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:
- Space: as always, capacity in our labs and lecture rooms is a concern, so this can be an issue right at the start.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.