Considering an Alternate Offer 2014

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

32 thoughts on “Considering an Alternate Offer 2014

  1. Hey prof,
    Say i got into Computer Eng instead of Software eng and also got rejected to CS, could I try to switch to either SE and CS atg the same time? Also what would be my chances to switch into CS from computer eng? (I know that for SE my chances would be low)

    Thank you for your response.

    • Yes, you can pursue both switches at the same time, especially since they’re in two different Faculties. I’m not sure what the chances for switching into CS are, you’ll have to ask the Math admissions people.

  2. Hi Professor,
    Completely irrelevant question, but when you guys are considering out of province admission (more specifically in BC), do you take our top 6 courses overall (like you do with Ontario students), or do you only take our top 4 or 5 academic courses (the admission website says at least 4 academics, but I just want to specify the method Waterloo uses).

  3. Hello Sir,

    I’m a Grade 12 Student who was interested in getting into Software Engineering. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in and was given an alternative offer to Computer Engineering instead. So, right now, I have offers for two programs at Waterloo: Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

    My question is: Which program is it easier to switch to Software Engineering from?

    From what my friend told me (who is currently in Software), it’s easier to switch from CE to SE after 1A, and that if I still don’t get into SE, then I can easily switch from CE to CS. Is this all true? Also, what are the chances of a successful switch from CE to SE, and how common is it?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Internal engineering transfers might get some preference, so CE might be easier but I’m not completely sure. I also don’t know anything about switching from CE to CS, since that’s up to Math. In general, switching into SE is not easy because there is not usually much space, and a lot of people want to do it.

  4. I am 105 applicant who applied to civil engineering, my quest status is stated as “application”, does this mean that I have been denied admission? Even to my alternate choices?

  5. Hello Professor,
    I was wondering if you could offer insight on the difference between the electrical engineering program and the mechatronics program. Do they take many of the same courses?

  6. At this rate soon the admission average for very competitive programs like Software and Bio medical will reach high 90s in a few years. Do you think Waterloo will then implement a standardized test so that it will be easier to pick the top students and also be fair to everybody? Do you think this is a possibility?

  7. Hello Professor,
    I am a transfer applicant that received an offer to management engineering (1b 2015 winter term); is it possible to start in the 1a term? Just in case some course credits don’t get transferred for 1a courses (Concerned mostly about MSCI 100 where I didn’t cover professional development and quantitative analysis)

    • If you get a 1B admission it means that you’ve already taken most/all courses in our 1A term, so there isn’t anything you can take in the Fall. MSCI 100 and similar courses have some content that you can catch up on later, but nothing that you need for success in 1B. We usually recommend that you use the Fall term to get work/volunteer experience to give you an improved chance at co-op work placements.

  8. Hello Professor,

    I am a grade 12 student that has been admitted into environmental engineering. Should I find that environmental engineering doesn’t match my goals and interests, I will heavily consider an internal transfer to systems design or computer engineering. Would the chances of being able to do an internal transfer be decent, or would the distinction in programs between environmental and systems design/computer be too distant for a successful transfer?

    Also, what other factors would be looked at for internal transfers within engineering? (Marks spacing, etc)

    Thank you in advance.

    • Those particular transfers are difficult because the courses are quite different. It may be possible, but not easy (i.e. may have to lose a year). Grades and space are the two major issues.

  9. Professor,
    I got into Mechatronics back in February, but I am considering switching into Software. Is this a possibility, since software and mechatronics have similar ‘cut-offs’ and I got in with early acceptance?

  10. Hi Professor

    A bit off topic, but is a single applicant allowed to receive multiple entrance engineering scholarships (not the merit scholarships)? Thanks.

  11. Hi Professor,

    Historically, how successful has it been for applicants to switch from Life Sciences to Civil Engineering? If I take another civil offer at a different school, what are the chances that I could transfer for the 1B semester? Do you guys prefer transfer students to be from certain engineering schools or does it not matter? Also, what is the average that you need in first year eng to be qualified for transfer into civil?

    Thank you.

    • We get some Life Science transfers into engineering, but I don’t keep statistics on it. Transferring from civil at another school immediately into our 1B term (for example January 2015) is unlikely, as we wouldn’t have your grades from the other school to review until it’s too late; most transfers into 1B will result in losing a year because of the timing issues. Within Canada we don’t care what engineering school you want to tranfer from, since they are all accredited by the same body. Generally we like to see averages in the 75 to 80 range or higher.

  12. Hello, Professor!

    Considering that one can switch between Electrical and Computer Engineering in first and second year and have the same admission averages and requirements, is it possible to, if one ranks the engineering courses as follows:
    1. Computer Engineering
    2. Electrical Engineering
    3. Some other Engineering
    To, if one is rejected from CompEng, to accept ElectrEng as the #2 choice and then instantly switch into CompEng, the first choice? Or, if not, would putting both Computer and Electrical engineering as separate items on the top 3 list be counterproductive, as if one is rejected from one of these, one would also be rejected instantly from the other because of the possibility of switching into the top choice from the second? Same question for Environmental, Geological, and Civil Engineering.


    • Computer and electrical engineering are handled simultaneously for admissions, so there is no advantage to putting one or the other as first choice as the outcome will be the same either way. Environmental, Geological and Civil are each treated separately however, and there is no guarantee you can switch between them.

  13. Pingback: How to Write a Great AIF / Bo Peng's World

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