Here’s an updated re-post from 2013, which might be useful.
When people apply to Waterloo Engineering, they apply to the program of most interest but can also identify a second and third choice on their AIF. That way, if they are not quite competitive for the 1st choice, we can still consider them for one of the other two. We assume that the choices are ranked in descending order of preference, so we try to get the 2nd choice if possible, then the 3rd. Typically around 300 to 350 people get one of these alternate offers to their 2nd or 3rd choice (not a target, just a typical number each year). Some people are quite happy with their alternate offer. Others, not so much. Those holding an alternate offer will have to decide what to do with it, so here are a few questions that commonly come up.
- Can I switch my offer back to my first choice? Not at present. All of our spaces are committed, so switching around is not feasible. After the acceptance deadline in early June, we will see how the numbers turned out and if there are any available spaces.
- If my friend declines their offer, can I have their space? No. We expect a bunch of people to decline their offers, so we have already admitted extra people to make up for it. If our estimates are right, in June we will have exactly the correct number of people in each program to match the available spaces.
- Can I change programs in June/July/August or early September? Maybe, or maybe not. From June through early September we will consider program switch requests. But success depends entirely on the number of available spaces. For popular programs, there will be a lot of people trying to switch in, so there will again be competition. See the wait list post for information on requesting these changes.
- How likely is it that I can switch programs? It’s impossible to predict before the acceptances are finalized in June. Some years we overshoot the target for certain programs, so no switches into that program are possible at all. Sometimes there are 5 or 10 spaces open. There are often a lot of people wanting to switch into Mechatronics or Software Engineering (and probably Biomedical), so competition will be tough even if there are some spaces.
- Should I accept my alternate offer, even if I don’t think I will like it and hope for a switch? Probably not. Although a switch might be possible, you should only accept an alternate if you are willing to be happy and make the most of it throughout your university career. It will be hard to succeed in engineering if you’re not motivated by your program. If you got a better offer from another university, maybe that’s the route to go.
- If I can’t switch, are there other opportunities to learn stuff in my first choice program? Yes! If you were looking for Mechatronics or Software Engineering but got another program, you can still consider completing the Mechatronics or Software Engineering Option. This is a package of courses (sort of like a “Minor”) that students in other programs can take, and will be formally recognized on their transcript and diploma. The official details are in the university course calendar. Most programs let their students take a few elective courses from other programs, even if it is not a formal “Option”. Also, for co-op work experience there is nothing to prevent students from applying to jobs in other disciplines; you just have to make your case in your cover letter and resume and convince the employer . It’s not unusual to have mechanical students do mechatronics jobs, and vice versa (for example). There are many other examples of overlaps between programs.