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How to Study in Canada and Apply to Canadian Universities

Study in Canada

Studying in Canada is an attractive proposition to many. As a first-world country with a first-rate level of education and a high standard of living, Canada is a great destination not only to students from increasingly affluent countries such as China, but also to those coming from other western countries such as the UK or US. 

Applying for university in any country, however, is a detailed and involved process. It requires a lot of forethought and preparation on the part of the applicant. In this article, we plan to take a look at the process required to study abroad in Canada. 

1. Choose an Institution (or Course) 

The first step when preparing to study in Canada is to choose where you’d like to study. Take a look at the Top Small, Medium, and Large Universities in Canada.

You can also review these Top 3 Canadian Universities Offering Work-Study Programs. Additionally, one of the best places to look for this is the Canadian University Directory. This site features a comprehensive list of all Canadian higher-learning institutions. Here you may look over their programs and find something that matches your requirements. The site also has a section on scholarships being offered – invaluable for students who may not otherwise be able to afford to study in Canada. 

Of course, you may prefer to prioritize the course you’d like to study, making the actual location a secondary concern. In that case, looking over a list of courses would be more useful to you. 


2. Prepare Your Application 

University of Toronto
University of Toronto

Once you’ve decided upon a course and a university, you’ll need to submit an application. Before sending your application, consider the following: 

Are You Eligible? 

Each university in Canada will have its own entry requirements, so you will need to check on the university’s website to ensure that you are eligible to apply. At the very least, you will need a high school diploma (or equivalent). Also, you will need solid grades on your high-school examinations (what grades, exactly, will vary). If English is not your first language, you will likely need to pass an English proficiency test, such as TOEFL or IELTS with minimum scores.

Check out these test prep resources to practice and ace your tests: TOEFL Official Practice Guide and IELTS Cambridge Prep Book

Some universities may require additional credentials and tests such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma, SAT Tests, or Advanced Placement Examinations. Check with the university admissions department for specific requirements and deadlines.

What Documents Will You Need? 

This, again, varies from university to university. Typically, you will need a letter of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts of your high school grades, and a copy of your high school diploma (or equivalent). You may also need a portfolio of your previous work, depending on the course. 

If any of these documents are not in English, they will need to be professionally translated. The university may also require the translations to be notarized. 

Check the Application Deadline

Unlike some other countries, whereby applications are cut off in time to assess eligibility for the start of the academic year, Canadian universities will consider applications for both September (start of the academic year) and January (start of the second semester). 

That said, it’s a good idea to apply at least 12 months before the start of the academic year. This might give you the best chance of receiving an offer. 

If your application is successful, congratulations! You’re ready for the next step: applying for a Canadian student visa. 

3. Apply for a Student Visa 

Once you’ve received a letter of acceptance from your chosen university, you should immediately begin your application for a Canadian student visa. This process can take as long as two months. Just be mindful that you will not be allowed into Canada to study unless you have a student visa, so do not delay in applying. 

It’s possible to apply for a student visa either online or by mail. It will be necessary to prove that you have sufficient funds to pay for your tuition fees, housing and costs of living. If any family members intend to accompany you, similar proof must also be provided for them. You must also be able to prove that you can afford transport back to your country of origin. 

The Canadian government may also, at their discretion, require you to complete a health check to prove that you are in good health. Furthermore, it may be necessary to provide a criminal background check before your visa is approved. 

4. Get a Scholarship to Study in Canada 

Unfortunately, some students may not be able to afford to study in Canada. Canada, as a country with a high standard of living, commands commensurately high living costs, and rent and university tuition may be beyond the means of many international students. 

If that’s the case, there may still be hope. It’s possible for particularly gifted students to take advantage of a full scholarship to study in Canada. 

Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships (University of Toronto) 

This scholarship offers full tuition as well as the purchase of all necessary books to successful applicants. Applicants must be in their final year of high school and be a non-Canadian citizen. Full details can be found here

International Scholars Program Awards (University of British Columbia) 

The University of British Columbia offers several scholarships to study in Canada. The scholarships vary in value, from simply covering the cost of the course all the way up to paying a successful applicant’s living costs. Find full details on the university’s website

General International Undergraduate Scholarships (University of Alberta) 

The University of Alberta has a variety of scholarships aimed at deserving international students. The most generous of these scholarships awards successful applicants CAD $120,000 over the period of their course (up to four years). Find full details here

Many more scholarships to study in Canada are available. You can find a list of many of them on our Scholarships page. 

5. Work and Study in Canada 

McGill University
McGill University

In contrast to the United States – where international students can only work under some circumstances (on-campus, curricular and optional practical training) – Canada has more favorable work-study policies for international students. As of November 15, 2022, international students are allowed to work more than 20 hours per week until December 31, 2023. Some universities offer co-op programs that allow international students to work at a company, gain valuable skills, use their knowledge, and get paid. You can learn more about these programs here: Top Canadian Universities that Give You an Edge.

Whether applying for a place in a Canadian university with the intent of supporting yourself or looking to become a successful applicant for a scholarship to study in Canada, we hope that we have provided you with everything you need to apply for universities in Canada. Make sure that you research your course and university thoroughly before applying, and the best of luck with your application! 

Author: Denisse Romero is an international consultant with experience in global education and communications. As a former international student, she provides advice and resources that help students in multiple countries achieve their educational and career goals. She holds a Master’s of Science from The George Washington University and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University.

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