Switching Engineering Programs

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:

  1. space availability:  we can’t overload the class and lab capacity of a program.  It’s not fair to other students and instructors.
  2. 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.

108 thoughts on “Switching Engineering Programs

  1. Dearest professor,

    When you mentioned “We won’t switch from alternate to first choice programs.”. Does this imply that this process is an impossible task to accomplish altogether or were you only referring to as of the May time frame? For example, if spots do open up after June for spaces in my first choice program on OUAC (as I have received an alternate to ECE), is it possible to review my file again for possible reconsideration? I am happy with my offer as of now so I will take it regardless. But I am just curious, has this ever been done before? Many thanks.

    • I was only referring to the May time frame. In June, once we see if there are any spaces, we will begin to consider switching people to their first choice program if they ask. Again, that may be a competition for only a few spaces, so it might or might not be possible.

  2. Hello Prof. Anderson,

    I have a few questions about June acceptance. Usually, how competitive is acceptance in June, assuming there are only a few spaces? How many applicants usually ask to be reconsidered in June? Does competition vary for different engineering programs? Thank you.

    • Yes, competition varies between engineering programs and also from one year to the next. It’s essentially impossible to know in advance how competitive the June switching process will be. It all comes down to how much we over or undershoot our capacity targets in each program.

  3. Hi I was wondering how hard it is to switch between electrical to Computer engineering since first year courses are the same.

      • Electrical and Computer Engineering now streams Electrical/Computer students together in the same courses; the programmes are identical up through and including the 2A term. After that, it is stlil possible to take all of the courses in the other programme.

        I should also mention that Computer Engineering students get co-op jobs noticeably sooner than Electrical Engineering students, particularly on the first co-op work term.

  4. We process a number of transfers from {Electrical, Computer} to Software, as well as other transfers. {Electrical, Computer} to Software after 1A or 1B are relatively simple, as long as the streaming works out, as mentioned in the main post. However, Software is highly competitive and you would need excellent marks in your original program to transfer into Software.

    We also accept transfers from non-Engineering programmes, but that is always more complicated, and would tend to work best if you’ve already taken courses that are similar to first-year engineering.

    • I would like to ask this question to Mr Patrick Lam:

      Hello Sir

      I am an international student and I got accepted into Software Engineering. I am worried about co-op because I have no prior work experience. Apart from a small C++ project and a couple of programming languages, I have nothing to boast about. I want to utilize this summer to the fullest so that I will have no hassles in finding my first co-op job. In my country, companies don’t really encourage high school graduates and it will be difficult for me to get an internship before the university starts. I would like you to advise me on what I should this summer so that I do not have any hiccups in finding a co-op job.


      • Hi Addy:

        Our Software Engineering students usually manage to find jobs quite early; in any case, your first co-op term will start in May 2015. However, it doesn’t hurt to improve your competitiveness for jobs. I’d recommend developing a portfolio of software projects that you can show off to prospective employers on the Internet. Learn how to program either mobile applications or server-side Web applications and just work on those. You can also contribute to open-source software. That would help.

  5. Hi Prof, if I requested for stream 8 in mechanical engineering how likely is it for me to get it? I would like to room with my friends who are also stream 8.

    • I think they try to accomodate stream requests as much as possible, as long as it doesn’t start to upset the balance with too many in one stream. I’m not directly involved in that part, so I don’t know all the details.

  6. Dear Professor,

    In a previous post, you mentioned that it was impossible to determine the number of extra available spots in each individual engineering programs before June 3rd. Now that the deadline has passed, I understand it takes time to process but when can we expect the admissions to finish tallying up the numbers? Not necessarily posting it, but just finished calculating the numbers. Many thanks!

    • We are just now getting final downloads from OUAC and beginning to work through the numbers. We will probably start working on the waitlist and program switches next week.

  7. Hi Professor!

    Recently I have been accept by Waterloo Engineering and after receiving the “You Got In!” package in the mail, I have read and reread the terms and conditions before pressing the submit button on OUAC. For engineering it says maintain an average of 79%+ and sustain a minimum of 70%+ in each courses. As I would understand or anybody for that matter, that as long as you meet the terms (even though let’s say you get an 70% final on the dot in one prerequisite). The offer would still be valid as described by the terms and conditions. However, after reading a few blog posts recently, it raises a concern to me as previous year applicants described their experience that they have gotten their offers revoked and taken away from them after the university found out that their marks dropped since midterm (not significantly, but enough to have gotten their chemistry and/or physic marks in the low 70s but as they have described they were confident of the fact that they still managed to maintain ALL the conditions.) This case confused them and so have I and I am sure of the many other individuals who have read the post. Can you shine some light onto this issue? Does Waterloo randomly take away offers from “weak” academic individuals who have evidently shown a decadence in their academic performance (However, still having attained the minimum requirements)? Is this all a myth that the internet craze has hyped up or fact that we never knew before? Thank you so much for your time!

