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Applying to Graduate Programs in Canada

Tuesday | January 16, 2018 | by Abigail Byle

graduate programs in Canada

So, you know that you plan to go to graduate school and that you want to attend a program in North America, preferably Canada. What next? High-quality graduate programs are offered at nearly every university in Canada, and they are very competitive, especially for international students. The majority of Canadian universities are public, although there are also some private, religious universities that offer undergraduate and even graduate degree programs.  To be sure that you are admitted to the graduate program of your dreams, there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare your application.

Applying to graduate programs in Canada can be time-consuming and even expensive, especially if you apply to several schools. Do some research ahead of time, and select the schools and the specific graduate programs to which you apply carefully. Review the universities in Canada, either by your research interest, by location if it is important to be near family or friends or in a specific region, or even by researchers/advisors with whom you may want to work.

Once you have some universities selected, decide on the most appropriate graduate program for you and also confirm that you meet the minimum requirements for admission, which may vary by program, even at the same institution.

Also, each university might have a different name for a department or faculty, and you want to be sure that you are applying to the appropriate program, especially if there is a language barrier so that you do not waste time or money. Some universities will not transfer applications to other programs or refund money if you mistakenly apply to the wrong program or department. Hopefully, you are able to find some really great schools and programs that meet your needs.

Compiling a Successful Application Package

Now comes the difficult part. You need to put together a successful application package. Each graduate program will list the application deadline and requirements, usually on the department website. First, confirm the application deadline and start date for the program. Then, review the application requirements and start to assemble your documents as soon as possible. Working as a graduate admissions assistant, I saw too many applications in which there was no connection between the applicant’s education and research interest and the program to which he or she applied; those applications usually were not recommended for admission.

Graduate programs have limited space and limited funding, so be sure to show the selection committee what a great graduate student and researcher you are and what you will contribute to the program and department.

Tailor each application to the specific graduate program as much as possible by referencing the correct university and department, and, if possible, even a potential advisor or supervisor.

Some graduate programs may require you to indicate a potential advisor or even to have an advisor be willing to take you as a student, so you may need to choose and confirm an advisor before you have even started your program.

For example, to apply to Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, applicants must include a letter of support from their preferred advisor. However, even if finding an advisor is an extra step, this connection may increase your chances of admission to the program, especially if the advisor is excited about you and your research potential. Choose your preferred advisor wisely.

As for the application itself, most universities use an online application system, which allows you to upload your application documents and confirm if the application is complete yourself. Be sure to follow the instructions as best you can. Pay extra attention to the requirements for transcripts and/or degree certificates from your country, as these may differ by university, as well as to the equivalency tables for calculating your admission GPA if those are available.

Related Reading

E-Guide: Canadian Colleges and Universities

Final Tips

Remember that university staff and faculty are available to help you, so do not be afraid to contact them directly if you have any questions or concerns. Generally, it is best to contact the Graduate Chair for the department or the Graduate Program Assistant for help, but please be patient in waiting for a response. They receive inquiries from many applicants, and if you are impatient or impolite, they may remember you for the wrong reason.

With a little forethought, preparation, and hard work, you should be able to submit a successful application and you will be attending graduate school in Canada before you know it.

Further Reading

Studying in Canada: Resources and Links for Students

The CanadaVisa Study Hub: A New Online Portal for International Students and Graduates in Canada

Finding Canadian Education Programs and Scholarships

Abigail Byle is a Graduate Programs and Admissions Assistant for the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).