Transferring to Waterloo Enginering

Another common question during our admission cycle is whether someone can start a program (let’s assume engineering) at another university, then transfer into Waterloo for 2nd or 3rd year.  These might be people who didn’t get an offer to Waterloo, or maybe want to try another place first but keep their options open.  The short answer is that yes, it is technically feasible, but the likelihood of successful admission to 2nd year is pretty low.  Here are some of the major reasons why:

  1. Space:  as always, capacity in our labs and lecture rooms is a concern, so this can be an issue right at the start.
  2. Grades:  once you start university, we don’t really care what your high school grades are like.  It will depend entirely on your university grades.  Many of our programs only want transfer students who are in the top half or quarter of their class (typically a 75%+ grade in university).  So if things don’t go so well in your first term that will be a significant problem (although we are always willing to consider exceptions and extenuating circumstances).
  3. Courses:  Waterloo Engineering programs are very specific, right from the first day.  So if you go to a general engineering year at another university you will probably be missing a number of significant courses.  If there is not a good alignment of courses, you can’t start in 2nd year.
  4. Work Experience:  Our 2nd year students have 4 to 8 months of work experience.  To be admitted to 2nd year, you need to have an equivalent amount of full-time, quality, relevant work experience.  Or you must convince us that you will be able to obtain it before school starts.  We won’t admit students without sufficient work experience, because they would be at a disadvantage for our co-op education process, compared to the rest of the class.
  5. Reasons:  We like to be convinced that there is some plausible reason for wanting to transfer into Waterloo.  If you’re doing well somewhere else, why bother?  Why not just continue there and consider Waterloo for graduate school, perhaps?

So, there are several significant barriers to a successful transfer application.  Even if we have the space and you have the good grades, Issues #3 and 4 above will usually prevent transfer into 2nd year.  In the past six years, I would guess we might have admitted less than a dozen transfer students into 2nd year.  This most recent cycle, we had maybe 300 transfer applicants, and about 2 admissions to 2nd year.

However, we might be able to make an offer for our 1B term, which is the second half of first year.  In most programs, students in the 1B term have not yet had a co-op work term, so that eliminates Issue #4.  Also, after doing one year in another engineering program, you have probably covered most of our 1A term courses, so Issue #3 is not so significant.  The downside is that you are losing a year by going backwards into our first year.  Out of those 300 transfer applicants I mentioned above, probably about 10 to 20 were offered 1B admission.  Still not a high acceptance rate.

What if you’re not transferring from an engineering program, but from a math, science, arts, business, … program?  Issue #3 above (i.e. missing courses) will be a major factor, and admission into the 1A (first) term is usually the only possible route.  (Of course you still need good grades in your university program, and have to have the high school prerequisite courses or equivalent university level courses.)

So as I mentioned at the start, transfers are technically possible, but not highly likely.  Just something to consider when making decisions.

128 thoughts on “Transferring to Waterloo Enginering

  1. Hi Professor,

    I am currently enrolled in science at UW, in my 1B term. After this term, I am applying for an internal transfer to the faculty of engineering […] Would a transfer into 1A of either MGMT or SYDE be feasible?

    Thank you!

  2. Hello Professor,

    I am an undergraduate for engineering at […] University. I am entering into my second year of my program. However, Software engineering is not offered at my University, I am going to apply for Transfer to Waterloo after my second year. My main concern is my credits won’t transfer over. Other students transferred to Waterloo for engineering have claimed they had to retake a lot of their courses.

    Since I am not from Ontario, I am concerned with expensive. What scholarships are applicable to transfer students? And how do student loans work? I have a decent scholarship right now and I feel pressured into letting it go. But, is it really worth the financial burden by attending Waterloo for BSE?

    • There are no scholarships for transfer students, and most students have to re-start in first year because of the structure of our co-op and unique courses. In many cases I think that transfer is not worthwhile, and suggest considering Waterloo for a Masters degree.

  3. Hey Professor,
    You did state the odds of transferring into 2A and 1B, are the odds any higher if someone were to apply to 1A? If so, by how much?
    Thank you,

    • No, there is no difference. Everyone with a post-secondary background is assessed in the same way, regardless of what level they apply to. We then decide if they are admissible and what level is most suitable.

  4. Hello, i am currently enrolled in university of ottawa for computer engineering and planning on transferring here for 2nd year for software engineering. What can I do to maximize my chances, assuming i obtain a gpa of 3.8. Starting over from first year does not bother me.

  5. “The downside is that you are losing a year by going backwards into our first year.”

    Is this a full year or just one semester? Could you possibly ‘catch up’ by taking the 1B term courses over the summer or something?

    • One full calendar year. The required courses are not available to do a successful ‘catch up’ since they are only offered in a highly structured way with limited spaces.

  6. Hi, I am an Ontario resident and I received an offer of admission to Waterloo Engineering last year but [edited]. What kinds of things can I do to strengthen my application?

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