    • No, Waterloo Engineering does not randomly revoke offers. If applicants meet all the conditions as stated, then that’s fine. Sometimes the conditions state that you must also submit certain documents. Applicants who meet the grades conditions but won’t submit the documents might lose their offer. Maybe that’s the case in what you read.

  8. Since applicants on the waitlist probably have similar grades, do you look at the AIF (and extenuating circumstances) when assessing waitlisted applicants? How selective is this process?

    • Yes, if necessary we use the same process for waitlist competition as we do for the admission decisions. Selectivity is highly variable. It depends on how many people are on the waitlist and how many spaces there are for that program.

  9. Who would get higher priority? The ones that already received an offer of admission to the faculty of engineering but is requesting a program switch (to another type of engineering) or the ones that were refused who currently have no offer from Waterloo and are on the waiting list?

  10. Is the Plan Modification/Application for Internal Transfer Form something we need to complete for transferring, or is an email to enginfo enough?

    • We usually ask for a Plan Modification form once a person moves from the “applicant” stage to the “student” status (sort of an internal system thing). You can start with an email, and we will ask for it if we want it.

  11. Hi, i am admitted to the mechanical engineering program, but I am having second thought and may want to transfer to mechatronics. I understand that their in the same department and I am wondering would that be an eaiser transfer? And if I do decide to am I only allowed to do it after 1a or is it still possible now that I am enrolled in all my courses

    • Transferring into Mechatronics is usually difficult (even from mechanical) because the courses are somewhat different and often there is no space. In some ways it’s better to switch before 1A, but that may not be possible. You can contact enginfo@uwaterloo.ca to inquire about switching. Alternatively, you can aim to complete the Option in Mechatronics and get to a similar result without switching.

  12. Hello Sir, if a student (4A stream) fails and has to repeat the 1B term, when is the next opportunity to enroll in the 1B term. Does he has to wait for the next summer semester to enroll in 1B again and basically lose the winter semester. A loss of total 8 month.

    • Yes, students that have to repeat a term (term average =50%) have to wait until the term is offered again the following year. So in your example, the 4 stream 1B term is in the summer, so it has to be repeated the next summer. There are sometimes exceptions, on a case-by-case basis, that the First Year Engineering Advisor team will discuss with any students who ask for assistance.

  13. Is it possible to switch from a stream 8 program to a stream 4 only program when I signed up for fall and winter residence with two of my roommates?

    • When someone switches from one stream to another, they have to work out any changes in the residence arrangements with our Housing & Residences office. I don’t know anything about the details however.

  14. Hi Prof, if I received a scholarship given only for mechanical engineering, would I lose the scholarship if I decide to switch to another program? Thank you.

    • It depends on the conditions specified by the scholarship donor, and there are some cases where you could lose it. This would be something to explore with the Student Awards office if a program switch was being offered.

  15. Hello Prof,
    When do internal transfers get processed? If I want an engineering program switch, when would I apply? How difficult is it to switch into Tron or SYDE? Also, what are competitive marks to switch into these programs? Thank you!

    • Internal transfers get processed at various times, depending on the situation, so it’s hard to give a specific answer. You should apply as soon as you’re sure that you would like to transfer. Switching into mechatronics or systems design can be difficult, because both programs are often at capacity (so marks are not necessarily the issue). But it doesn’t hurt to ask and we will see what’s possible.

  16. Hello Professor, first of all I love your blog 🙂 !!
    I am in Mechanical Engineering Stream 8, and I am seriously considering switching into Software Engineering. I understand that Mechanical Engineering and Software Engineering have some different courses. So, I was wondering, now that the first term is almost over, how difficult it is to switch into Software Engineering from Mechanical Engineering, and some advices will be very appreciated. Thank you for your time !

  17. Hi there! how hard is it to switch to computer enginnering if you are in management engineering/physical sciences/math coop? And my friend told me that if you have 77 in english (which i do), it substantially brings down my chances in getting accepted to computer engineering at waterloo. Is that true? That waterloo doesn’t like any marks in the 70’s??(for engineering) Please and thankyou for answering my question!!

    • Switching into Comp Eng from any program is complicated because their courses are different, but it can sometimes be done. As long as the required course grades are above the minimum (70 in Ontario), then we only use the average. So you can have some marks in the 70’s as long as other marks raise the average enough to be competitive.

  18. Hello Professor Bill, I was wondering if I got accepted in February(or the first round of offers) for electrical engineering, would it be possible to call the university and ask to be switched I to chemical engineering?(I am still a tad undecided on which discipline to go to, I thought electrical would be my favorite by chemical is starting to interest me much more. Would this be possible, or would they take away my offer for electrical, and put me in the pool for chemical engineering candidates? Or if my average is high enough, would they just switch me into chemical?

