With its world-class universities and colleges, welcoming environment, and diverse culture, Canada is an ideal study destination for aspiring international students. In this ultimate guide, we will provide all the information you need to know about studying in Canada.
One of the most significant advantages of choosing Canada as your study destination is the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, allowing you to prepare adequately for your future career. Universities here are known for their academic excellence, rigorous standards, and highly qualified faculty.
Additionally, Canada offers diverse academic institutions, from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities, letting you choose the ideal institution for your academic goals and interest. Finally, Canada offers international students the opportunity to work while studying and later apply for permanent residency.
So, why wait? Read on to discover everything you need to know about studying in Canada and take the first step towards an exciting and incredibly fulfilling academic journey.
How to Plan for Your Studies in Canada
Planning for your studies abroad can be a daunting task. To help you out, here are some details you’ll need to prepare for your studies in Canada.
Education System in Canada
The education system in Canada is divided into three levels: elementary, secondary, and post-secondary. Post-secondary education in Canada consists of universities, community colleges, and career and technical institutes. Here are the major differences between these three:
- Universities: Undergraduate, postgraduate, and professional degrees, as well as certificates and diplomas
- Community Colleges: Associate and undergraduate degrees, postgraduate diplomas, as well as certificates and diplomas
- Career and Technical Institutes: Technical training certificates and diplomas
If you’re looking to get your undergraduate or graduate degree, a Canadian university is your best option.
A university year in Canada starts in September and ends in April or May and usually has 2 semesters or terms. While some institutions offer programs during the 3rd semester, usually during the summer months, students can typically start their studies in September for the Fall semester or January for the Winter semester. Most universities offer the Fall intake for international students admission.
Choosing a University in Canada
Canada is home to over 100 public and private universities, and when choosing one, it’s crucial to consider factors such as location, size, and available programs. You might also want to check the most popular universities in Canada for international students, as you can be sure these institutions provide excellent support to international students.
To give you an idea, some of the top universities in Canada are the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia.
Check out our list to learn more about the Best Universities in Canada for International Students.
Choosing a Study Program in Canada
Choosing the right program is also crucial, and some of the things you should consider are your career goals, interests, and strengths. It’s also helpful to explore the most popular subjects to study in Canada, such as Business, Public Health, and Agricultural Science.
Along with your program, plan your studies based on the degree level you’re pursuing. After all, degree programs in Canadian universities have different study duration and involve varying workloads.
Here’s what you can expect from various study levels:
- Bachelor’s degrees: usually take 3 to 4 years to complete and are typically more theoretical in nature than community college programs
- Master’s degrees: can take 1 to 2 years to complete, and, depending on the program, requires completing a research thesis
- Ph.D. programs: can take 4 to 8 years to complete and often involve completing course work and a dissertation
Ultimately, the key to choosing the right program is to find one that aligns with your interests and career goals.
So, take all the time to research your options, talk to career advisors in your school, and consider factors, such as location and available resources. You can also check online rankings, forums, and education fairs to help you make an informed decision.
How to Finance Your Education in Canada
In this section, you’ll find details about the expenses associated with studying in Canada, such as tuition fees, cost of living, and financial aid and scholarships available for international students.
Tuition Fees in Canada
Tuition fees in Canada heavily depend on the university, the degree level you’re pursuing, and the program of study. It’s also noteworthy that tuition fees for international students are higher than for Canadian students.
Undergraduate programs for international students typically cost between CAD 20,000 and CAD 30,000 annually. Graduate programs, meanwhile, cost between CAD 15,000 to CAD 30,000 per year. Note that professional programs like Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, and Dentistry, have higher tuition rates. Some of the affordable programs in Canada include Sociology, History, and Economics.
When it comes to choosing a university, tuition fees are undoubtedly an important consideration. Fortunately, there are affordable universities in Canada to choose from, such as the Newfoundland and Labrador University, the University of Manitoba, and the University of New Brunswick.
Cost of Living in Canada
Studying and living in Canada can be expensive and international students need to budget for a variety of expenses besides tuition fees. It’s also important to know that the cost of living varies depending on the Canadian city and your lifestyle.
On average, international students spend between CAD 10,000 to CAD 15,000 annually on accommodation, food, transportation, books, and other expenses. Accommodation typically takes the biggest chunk off a student’s budget, at around CAD 1,000 per month. It’s why you should check out all your housing options to lessen your expenses.
