Marks aren’t the only thing universities consider when deciding which applicants to accept.

The engineering program at the University of Waterloo is so competitive they now use something called “The Adjustment Factor.”

“All these different school boards have different ways of teaching,” says one current engineering student. “There’s also different teachers.”

UW looks at marks during their admissions process but also considers which schools may inflate a student’s final grade.

“There’s nothing worse than having high hopes, coming to one of the most challenging programs and then flaming out,” says Nick Manning, the associate vice-president of communications at UW.

The university says the adjustment doesn’t apply to just one student, school or board.

The school takes the admission average and subtracts the student’s first year average. For example, if a student gets a 95 in high school and finishes their first year with an 85, then the school’s adjustment factor is 10. The university combines all those student numbers and creates a six-year average for the high school.

“They are very sure they can look at these rolling averages and figure out who will be successful,” says Manning.

The school also looks at 5 or 6 other factors during the application process.

Of the 13,000 students who apply to UW’s engineering program only 1,500 are accepted each year.