  19. Hello Professor, thanks for taking your time out to answer these questions. I was wondering if I was still deciding between Waterloo and another school would I be able to send an email asking about the availability of a program that I want to switch to before actually accepting Waterloo’s offer? Or must I accept Waterloo’s offer and then proceed to ask about me switching programs?

    • You can certainly ask, but we may not be able to give you an answer. Sometimes we have to wait until the acceptance deadline passes before we know if there is space available for switching.

  20. is it impossible to switch from management engineering to mechatronics without wasting any time?
    let’s say that the student is shown to have superior grades in managemtn engineering

      • what about switching from electrical to mechatronics. i thinkt they can have same streams. like if a person has superior grades in electrical and has good work experience from coop and outside coop, can it be done after first semester?

      • Mechatronics will have two streams and more capacity starting this year, so switching might be a bit easier. We can never guarantee that switching can occur, but we do what we can.

  21. Hi Prof,
    I just got a message from Waterloo that I have to send them an English Proficiency Test. But, I have been in Canada for 5 years. It is stated in Waterloo website that I am okay if I have been here for 4 years. I am taking English 4u now, and I have hard courses this semester. It’ll be challenging for me to do IELTS test. Can I send an email requesting not to do the test? I am really frustrated now. And I applied to ECE program, my average is 88 at this moment. Can you tell me my possibilities of getting in? I much more do I have to get to kind of confirm my admission? I know 95 will be good, but it’s not possible for me right now. I also devoted about 120 hours in my schools clubs. Many thanks

  22. Hi Professor,
    I’ve just been given an offer of admission for Waterloo’s electrical engineering program. I’ve begun to have second thoughts and would like to switch to Mechatronics. Do you think it would be possible for me to get the switch? Also when would i get notified if the switch was successful? Lastly, if i don’t get into mechatronics, would i still be able to go into electrical engineering? (Sorry for the many questions)
    Thanks You!

    • You can ask to be considered for a switch at any time, and we’ll look into it. If you’re stats are not competitive enough for a switch, you’ll just be left in the original program. You won’t lose your spot.

  23. Hi Professor,
    I am in a similar position as the previous commenter, I was given an offer of admission for civil engineering, however now I would like to switch to mechanical engineering. Who do I speak to about the potential switch?

  24. Hi Professor,
    I am currently in 1B ece, and am wondering if it’s possible to switch from ece to mechanical engineering, and if I would have to be held back a year or not.
    Thank You

  25. Hi Professor,
    I’ve just been given an offer for Computer Science program. I’ve had second thoughts and would like to switch to Comuter Engineering. Do you think it would be possible for me to get the switch? Who should I contact regarding the switchÉ
    Thanks You so much,

  26. Hi Professor,
    I’ve just been given an offer of admission for Waterloo’s Computer Engineering program. I’ve started to have second thoughts about the job availability between Computer Engineers and Software Engineers. Do you think it would be possible for me to be considered for a switch into Software Engineering? If so, where should I ask for a switch? Thank you!

  27. Hello Professor,

    I didn’t receive my first engineering choice, mechatronics, but I’m fortunate enough to have received systems engineering. You mentioned that the courses for mechatronics and systems have different curricula, and I’m wondering how big of an obstacle this would be for switching after the first term (1A).


    • Switching is always complicated. However, it is fairly straightforward to do the Mechatronics Option within Systems Design and end up in about the same place without switching.

  28. Hello sir,
    my son got an alternate offer in management engineering at waterloo even though his 1st choice was computer engineering. can he switch to computer engineering? his average score in grade 12 is 90%

    Thanks .

  29. Pingback: How our wait list works | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering

  30. Hi, how difficult would it be to switch into Chemical Engineering or Electrical Engineering from Management Engineering at the end of term 1A if my grades are really good?

    • Management to Chemical isn’t bad, since the courses are similar (assuming there is space). Going into electrical is always tricky, because their courses are quite different and it will not be easy.

  31. Hello professor,

    thanks for answering in advance. i was just wondering if it is possible to switch from management engineering at waterloo to computer engineering and if so at what stage? can i put my name on waiting list? i have 90% average in grade 12 so far.


  32. Hi Professor,
    I’m in the same boat as some of the other commenters where I got an offer to mechanical engineering instead of mechatronics. I was wondering if you could explain what you mean by doing the “Mechatronics Option” within say mechanical engineering and ending up in the same place. Also, if i decide to be put on the waitlist, around what time would i be notified to see that a switch into mechatronics would be successful or not?

