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5 Steps to Successfully Apply to a Canadian University

Saturday | March 22, 2014 | by Dan Seneker

Grant Hall building on campus of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

When speaking with international students who had recently applied to a Canadian university, the most common words they said were, “I can’t believe how straightforward and easy the process was” or “That’s it?!” And it’s all true. Applying to Canadian universities is extremely straightforward and the entire application process will take you under an hour to complete. The hardest part might be making up a username and password!

At this point I will add my typical disclaimer: There are more than 100 universities in Canada and each one of them is different. Although the information presented is what is “typical” for most institutions, there are institutions and programs that have varied processes, so it is best to examine the application process for each institution you’re interested in applying to and only use this information as a general starting point.

Here are the five key steps to successfully applying to a Canadian University:

1. Check the application requirements for each school.

Education in Canada is the responsibility of our individual provinces, and because of this, we do not have a central clearing house like UCAS in the UK or the Common App in the U.S. When applying to universities in Canada, generally, you will be applying to each institution individually. There are exceptions though, such as the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) where you can apply to multiple universities on one single application. There are other provinces that have variations of the OUAC system, but for the most part you will be applying to universities individually.

2. Apply online.

Applications can be found and completed entirely online. As previously mentioned, the entire application should take you no longer than an hour to complete (probably closer to 30 minutes). Most applications require only your biographical information, educational history, and information such as your intended program of interest and start date. Typically, there are no supplementary information requirements such as letters of reference, essays, or test scores. Again, there are exceptions to this so please check with each university.

3. Check each school’s application deadline.

Canadian university application deadlines are typically later than in other countries. Most applications do not open until October of your senior high school year and deadlines range anywhere from January to June. Some universities also have multiple start dates to accommodate students studying in various countries or curricula. The “typical” start date is September of each year but some universities have January or even May start dates so there are many options for students.

4. Check each school’s application process.

Many Canadian university programs operate on a “rolling admission” process, meaning that once we receive your application and transcripts, we can evaluate you and make an admissions decision. Sometimes, from a complete application to the point of admission, an admission decision can be made in about one week! There are “competitive admission” programs as well which will not evaluate applications until after an application deadline has passed, so make sure you understand what the application process is for your program of interest.

5. Know what final requirements you need to enroll.

Canadian universities will typically offer you a “conditional offer of admission.” What this means is that they’re admitting you to the program you applied for (or an alternate program if you aren’t qualified for your preferred program), but there are certain conditions that you still have to meet to obtain full admission. These conditions usually include maintaining your academic average and successfully completing and graduating your high school program. Be sure to read your admission offer letter carefully as there could be other conditions that aren’t as obvious. International students can also use these Conditional Letters of Admission to start the application process for a study permit. All non-Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents are required to have a valid study permit to pursue studies that are longer than four months in length. For more information on study permits, please visit Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Pursuing your studies in Canada is a great opportunity. One of the biggest benefits of studying in Canada is that nearly 95 percent of our universities are publicly funded and adhere to similar accreditation standards. That means you’ll receive a high level of quality no matter which university you choose. The reputation of a Canadian education is highly regarded around the world and a degree from one of our institutions enables students to seek further education, employment, or other opportunities globally. You really can’t go wrong with any Canadian university!

Dan Seneker is Manager of Student Recruitment at the University of Saskatchewan.