through the challenges that you become a strong and resilient student. If you fail a test, brush it off and keep going.


Contrary to the stereotype that all Waterloo students do is study, there are over 200 clubs at the university. Because of the extremely diverse student body, these clubs and associations are all across the board. From the Campus Crusade for Cheese (yup-you heard that right. Its a club where those who enjoy cheese gather to eat cheese, talk about cheese and play video games) to the A-capella club, there’s a club for everything. There are also 30 athletic programs available at the school! So whether you’re a club fanatic or a sports athlete, you’ll find whatever your heart desires.


There is no doubt that Waterloo is one of Canada’s hardest universities to get into (check out your chances of getting in here. As a result, everyone admitted is very competent! Depending on your personality, you may find the competition either toxic or motivational. You may feel like you need to prove yourself which can cause feelings of incompetency or push you forward to fulfilling your goals. Most students just want to do their best which encourages others to do the same. So, if you do decide to accept your offer to the University of Waterloo, be sure to use the competition as a driving force in your education, and to recognize that all the students are trying to get most of their money’s worth!


The University of Waterloo is definitely one of Canada’s most prestigious and recognized universities, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone! Each person has their own way of learning and different schools are more appealing to different people. If you wanted to go to Waterloo, and didn’t get in, don’t be discouraged! There are other things in store for you;) 

Still unsure of Waterloo is where you should go? Check out our other articles to get some more insight!

Published on September 2, 2021

About Michael Salib

Michael Salib is a second-year architecture student at the University of Waterloo. As a content creator and designer, he self-identifies as a "creative enthusiast," letting creativity dominate his day-to-day life. Michael has tutored and mentored students through their transition from elementary to high school and high school to post-secondary for several years, helping them rise to their full potential. He also has a knack for public speaking. During his free time, you will find Michael doing a plethora of things, such as traveling, hiking, acting, drawing, cooking, taking photos, and spending quality time with loved ones.