Our Engineering programs are “direct entry” (no general first year), so you apply through OUAC to the one of most interest. Our internal online Admission Information Form (AIF) provides a space to select an alternative choice in engineering, without having to spend more money through OUAC. Starting with the 2017 cycle there have been a few changes, so it’s probably a good idea to review some ideas and considerations.
How Alternates Work: In theory, applicants should use OUAC to apply to the Engineering program that is of the most interest to them and their career goals. If your application is competitive and you get an offer to that program, then the alternate is not considered. If you don’t get an offer to the OUAC program choice, then we look at the alternate identified on the AIF and see if you’re competitive for that.
One Alternate Choice: In past years we’ve had space to select up to two alternate programs within engineering, but this year we’ve reduced it to one. Why? With increasing application numbers, getting the alternate choices to work out smoothly has become more difficult. There is also a sense among some applicants that “surely I’ll get an offer to one of the 3 choices”, but this is not necessarily the case anymore. So, limiting the alternatives to one will hopefully encourage applicants to think more carefully about which programs are of most interest, and in what order of priority.
Limited Alternate Choices: Based on recent experience, Biomedical and Software Engineering are not feasible alternate program choices, so we eliminated them from the list since they are a waste of a selection. Biomedical and Software have been much more competitive for admission than other programs (see Chances for 2017), so there is no way that an applicant will be denied an offer from some other program but be competitive for these two.
Electrical & Computer Alternates: For admission purposes, Electrical and Computer Engineering are lumped together. They have the same curriculum for the first year or two, and students can generally move between the two without any problems. Therefore, using Computer as an alternate to Electrical (or vice versa) is a waste of a selection too. (Eventually we hope to change the AIF coding to reflect and implement this, but other IT projects have a higher priority at the moment.)
Are Alternates Considered Equally? A common question is “if I don’t get into my first choice (OUAC) program, is my alternate choice considered equally with those who made it their first choice?”. The answer is “yes”, but with a large “BUT” which has become a more significant factor in recent years in some cases. The “BUT” is that we will not overload programs with applicants for whom it was an alternate choice. For example, we will not fill 70% of the Computer Engineering spaces with applicants whose first choice was Software Engineering. At some point, we will start ignoring the alternate choices and prioritize first choice applicants. The programs and instructors are wary of having large fractions of a class where the students are potentially less committed and are mainly interested in transferring to another program. The class dynamics and learning atmosphere can be negatively affected.
Strategies: Our assumption is that what you pick as your first and alternate choices is based on your assessment of what best meets your educational and career goals. If you pick Software or Biomedical just to see if you get an offer and assume that you’ll get your alternate, that may not work out so well (because of reasons mentioned in previous section). The Chances for 2017 post is a useful tool to help make realistic choices for your program and alternate.
Also, never assume that you can go for a program that is less competitive, then transfer into the one you really want. For reasons related to space constraints, our ability to transfer people between programs has been very limited lately. As an example, at the moment it is impossible to transfer directly into Biomedical, Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, Mechatronics, Systems Design, and Software from other programs. Making a careful analysis and choice of programs is very important.