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How to apply to university in Canada

Important information about admissions, funding and visa applications to study at a university in Canada

    Damara Klaassen's avatar

    Damara Klaassen

    March 27 2020
    Lake Yukon, Canada


    With its outstanding natural beauty, welcoming society and globally recognised universities, it’s easy to see why so many international students choose to study in Canada.

    In fact, two of the country’s top institutions, the University of British Columbia, are together home to the greatest number of international students in North America.

    The multicultural country is consistently ranked as one of the best nations in the world for quality of life, with Vancouver and Toronto regularly placing in the top 10 most liveable cities globally.

    Applying to universities in Canada has its own timelines and processes, so we’ve collected the information that you’ll need to secure your place as an undergraduate.

    Where to apply

    Some international students hope to experience life in one of the country’s bustling metropolises, while others look forward to studying in a small Canadian town. There are 147 public post-secondary institutions in Canada within the nation’s 10 diverse provinces and three territories, so you have many options to choose from.

    If you’re looking for a competitive university, you’ll find some of the best in the world in Canada. Five institutions in the country place in the top 100 in the McGill University.

    No matter where you apply, you can enjoy an active lifestyle with national parks, lakes, mountains, ski slopes, ice rinks and more within easy reach, as well as a vibrant arts and culture scene across the country.

    Choosing what to study

    When you apply to a Canadian university, you’ll typically choose a general area of study that interests you, such as arts, science, forestry or kinesiology. You’ll then have the option of specialising further after a year or two of study.

    You might be interested in engineering, for example, and discover that you want to focus on environmental engineering after your first year. Or perhaps you’ll study a combination of subjects that suits your career trajectory, such as music and management, through many universities’ dual-degree or double-major options.

    A number of Canadian institutions also offer the opportunity to customise your degree to your interests beyond the classroom. You might want to give undergraduate research a try, or gain international experience studying at partner universities across the world. Many Canadian universities also provide cooperative education programmes, which are paid, full-time placements in a variety of work settings relevant to your degree.

    No matter which path you choose, you’ll be able to design a flexible degree programme and take part in academic activities that will set you up for success after graduation.

    International perspective: Indian students studying in Canada


    Depending on the institution, you can start your degree at various times – generally September, January or May – although most universities are set up for you to begin the year in September.

    Applications usually open 11 months before a programme starts. Deadlines vary for each institution, but most need to have received your application by spring at the latest.

    In addition to your academic performance, Canadian universities will sometimes consider supplementary information such as a written personal profile, a video or a portfolio. Recommendations or reference letters are generally not required.

    You’ll most likely apply directly to the institution, unless you hope to go to university in the province of Ontario, when you’ll use the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) system. In both cases, you should expect to pay a one-time application fee; and in some instances, you’ll be asked for the results of an English competency test, such as Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Test System (IELTS).


    Graduates from Canadian universities maintain an excellent reputation with employers, so investing in a degree from the country can offer a high return.

    Tuition fees for international undergraduates vary significantly. They can range from C$11,000 to C$59,000 per year, depending on what you want to study and which institution you choose. You’ll be able to discover what your tuition fees are by type of degree programme by checking each university’s website.

    Those websites will also provide information on scholarships and financial awards for international students. Most of these scholarship programmes are merit-based, meaning that your previous academic performance will determine whether you are eligible.

    Some universities also have hybrid awards, which are scholarships given on the basis of merit and financial need. Some examples of these hybrid awards are University of British Columbia’s International Scholars Program.

    The Canadian government, too, provides a selection of scholarships for international students.

    Although funding support is available, most international students will need to plan on self-financing the majority of their education and living costs.

    Study permits

    Before you come to Canada, you’ll need to apply for a study permit if you’re going to be at university for more than six months. A study permit is a document issued by the Canadian government that allows foreign nationals to study at a designated learning institution in Canada.

    Once you’ve received your letter of acceptance from an institution, you’ll need to apply for your permit. It will be your own responsibility to secure a study permit, but a number of universities offer step-by-step guides or checklists to help you work through the process of gathering documents and information.

    Your study permit will allow you to work on or off campus without applying for a separate work permit, within certain restrictions. Should you wish to remain in Canada after graduation to obtain some work experience, you are able to pursue this through Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

    Further information on studying in Canada to be found here –

    Read more: Best universities in Canada

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