This is a do it yourself guide on how to apply for study in Canada.
Why Study in Canada
Canada – the second largest country in the world by land mass, only behind Russia, with a population density that runs at about 4 inhabitants per square kilometer (compared to India, with a whopping 416/km²!).
Canada boasts 96 universities scattered across its urban and regional areas, most of which are very welcoming to international students. One special aspect of Canada is that there are two national languages – that’s right, you probably already know: English in most of the western side and French in the eastern province of Quebec. If you want to broaden your horizons as either an ESL or FSL student, Canada is the place!
That is, if you don’t mind mortifying winters. As with anywhere on the globe, the people are reflections of their environment. From rugged mountain ranges of British Columbia to vast underground malls connected to subway stations, Canadians and international students alike embrace what is a burden on some as a source for purity, benevolence, and outstanding standards for higher education.
The Canadian people are known to be a very friendly bunch. Moreover, along with a plethora of incentives to study in Canada as an international, the country is constantly on the brink of social systems and technology, making it very accommodating to the open-minded nature of students studying abroad.
Canada’s main cities – Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal – are where you may first be aiming the darts if you are looking to study abroad in Canada. According to QS Best Student Cities 2018, Montréal is the 4th best student city in the world, with Toronto at 13th and Vancouver at 17th!
However, some of the country’s most internationally respected universities can be found in the regions in between. So depending on your field of study, your favored geography, and your level of tolerance to the cold, you may find it more pleasing to study outside of the three main cities.
QS World University Rankings 2021 places 26 out of Canada’s 96 universities on the list!
Here are the top 10:
- Queen’s University
- University of Calgary
- Western University
- University of Waterloo
- Université de Montréal
- McMaster University
- University of Alberta
- University of British Columbia
- McGill University
- University of Toronto
Canada wouldn’t be host to some 572,000 international students every year, if there wasn’t a wide range of courses to study – from Computer Science & IT to Media & Journalism, Agricultural Science & Forestry to Business & Finance. You are sure to find the right degree for you!
Canada is also home to over 150 colleges that offer short courses and diplomas. You may find one that works perfectly for your aspirations. While you would have to go through the same process of obtaining a student visa, you may save some money on overall tuition.
The Canadian school year generally commences in September, though some postgraduate programs begin sooner or later. Be sure to check!
A globally top-ranked public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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Popular Courses in Canada
Attaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Canada will give you the knowledge and qualifications necessary to pursue a career in your chosen field, or continue your studies for a Master’s/PhD.
The degree structure for undergraduate programs takes a more liberal approach in regards to the classes you are able to choose within your field of study. A certain amount of credits are given upon completion of each course.
The student has the option to choose from a number of courses offered in the department that he or she is studying in. This is different from, say, the degree structure in France, in which the institute decides which courses need to be taken each semester.
Competition is high to be accepted into most universities. If English is not your first language, you will need to take a proficiency test. Any evidence of secondary school achievements (GPA, volunteering, student clubs, etc.) will heighten your chances of acceptance!
Up until the last few years, Canada (and the US.) only accepted students with a 4 year Bachelor’s degree into their Master’s programs, while most countries offer Bachelor’s programs that can be completed within 3 years. But the demand of international students wishing to study in Canada has increased dramatically (11% since 2017), along with it universities now accepting 3 year Bachelor’s degrees as prerequisite for Master’s programs.
Most Master’s programs take 1-2 years to complete, and come in the form of a Master of Science (MSc) or a Master of Arts (MA). If you’d like to whittle down your postgraduate degree even more, you can also choose between a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Engineering (MEng), or Master of Fine Arts (MFA).
You’ll be looking at around CA$13,000-20,500 per year for a Master’s degree.
Canada has a wonderful Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) in place to further incentivize international students to obtain jobs after finishing grad school. 90% of those that stick around Canada after completing a postgraduate course are in the workforce within 6 months!
Want to take your postgraduate studies another step forward? Whether you have already completed your Master’s degree elsewhere, or you are currently chipping away, finding the right PhD program in Canada will come with a wealth of benefits.
Again, Canada’s tuition fees for international students pursuing a Doctorate is more attractive than its North American neighbor to the south, as well as Australia and the UK. Some Canadian universities are reducing or even obliterating extra fees for internationals in their Doctoral programs.
There are currently close to 200,000 international students taking on their PhDs in Canada, which can take anywhere from three to six years to complete.
Upon completion of your PhD, you are entitled to a 3 year work permit, which could eventually lead to permanent residence or citizenship.
Postdoctoral fellows (PDFs), otherwise known as postdoctoral researchers, are those that choose to remain in academia after completing their PhDs. Most universities have their own internal fellowships, but there are also many outside agencies that can help place PDFs with organizations or institutions.