Here are some of the accommodation types for international students in Canada
- Student residence on campus or near the campus, such as dormitories and townhouses
- Off-campus shared condo or apartment
- Homestay or host family
- Apartment rentals
Once you have your housing sorted, it’s more manageable to deal with other expenses such as transportation (around CAD 100 per month), food (CAD 30 per day), books (CAD 500 to CAD 1000 per semester), and other expenses.
Health insurance is also mandatory for international students in Canada and the healthcare cost varies depending on the province and the length of your stay. To give you an idea, health insurance for international students costs between CAD 600 to CAD 800 annually.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Canada
With the help of financial aid and scholarships, you’ll be able to offset the costs of studying and living in Canada. Many universities and colleges offer scholarships and bursaries to international students based on academic merit, financial need, or a combination of both.
For example, the University of Calgary International Entrance Scholarship offers $20,000 annual awards for incoming international students who are able to meet the university’s English Language Proficiency requirement.
In addition, there are several government-funded scholarships available, such as the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Ontario Trillium Scholarships for doctoral students.
There are also fully-funded or full-tuition scholarships available to international students, such as the Concordia Presidential Scholarship at Concordia University. The Lester B. Pearson International Scholarship at the University of Toronto also covers full tuition, books, incidental fees, and living expenses for 4 years of study.
To apply for scholarships in Canada, you might need to submit a separate application along with your admission application. Some of the application requirements universities will request are
- Academic transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal Statement
Besides the requirements, it’s important to research the deadlines well in advance and to follow the application instructions.
To help you out, check out our scholarship database to learn more about available scholarships in Canada for international students and how to apply to each.
By exploring all your options and carefully preparing your application, you’ll increase your chances of receiving financial support for your academic journey in Canada.
How to Apply to Canadian Universities
Understanding the admission requirements and application process is crucial for all aspiring international students in Canadian universities. The exact requirements may vary depending on the institution and the study program, but here are some general guidelines to help you get started.
To be considered for admission to a Canadian university, international students typically need to have completed a certain level of education and meet specific academic qualifications.
To study a bachelor’s program in Canada, you’ll need to submit your high school diploma or equivalent, and meet a certain grade requirement. For graduate studies, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a related field.
In addition to academic qualifications, Canadian universities may also require you to submit proof of language proficiency. This may include test results from Cambridge Assessment English (CAE), Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL), TOEFL, or IELTS. In some universities and depending on your chosen program, you might also need to provide proof of French proficiency, such as your DELF/DALF score or TCF.
To apply for admission to a Canadian university, you’ll need to submit documents along with your application. These may include:
- Transcripts from your previous academic institutions
- Proof of language proficiency
- Recommendation Letters
- Personal statement or essay
- CV or resume
Depending on your chosen study program, you might also need to provide additional documentation, such as a portfolio of work or evidence of relevant experience.
Application deadlines for universities in Canada can vary depending on the institution and study program. Generally, however, most universities have application deadlines in the fall or winter for programs starting the following fall.
It’s advisable for international students to apply 8 to 12 months in advance or as soon as the application opens. For universities with rolling admissions, students may apply throughout the year.
General Admission Steps
Here are some general steps that most applicants in Canadian universities follow:
- Research and select potential universities and programs.
- Meet the admission requirements, including academic qualifications and language proficiency.
- Gather the required documents and submit them along with your application.
- Pay the application fee.
- Wait for a decision on your application.
- Accept the offer of admission and prepare for your studies.
To further prepare for your admission, make sure to check out our posts on how to study bachelor’s and master’s in Canada.
How to Obtain a Student Visa in Canada
As an international student planning to study in Canada, check if you’ll need a student visa or study permit. Here is some information you might need to apply for it:
- Letter of acceptance from a Canadian university or college
- Proof of financial support
- Valid passport or travel document
- Passport-sized photograph
- Proof of language proficiency, if applicable
- Completed application form
To apply for a student visa in Canada, here are the steps to follow:
- Get a letter of acceptance from a Canadian university or college.
- Gather the required documents.
- Complete the application form and pay the CAD 150 application fee.
- Submit your application and supporting documents to the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate.
- Wait for a decision and receive the letter of introduction and temporary resident visa.
- Once in Canada, present the letter of introduction to the border services officer to get your study permit.
Note that student visa processing time varies depending on your country of origin, so make sure to apply well in advance of your start date at the university.
Check out our step-by-step guide to learn more about applying for a Canadian student permit.
