A prior post dealt with transferring into Waterloo Engineering from some other program or university. More frequently, the question is “can I switch to X Engineering if I start in Y Engineering?” (where X and Y are two of our own engineering programs). This is an “internal transfer” process, so no OUAC application is necessary and there is a bit more flexibility. But it is also potentially more confusing, so let’s look at some scenarios.
First some comments. If someone wants to switch their program, we do what we can to accommodate them. We probably deal with several dozen switch requests each year (which is not a large fraction of the 1500 new students), and many are successful. But there are two major constraints we have to deal with:
- space availability: we can’t overload the class and lab capacity of a program. It’s not fair to other students and instructors.
- competition: even if there is space available, for popular programs there may be a lot of students trying to switch in, so it becomes a competitive decision process again.
So, although we try to accommodate switch requests we can never know in advance or guarantee that it can or will happen. We therefore don’t encourage applicants to accept an offer to Waterloo if they are definitely counting on being able to switch, because someone is going to be disappointed.
For the switching process itself, it depends on the time of year so let’s break it down on that basis:
- Before the final round of offers (early May): if you received an offer in the early rounds, we can usually switch the program if you ask (assuming you would have been competitive for that program).
- Early May to late May: after the final round of offers, we can do some very limited switching for applicants who were in the top half of the applicant pool for a program (and therefore probably would have been admitted to the other program anyways). We won’t switch from alternate to first choice programs.
- From June to early September: in June we find out exactly how much space exists (if any) in each program, so we can start to consider more switches. As noted above, switches depend entirely on there being space, and how competitive your grades are if there are multiple requests for few spaces. We will consider requests up until the end of the first week of classes in September. After that, you have to stick with the program until the end of the first term.
- End of first (1A) term: in December, we will again consider switch requests. This is where it gets more complicated. If you are trying to switch from a stream 8 to 4 program (or vice versa), there are co-op job issues to deal with. Some programs have quite different 1A curricula from other programs (for example, Electrical & Computer, Systems Design, Nanotechnology and Mechatronics tend to be significantly different from the others and each other). So figuring out what courses are missing and how to make them up is part of the puzzle. Space is often less of an issue after the first term. Because there are many combinations and permutations, we work with each request on a case-by-case basis and together try to figure out an appropriate plan.
- End of second (1B) term: at the end of the first year it is sometimes possible to continue in a different program, but again it is potentially complicated and make-up courses may be required. If you are switching between programs with different work term streams, you might have to do two consecutive academic or work terms to complete the switch. In some cases, you might have to repeat the 1B term to catch up on missing courses, and this will usually mean you fall back a year so you have to decide if that is worthwhile to you. It’s all somewhat confusing for students, so we’ll provide guidance and suggestions for anyone that wants to look into it.
Conclusion: switches between programs in Engineering at Waterloo are possible, but never guaranteed. We do what we can, but there is always the possibility for disappointment if it can’t happen, or it might cost you extra time and money.