One of our messages this year is to encourage engineering applicants to do their “homework” before applying, because we have no general first year. This means carefully reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses, interests, aptitudes, career goals, etc. Then carefully examining our different programs, courses, typical career paths, co-op job examples, etc., and selecting the program which seems to be the right fit. Quite possibly, engineering is not the right fit and you should consider something else. In general, people who put some effort into this process will end up in the right program and do well. Why is this so important?It’s important because people who don’t thoroughly research the options and get an offer into one program, may find it difficult to change when they suddenly find one that they think is better for them. Once we send an offer for a program, that will be final. (In past years we have entertained changes for people who got early round offers, but we will no longer be doing that. It’s not fair to the majority of people who get offers in May and cannot change them.)
It’s popular to say to high school students that the future is bright and you can do anything you want. But it’s not completely accurate, because there is always a price to be paid for those changes. At this stage, with every decision you make you’re burning some bridges behind you, or at least scorching them a bit. You might be able to change directions, but it may not be cheap or easy, and may require changing to another university.
For those who do still want to switch their program, the process for Waterloo Engineering continues to be like this:
- You have to accept the offer by the early June deadline (with the understanding that this is the program you are potentially locked into).
- In June, you can request to be considered for a different engineering program.
- In July we will see if that request can be accommodated. In the majority of cases it will not be possible, due to a lack of spaces, based on our experience over the past years. If not possible, you remain in the program you accepted. Future changes are unlikely once the program starts, without losing a year and re-starting in the new program.
So the potential consequences of not doing your application “homework” are significant, including being in a poor fit program, losing a year, wasting a year’s worth of tuition, and general unhappiness. On the positive side, the large majority of our students seem to be satisfied with their program choice, so I guess they did their “homework”. For those who want to work on this homework, here are some suggested resources:
- In general: how to choose a university program
- Our engineering quiz (unfortunately it doesn’t include Biomedical Engineering yet).
- Our engineering program descriptions have information about courses, and co-op jobs.
- Our description of Options, minors and other ways to customize a program, so that it meets your goals without changing programs
- Our course descriptions for upper years in Engineering.
- My past suggestions for choosing a program
- Come for a visit sometime
- Contact a current student and spend a day with them attending some classes
- Other websites, like What is Engineering
- Use Google and find your own information about engineering and other programs. Don’t rely on just one source. Watch some videos on “what do engineers do”.
When I work on a complex research problem, I’ll spend perhaps 5 to 15 hours over several days or weeks looking up, reading, and thinking about various pieces of information. After that, I’ll make some decision about how to proceed. That’s probably the minimum level of effort you should put into selecting a university/college program (not including the time for visits and meetings with faculty, students, advisers, etc). It’s a lot of work, but an important decision.