Canadian With Unique Circumstances Wants to Transfer


I’m currently in my 2nd year of biomedical engineering at a Canadian university. I’d like to transfer into general first year engineering (I’m interested in electrical and mechanical though) at UWO (Western), Queen’s, or McMaster. I’d appreciate any advice or evaluations of my chances for transferring.

White male Canadian citizen. First in family to go to university. I don’t think demographics are taken into consideration by Canadian universities but I’m not sure.

High school:
Had a 95+ average all 4 years. Finished final year with a 95. Took all prerequisite courses for engineering. Won the 90+ average award all 4 years. Won numerous subject achievement awards.

Throughout high school I was enrolled in an international languages program. Finished the program with a 96 and won student of the year.

Will be doing an engineering internship this summer. Won’t be able to put this on this year’s application but maybe on next year’s application if I can’t transfer this year.

Did badly in 1st year. Finished with a 70 average and dropped 3 courses (dropped courses don’t show up on transcript). However, experienced extenuating circumstances that year.

Doing well in 2nd year. Only taking easy general elective classes + classes I dropped though. Average for 2nd year alone should be in the high 80s to 90s. Overall average should improve to a mid to high 70 by end of fall semester and low 80 by winter semester.

Extenuating circumstances:
I will write about these in an extenuating circumstances form. I had a pretty bad year after high school. My dad, my family’s breadwinner, became disabled and left his job. This caused my family to become low income. My dad’s disability was neurological in nature which made caring for him frustrating. I was his caregiver when my mom was at work. The domestic and financial issues at home eventually resulted in my mom deciding to divorce my dad. The house was to be sold and I was to stay with my dad. Legal proceedings were taking place however my dad ended up dying which caused further domestic and financial issues.

Statement of intent:
I’ll write about how I want to get my life back on track after all the misfortunes that happened to me in 1st year and about how I want to honour my deceased dad by getting an engineering degree since he was pretty proud of the fact that I went to university and he hoped he would live to see me graduate (yes, he was aware that I wanted to transfer and supported the decision).

Sorry about your dad.

Canadian universities do not take demographics into account.

I wouldn’t characterize a 70 average as “bad”. There’s a big difference between a 65 and a 75 though.

Can you transfer within your own engineering faculty? That would probably be easiest.

I would peg your transfer chances as decent. It will depend on how many current students the programs have in your year. Sometimes programs overenroll (get too many students) and sometimes they underenroll (don’t get enough). Take a shot but also make a plan B for your current university.

Staying at my current university would be more of a plan c or even d. The engineering faculty there doesn’t have the program I’m most interested in, I didn’t apply into their coop program out of high school so I’m not in coop, and I don’t really like it there. Plan b is to continue improving my average (perhaps by taking a reduced course load or easy classes) and try to transfer again next year if I don’t get in.

I should also add I’m planning to transfer into general first year to improve my chances. This should be possible at UWO and McMaster but not necessarily Queen’s.

In your statement of intent, you should focus on why you want to transfer (i.e. the different program that the new university has that the old one doesn’t). If you focus on your dad, it may worry admissions that you may have a hard time adjusting to a new environment.

That’s a good point. I wanted to talk about my dad in my statement of intent to show admissions that I have a reason to succeed but I should probably focus less on that and more on the opportunities transferring would provide.

Sounds good. You can certainly talk about your family’s struggles as the reason for the poor grades, but they will want to know why you want to go to their school and assurances that you will do well there.

Wouldn’t my high marks in 2nd year and success in high school be evidence that what happened in 1st year was largely a result of my circumstances and the usually I’m a good student.

Yes. You don’t have to talk about your family’s struggles. It’s up to you. I think it’s worth mentioning. The school will want to know that you will be successful if you go there.

Keep in mind that they don’t know you. If you don’t mention your family - they won’t know why your grades tanked in your first year. They would likely assume that you were partying and didn’t have the maturity for university in your first year. That’s the most common reason for poor grades in first year.

No that’s not what I meant. I still intend to discuss what happened at home, I’m just saying that if the school wants to see that I would do well after transferring I would think that my grades in high school and 2nd year could convince them.

Yes, that is good evidence as well.

Ideally, you would submit a LoR from an adult- prof / GC / etc who could say something brief about your situation last year along the lines of "Heliogabalus had some significant family issues over the course of the year which affected their academic performance. This year’s work is a better demonstration their ability and work ethic.

If that is not an option, then still don’t “discuss” it. BRIEFLY, succinctly note that your academic performance was undermined by the need for you to be a primary caregiver during your fathers illness and subsequent death, and that your performance this year, like that of your secondary school record is a better reflection of who you are as a student.

Sadly, this is not a “unique” circumstance- whoever reads your app will have read variants of this many times. You might think that more detail will help, but it won’t.

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I haven’t made any connections with my professor due to school being online so I can’t get a note from any of them. If necessary I can provide proof of my father’s death (death certificate), illness (notes from his doctor’s), and our family becoming low income. There’s a separate form to discuss extenuating circumstances so I will write about my circumstances on that form. In my statement of intent I think I’ll just mention it but mainly talk about how transferring will benefit me.

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It’s not.

What do you suppose my chances are in that case?