Top Scholarships to Apply for in Canada
- David Johnston – Lebovic Foundation International Experience Awards in Canada
- Ubakata Fund for Japanese Students at the University of Toronto in Canada, 2021
- President’s funding for World Leaders for International Students in Canada, 2021
- University Entrance Scholarship at Concordia University of Edmonton, Canada, 2021
- International Undergraduate Student Bursary at the University of Alberta in Canada, 2021
- General Bursary Program at the University of British Columbia in Canada, 2021
- TSoM Love Canada Diploma Scholarships for International Students in Canada, 2021
- VISTA Postdoctoral Fellowships at York University in Canada
- merit awards for International Students at CEGEP in Canada
- ESL Graduate Bursary for International Students at University of Saskatchewan, 2021
International Student and Exchanges
Studying abroad is not only cost effective (you will continue paying your home country’s tuition), it is also an opportunity to see the world without making such a big investment. What if you decided to do all 4 years at a Canadian university and decided it was too cold? The people are too nice?
Your current or future university in your home country may have exclusive partnerships with universities in Canada. Queen’s University offers 220 exchange partnerships in over 40 countries. University of Victoria has over 300 partnerships worldwide.
If you haven’t already figured it out, studying in Canada as an international student is generally much less expensive than studying in the UK, US, and Australia!
Costs vary widely based on the institution, but generally, you will be paying CA$20,000-30,000/year for undergraduate programs. Postgraduate programs tend to run a little lower (around CA$16,000/year), while executive MBA programs are usually more (CA$30,000/year).
Living costs vary greatly, mainly depending on your spending habits and if you are in a big city. You are required to have at least CA$10,000/year put away for living costs to obtain a student visa, though most universities recommend having closer to CA$15,000.
It’s always good to have a little bit extra money budgeted for any unexpected costs, such as winter-wear and supplies.
Another huge plus for studying in Canada is that some provinces offer some form of health insurance for free to international students! The important thing to check here would be what exactly the health insurance covers, as this varies significantly between provinces.
If you will be studying in a province that does not provide free health insurance, you will need to make your own arrangements while applying for you student visa.
Be aware also that whether you purchase health insurance or apply for the free health insurance that timing is very important! Some coverage is not applicable as soon as you touch down in Canada. Be sure to check this out in your research.
Funding to Study in Canada
Although the course fees for international students may seem like pocket money compared to other countries, paying for higher education can still be very difficult. Unless you have a money tree in your backyard, you’ll likely be applying for programmes to help cut some of the cost.
Universities in Canada offer a broad range of their own scholarships, ranging from academic and athletic achievements to more specific individual fields of studies. It is also a good idea to thoroughly research organizations in your home country that are offering study-abroad scholarships.
As with any money-grab, competition is generally quite high. Find your ways to stand out and apply as early and to as many as possible.
Here is a list of the Top 10 Scholarships in Canada for International Students.
Although the application for a student visa requires you to prove that you’ll have sufficient funds for the duration of your studies WITHOUT work, getting a job on or off campus is an excellent way to supplement some of your spending money. As a full-time student in Canada, you are entitled to work 20 hours/week during semesters and full time during winter/summer breaks. Wow!
You can study in Canada up to 6 months without a student visa. However, if you wanted to work, you would need to have the proper permit to do so.
The following documents are required to apply for a study permit:
- Proof of Acceptance – the acceptance letter you received from your university.
- Proof of Identity – a valid passport will serve this purpose.
- Proof of Sufficient Funds – CA$10,000/year + $833 for each additional month.
The application costs CA$150, and the process is substantially less of a headache than most other countries.
Providing a letter of explanation is also a good idea. This could hasten your approval, as it will help the visa officer understand your aspirations and responsibilities as a foreigner in Canada.
If you’ve already been accepted into a Canadian university, start the application process here.
How to Apply to Study in Canada
Applications vary depending on the institution, but generally you will need to prove your language proficiency, provide transcripts from previous education, prove financial stability, and medical coverage. Ensuring you meet all the requirements for the institution you wish to apply to is a key step in saving trouble in the future.
When applying for most universities, you will need to choose your major. If you are unsure exactly what this may be, don’t fret. Canadian universities are generally quite flexible with changing majors later.
Designated Learning Institutes are schools that are approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. Be doubly sure you are applying to a school that is on this list.
You should apply no later than March if you wish to begin studying in September. Some universities have different deadlines, so be sure to research the universities you wish to apply for!
Since Canada is a bilingual country, courses at Canadian universities will be taught in either English or French.
Even if you are a native English or French speaker, you’ll need to take a language proficiency test. If you are applying for an English speaking university, IELTS is accepted by all. For French, TEF is the most commonly used and accepted.
Fees are generally around $100.
Comparison to UK Qualifications
As stated before, tuition cost is much less in Canada. Cost of living is a little bit less as well.
Though cost is a very important factor for most people in determining which university to study at, what it really gets down to is up to you. There are many universities in Canada and the UK that are internationally respected. Find the one that is right for your situation.
While the UK still has more universities in the QS World University Rankings 2021, Canada is quickly overtaking the UK as the most desired country for international students to study in.