New Challenges, Transfers, and Deferments

If you have been offered admission to Waterloo Engineering for Fall 2019, you are likely very excited to start a new chapter in your life.  You may also be a bit nervous about your future.  University life and high school life are quite different.  At university, you will have greater independence.  Larger class sizes provide greater anonymity.  Attendance is not mandatory.  If you fall behind in your studies, you will have to find a way to catch up.  Extra credit assignments are rare.  Final exams are often worth 50% or more of your grade and they are more difficult than the exams you wrote in high school.  You will need to adapt and make new friends to help you through the tough times.  There is no way to know how you will manage the transition from high school to university.  Just know that the transition is as hard as everyone says and that many students struggle.  You are not alone.

Now that your high school year has ended, you may start thinking about how you will react to the new challenges you will face in university.  You may have concerns about the program you have chosen.  Is it the right fit for you?  Have you chosen wisely?  Most applicants ask themselves these questions.  It is a normal part of the transition to university life.

Over the past 4 weeks, the Engineering Admissions Office has received many inquiries from students who have accepted offers to programs.  Quite a few of these inquiries involve discussions of transfers.  Applicants want to know if they can transfer into another program prior to the start of the school year.  Often, the answer is no simply due to the fact that we do not have available spaces in our programs.  However, there is never any harm in asking about the possibility of a transfer.  We only ask that you think carefully about why you want to transfer and what you hope to accomplish by doing so.  If you have a good reason for a transfer and if a space is available, a transfer may be possible in some cases.

Only a small number of engineering programs have the ability to accept transfers at this time.  If you are seriously interested in requesting a program transfer, you may inquire into the feasibility of doing so by e-mailing  A few students have already had program transfers granted.


On the subject of program transfers, one thing to keep in mind is that we will not allow transfers between programs during the middle of a term.  Once classes start program transfers will not be considered until the end of the academic term.  Based on our years of experience, this is the only fair process.  It also prevents students from making a poor decision one week into a new program.  The grass often seems greener on the other side of the fence.  At the end of your first week of lectures, you might think that another program looks much more interesting.  You need to give your program the time and attention that it deserves prior to changing programs.

Another question you might have about your university education is how you will pay for it?  Recently, the media has had numerous reports on the subject of OSAP cuts.  In some cases, the predicted OSAP loans and grants were higher than those actually awarded.  You may find yourself in a situation where it may be a challenge to fund your studies if you were relying upon OSAP.  The 10% tuition cuts help some students but the cuts to OSAP appear to have amounted to more than the 10% tuition cut, in many cases.

The most common solution is a terrible one.  Students sometimes try to get a part-time job during their academic term to earn some income while going to school.  Based on my years as an advisor, I can say that very few engineering students are able to successfully complete their studies while working part-time.  I can recall at least one year where every student I advised that had a part-time job failed at the end of the term.  Engineering programs require about 60 hours of work per week.  While this may not seem like much more than you currently do, it is important to remember that the additional work time is directly taking away from your time to rest and relax.  When learning new things, it has been shown that time to rest and relax is an important part of the learning process itself.  Sleep is necessary to transfer knowledge from short term memory to long term memory.

A better solution is to reduce unnecessary expenses.  You may enjoy watching Netflix or prefer Starbucks coffee but you can live without these expenses.  You don’t need a car to live in Waterloo.  We have a light rail transit station on campus that allows you to easily travel many places within Kitchener-Waterloo.  We also have GO buses that provide easy access to the greater Toronto area.  It is often easier to reduce expenses by $1,000 than it is to earn $1,000 working a part-time job.

Another, more radical option, is a deferment.  A student given an offer of admission to Waterloo Engineering may ask for a 1 year deferment.  Put simply, this allows you to defer the start date of your program from September 1, 2019 to September 1, 2020 without penalty.  During a deferment, a student may not study at any other post-secondary institution.  A student may use this year to work a full-time job to save money for their education.  It also provides a student with an opportunity to develop life skills and mature so that the student is ready for the challenge of university.  A deferment is in many ways similar to a gap year.  The only difference is that the student has already been accepted into a university program.  There is no need to re-apply for admission at the end of the deferment.  You simply need to tell the university that you will be attending and pay your fees by the deadlines.

There are two potentially negative consequences to a deferment.  One is that tuition (and expenses) always seem to increase over time.  Deferring your studies by a year will result in you paying slightly more for your education.  This additional cost can be more than offset by the earning potential of a year of full-time employment.  The second is that it is easy to forget math and science skills by taking a year off your studies.  You may need to review your high school courses in the months immediately prior to starting your studies to be prepared for university courses.

Other reasons for considering a deferment would be if you needed time to recover from a serious injury or if you needed time to take care of someone.  For example, if you suffered a serious head injury while participating in sports this summer, a deferment would provide you with a year to recover.  If a loved one was diagnosed with a terminal illness, a deferment might allow you to spend more time with them taking care of them.

A deferment is a very good option for some students.  You should at least know that this possibility exists.  Every year, a few handfuls of students defer their engineering programs for a variety of reasons.  If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of a deferment, you can email to find out more.