  33. Hi Professor! I love the blog, I just have a few questions if you don’t mind helping me out.

    I’m in my 2B term right now in Honours Arts & Business with co-op. I decided to pursue a Law & Business undergrad to hopefully go to law school one day. I just finished my first work term and I realize now that I really dislike the cut-throat business field of study… I really wanted to get into environmental law in the future and now I was wondering how difficult it would be to process an internal transfer to Environmental/Geological Engineering? I couldn’t find much information online regarding what the requirements would be. I realize that I don’t have many of the required courses, but would I have to apply as a 1A student again (and is it according to my uni or hs marks)? Thank you! 🙂

    • You need to have at least the 4 grade 12 required courses (Advanced Functions, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry) or university level equivalent subjects to even be considered. Having good university marks is necessary too, even if they’re from other fields. Have you considered the Faculty of Environment programs? They have some nice ones, without the math and science requirements in Engineering.

  34. Hi professor,

    I am currently in the reduced load program and taking chemistry and linear algebra which I dropped in the fall. I was in management engineering but now I want to switch to software engineering. Are the two similar enough for a switch without adding another academic term? Will the fact that I am in the reduced load program affect my chances of getting in?

  35. Hi Professor,

    How big of a change is it going from chemical engineering to nanotechnology in first year? Are the courses quite different?

  36. Hi Professor,

    I just finished my 1B in Mechanical Engineering and I have obtained average of 81 percent through out my 1A and 1B. I am currently giving a second thought of switching into Mechatronics program. Based on my average and some differences between Mech and Tron, how difficult will it be to switch into Tron? And if it is possible, will I be held back one year? or a term? Thank you so much and your blog is always very helpful! 🙂

  37. I have currently accepted my offer for computer engineering (Stream 8) and was wondering how hard it would be to switch into Nanotech Engineering or Biomedical Engineering after 1A.

    Thanks in advance.

  38. Dear professor,

    I am a first year student in 1A mechatronics engineering in 8 stream, I was wondering what the chances were for me to switch into computer science for the 1B term and if I had to complete any extra courses. I am currently taking GENE 121, MATH 116, MTE 100, CHE 102 and MATH 115.

  39. Dear Professor,

    I am overjoyed and have the privilege to receive an offer from Waterloo for Fall 2015. I am evaluating my choices and would like to keep my options open. My second thought is to explore the possibility of switching programs within Engineering. Understanding that there is no guaranteed success, I have a question about the consequences of doing so.
    Let’s say I applied for a switch and I get rejected… Do I still get to keep the original offer to accept?

  40. Hi Professor,
    I got an early acceptance to civil back in February and I was wondering how difficult it would be to switch from Civil to ECE for the 1B term? Would we be required to repeat certain courses from 1A as well (like Calculus – i’ve heard there’s quite a difference between the course in civil and in ECE).

    Also, if we were to request a change now how would it affect scholarships decisions?

    Thank you.

  41. Dear Professor,

    I was wondering if it is possible to switch from engineering 1 from McMaster to electrical at Waterloo after first year. I was rejected from Waterloo with 93% avg, and what avg/gpa would I have to attain within first year assuming if it is possible.

    • Transfers into ECE from McMaster are theoretically possible with averages in the 75%+ range, but it will generally require that you start again in 1st year because the courses are different.

  42. Hello Professor,

    I would like to know how difficult it would be to switch from mechanical engineering to biomedical engineering. Biomedical engineering was my first choose but I got an alternate offer to mechanical engineering. I would also like to know if you can only request a switch once? If my switch to biomedical engineering is not granted, is it still possible for my to switch to another engineering discipline, such as computer engineering?

    Thank you.

    • I suspect that switching into Biomed will be virtually impossible, but won’t know for sure until June. You can request switches as many times as you want, although we start to wonder if you really know what you’re doing if it’s more than once or twice.

  43. Hi Professor,
    If I got into uwaterloo(in 2014) with a 96 average into environmental engineering but failed 1a due to lack of interest/motivation and want to switch into systems design engineering, what’s the procedure and how likely will it happen? I was hoping to redo 1a but as a SYDE student instead of repeating then switching. I had a 58 average.

    Thank you.

    • Re-starting in SYDE is not usually possible, as there are a lot of people trying to switch in and very few if any spaces available. You might consider whether another (but bigger) program can hold similar opportunities for your interests. The UW Engineering website has an email address for internal transfer inquiries that you can contact.

  44. Professor,

    I’ll be enrolled in Waterloo Chemical Engineering Fall 2016, and I’m wondering if I can switch to Software Engineering before the term starts? I had just recently been involved in programming you see, and discovered my interest in it. Thank you.

  45. Hi professor, I’m going into civil engineering but I’m having some reservations about the program and am tentatively thinking about transferring into Mechanical after 1A. What I want to know is how problematic a possible transfer into mechanical engineering would be.

  46. Hello Professor, I’m starting in Chemical Engineering but I’m considering a switch into System Design after the end of my 1A term. Would you happen to know if I would lose my spot at my residence (REV) because of the stream switch? Also, would I have to miss a co-op term?


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