How our wait list works

I realize now that I’ve never written much about our wait list processes, so this is probably a good time to do that.  Our wait list operation depends a bit on the specific circumstances, so I’ll try to explain it along the lines of several common scenarios.First of all, as far as we know at this point we have sent out enough offers to fill all the programs up to their space limits (including the fact that many will not accept the offer).  Whether we actually achieve those targets is not knowable until after the offer acceptance deadline in early June when we get the numbers.   Therefore, nothing will happen with the wait list until that deadline passes.  Here are some common scenarios:

Changed your mind:

You got an offer to your first choice engineering program, but now you are more interested in another engineering program.  We will put you on the wait list and see what we can do in June.  At that point we look to see if there are available spaces.  If there are, the we look at the wait list and select people until the spaces are filled.  If there are more people than spaces, it will be a competition based on grades and AIF score, just like the initial admission process.   Note that for this process to work you have to accept the initial offer to Waterloo (otherwise you’re in the last scenario, below).  Therefore there is a possibility that your switch won’t be approved and you will remain in the original program, and you should consider this possibility before accepting an offer to Waterloo.  If another university has offered you the program you now want, that might be a better bet.

Didn’t get your first choice:

You might have gotten an offer to one of your alternate choices that you put on the AIF, but still want your first choice.  You can ask to be wait listed for this purpose, and the process is about the same as above.  Again, it won’t be considered until June, and may be a competition for a few spaces.  If you didn’t get into your first choice in the initial admission, there is a good chance you won’t be competitive for it in this process either, especially for the most competitive programs like Biomed, Mechatronics, and Software.  Again, before accepting an offer to Waterloo you should assume the worst case condition that you will not be able to switch and will remain in the alternate program.  Switching later in the summer or during first year is a possibility, as discussed in some older posts on Alternate Offers and Switching Programs.

Didn’t get an offer to engineering:

There are lots of people who didn’t get an offer to engineering, but would like to be considered in June if space is available.  This includes people who did get an offer to another program at Waterloo, and those with offers to other universities.  Again, we will put you on the wait list and go through the process described above.  The one difference is that people in the previous scenarios get priority for spaces (since they are already admitted and confirmed).  After the internal switches are done, we go to the external wait list people to fill any spaces.  Many years there are very few, if any, spaces available but it’s impossible to know in advance.  Note that because this process can only happen in June, you will have to accept an offer somewhere else beforehand.  If you accept an offer at another university, and are then offered a space off our wait list there are two significant drawbacks:  1) you will have to withdraw your acceptance at the other university and lose whatever deposits you made; 2) you will not get residence at Waterloo and will have to find your own accommodations.

Bottom Line:

If you’re interested in pursuing a space through our wait list, you just have to let us know by email (, with your name, Waterloo ID#, what your current state is (program, not admitted?), and what you would like to be considered for (you can specify more than one program if you want).  In mid-June, we’ll contact you with an answer, either positive or negative.  If it’s positive, we’ll ask to you confirm that you still want to go ahead (since some people change their mind in the meantime) before making any changes.




53 thoughts on “How our wait list works

  1. Hello Professor. Thank you for the post!
    What is the process of withdrawing an engineering acceptance over the summer? Will i be holding off on the opportunity for someone else to take my seat? I am asking this because i am applying to an international school but they send acceptances in july/ august.

  2. Sorry that this doesn’t actually apply to engineering, but should I ask to be waitlisted for computer science if I got an alternate offer to math? If this also applies to computer science?

  3. Hello,
    are there usually many people who apply for this waitlist?
    And those who have an alternative offer to another engineering program are prioritized over others, correct?

  4. Your posts are really helpful.
    Out of curiosity, was ECE not competitive this year? A lot of my friends with high 80s/low 90s got into the program, so I am just wondering…

  5. Hi, if I am put on the wait list, will my admission to the desired program be based on my final marks of the second semester?

  6. Hi Proffesor,
    If we get accepted for the waitlist but didnt have engineering before, do we have absolutely no chance of residence, or do we just not have the first year garentee for residence?

  7. Approximately how many spaces are available for people on the waitlist from the previous years for the not so competitive engineering programs?