How to Prepare for Your Arrival in Canada
Studying in Canada is an exciting opportunity, but it’s crucial to plan ahead to ensure a smooth transition. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your arrival in Canada:
Canadian universities and colleges usually offer on-campus housing options, which can be a convenient and affordable choice for international students. In case on-campus housing isn’t available, you can research off-campus options, such as apartments and homestays. Before making a decision, research your target location and read reviews from other international students.
When packing for your trip to Canada, be sure to bring essentials, like warm clothing, comfortable shoes, and any necessary medications. You might also want to bring items that remind you of home, such as photos or small decorations.
Many universities offer airport pick-up services for international students, so check this option first. Alternatively, you can arrange for a taxi or other transportation service.
Cultural Differences to Expect
Canada is a diverse and multicultural country, so it’s important to be open-minded and respectful of different traditions and customs. Some of the cultural differences you may encounter here are
- Politeness: Canadians are known for their polite and friendly demeanor, so be prepared for lots of “please” and “thank you!”
- Food: Canadian cuisine is diverse and influenced by various cultures, so be sure to try traditional dishes, such as poutine, split pea soup, Pouding chômeur, and Tourtière.
- Festivals: Canada is home to many festivals throughout the year, including the Toronto Film Festival, the Calgary Stampede, Montreal Jazz Festival, and the Winterlude.
Tips on Adjusting to Life in Canada
Adjusting to life in a new country can be challenging, but there are several things you can do to make this transition easier:
- Get Involved: Joining clubs or organizations on campus is an excellent way to meet new people and get involved in the community.
- Explore: Canada is a stunning country with many natural wonders to explore. Take advantage of your time in Canada to visit national parks, lakes, and other attractions.
- Stay connected: Keep in touch with your family and friends back home, and consider making new connections on social media and online forums for international students.
With careful planning and an open mind, you can make the most of your study abroad experience in Canada.
How to Study and Live in Canada
As an international student in Canada, you might face difficulties such as adjusting to a new culture and managing costs. Here are common challenges of international students in Canada and our tips to overcome those:
Challenge 1: Language Barrier
While many Canadian institutions offer programs in English and French, if you’re not a native speaker, you may struggle to keep up with lectures and assignments. Additionally, you may encounter challenges communicating with professors and classmates, which can make it harder to form relationships and get the help you need.
Our advice? Take advantage of language support services on campus. For example, the University of Waterloo offers the Conversation Partner Program, which allows international students to pair up with volunteers and practice conversational English outside the classroom.
Challenge 2: Homesickness
Homesickness is a common challenge for international students, especially if you’re far away from family and friends. To overcome this, make sure to stay connected to your loved ones back home. Take advantage of technology, such as video calls or messaging apps. You can also make new connections on campus by joining organizations or seeking out a mentor or support group.
Challenge 3: Financial Challenges
Studying in Canada can be a financial struggle, and international students typically face issues when it comes to managing the costs of tuition and other living expenses. To overcome this, it’s crucial to plan for your studies ahead and research your funding options.
Make sure to apply for scholarships and bursaries, and consider working part-time. International students in Canada can work up to 20 hours per week on or off campus. If you’re looking for off-campus jobs, check first if your student permit allows it.
Can You Work in Canada After Graduation?
After completing your studies in Canada, you might be wondering if you can stay and work in the country. After all, Canada offers several work opportunities for international students after graduation.
To work in Canada after your graduation, apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This allows you to work in Canada for up to 3 years. The length of the permit depends on the length of your study program, with a maximum of 3 years for programs that are 2 years or longer.
What’s great about having a PGWP is that you can work for any employer in Canada in any industry or occupation. Additionally, this can provide you with valuable work experience and the potential to transition to permanent residency.
To be eligible for a PGWP, you’ll need to have completed a full-time study program at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada. Moreover, the program must have been 8 months long at least, and you must have graduated from a diploma, degree, or certificate program.
You’ll also need to have a valid study permit when you apply for a PGWP and your application must be submitted within 180 days of receiving the official notification of your program completion. There’s also a processing fee of CAD 255.
Once your PGWP expires, you might be eligible to apply for a work visa to keep working in Canada.
Studying in Canada offers you a unique opportunity to broaden your horizons, gain valuable experience, and achieve your academic and professional goals. By carefully planning ahead, researching your options, and taking advantage of the resources available, you can make the most of your study abroad experience in Canada. So, why not consider studying in Canada today and embark on a journey of a lifetime?