  8. Hi Professor,
    I got into my first choice for engineering (Mechatronics) according to Ouac and Quest, however, the email I received stated I had gotten into an alternate program.
    “Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to the University of Waterloo for fall 2014 in Honours Mechatronics Engineering, Co-op. You’ll note that your offer is not for the program you applied to. Competition for places in that program was especially high this year. However, given your academic record, we’re confident that you’ll be successful in your studies and will find the Waterloo experience rewarding. We hope you’ll be interested in this alternative offer and will give it your serious consideration.”
    However, Mechatronics was my first choice. Should I be concerned about this?

  9. ISir, how about a transfer to another faculty for another program, for example computer science Co-op? What’s the procedure, and who would we email? I got accepted for computer engineering and I want to switch to computer science now.

  10. This isn’t related to the waitlist, but I was wondering what you meant by getting work or volunteer experience in the summer before entering Waterloo? I might enroll in CS or SE…what kind of compsci-related summer opportunities would be available to high school graduates?

    • Any work experience is good, it doesn’t need to be program-related. You just need something to build your resume and show potential co-op employers that you’ve got some potential as an employee.

  11. For 105 applicants, if we see no update in our application status in the next couple of days does that mean that we have been denied? Is there any way to know when the final wave for outside-of-province students has been sent?

    I don’t know if you can answer this but is a 94.2% average competitive for a 105 applicant for civil engineering?

  12. Pingback: Considering an Alternate Offer 2014 | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering

  13. If I’ve been accepted into the mechatronics engineering program, can I choose to pursue an option in software engineering?

  14. Hello Professor,
    Are our semester 2 midterm marks used when being cobsidered for the waitlist or are the final marks used?
    Also, when do the waitlist offers usually come out.
    My situation:
    I have been accepted to Nanotechnology Engineering (94.83% average), but I now want to switch/ apply for the waitlist for Electrical Engineering, which was my second choice.

  15. Good Afternoon Prof Bill Anderson,

    Thank you for taking the time for answering these questions. Waterloo conditional offer states states that for engineering, certain conditions need to be met (By june 30). It also states that most Ontario students, (by June) should know where their marks lie and thus, should make their university decisions based on that.

    However, what if one is in the IB program, where the marks are decided by a final exam worth 80%? The results are not given out until July, and thus there could be a drastic change in marks. If someone has been accepted already (given conditional offer), and is not able to maintain the conditional offer marks for the final exam (and thus the course) , is the offer still revoked?

    • Yes, we look at the final results and revoke if the conditions are not met. The conditions are relatively easy compared to the competition to get an offer in the first place.

  16. Hello Professor Anderson
    If it is allowed to specify more than one program, what is the maximum number of programs that can be specified? For example is it allowed to put all programs in Faculty of Engineering?

  17. Hello Professor,

    How likely would it be for me to switch from Biomedical Engineering to Systems Design Engineering? I’ve recently realized that I would like more flexibility rather than specializing so early on, so I think Systems is a better personal fit.

    I know that the two programs are very similar in curriculum for first year, so if I am not able to switch into Systems before the fall term, do you think I would still be able to do so second year?

    Thank you for your time!

    • It may be quite possible, but we may have to wait until June to make sure the space exists. I suspect it will be OK, as there are others wanting to go in the opposite direction, so it all balances out.

  18. Hi Professor Anderson,

    I was offered Physical Science and Geomatics by Waterloo but would really like to pursue Management Engineering. Would the program I accept affect my chances on the wait list for Management Engineering? Is there a preferred faculty they would rather take students in from (other than within Engineering)?

    Thanks in advance for your kind reply.

  19. Hi, is Waterloo Engineering Admissions sending out offer to the people on the wait list already? Because I read on a forum where one person said he got an offer after being on the wait list. Thank you.

  20. Excuse me but how “competitive” is the wait list for mechatronics? Will the wait list use the marks and AIF from when it was submitted in March or will it use the final marks that are received in June?

  21. Hi Professor,

    I have received a rejection from the University of Waterloo. Is it still possible for me to be considered for the waitlist in June? ( I am an international applicant).

  22. Professor Anderson,
    I was offered an admission to mechatronics (my first choice) which I don’t have interest in as much as I earlier thought of. I want to switch to either software or computer engineering. Please let me know the possibilities of a switch.

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