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Applying in Canada
In Canada, there is a very real distinction between a university and a college. Institutions granting bachelors and advanced degrees are Universities. Colleges tend to focus on vocational and technical training. To make it just a little more confusing, a school within a Canadian university (such as arts, science, or commerce) is called a faculty or a college, similar to the system in US and UK universities.

Many universities offer what is called a Coop programme; in this students also spend a substantial amount of their time gaining practical (often paid) work experience. There are a few liberal arts like programmes offered. You find these at Quest University, Bishops University, Mount Allison, Acadia and St. Francis Xavier. Canadian universities actively welcome international students, with most students hearing about acceptance or denial in March and April.

Each university in Canada has a general minimum admission standard based on Canadian grading standards. These minimum GPA and course requirements vary from faculty to faculty. If you are interested in being admitted to an engineering program, you may read you’re required to earn a particular grade in specific courses like science and Pre-Calculus. If you’re looking at Canada, it’s important to look at the university’s website to understand application requirements, such as IB points and English proficiency. Check the university’s website, speakwith your counselor, and talk to visiting Canadian university representatives.

Regional Variations

Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories and each one runs its own education system. Quebec is proudly bilingual and, although McGill University is English language, a good knowledge of French or a willingness to learn will be an asset in the vibrant city of Montreal. Universities in Ontario use a centralized application process, called Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC). Students submit a single application to OUAC, which is then forwarded to students’ chosen universities. The OUAC application should be filed by the end of November in order to ensure it reaches the university in plenty of time for them to request supporting documentation. As an international student, you can apply to some universities (i.e University of Toronto) directly.

In other provinces, students apply directly to the university. After applying, each university will send an email or acknowledging receipt of your application and requesting transcripts and other documents. That letter will contain your personal student number. Be sure to provide this number to the counselling office, because it should be written on any documents to ensure these important items are filed correctly. It may be necessary to send transcript updates at the beginning of fourth term and, in some cases, after graduation, so be sure to keep your grades up throughout your last year and us informed about what needs to be send.

As the Education system is arranged by provinces, and except for Ontario this means that students need to apply to each university separately. So it is important to know what deadlines the different universities have and what documents are required. In addition to the university application, there might be additional applications for scholarships, and housing. It is well worth keeping copies of your application form, essays and other documents in case they go astray.


All universities will ask you to fill out their application form. Make sure to enter the information correct and truthfully. Be as precise as you can. Often you are asked to select your first and second (sometimes) third subject choice. In other universities you might be applying more generally to the School of Arts and Sciences and choose your programme later. It is possible to combine subjects too, for this it is important to check the universities website. As said it is essential that you know any subject specific requirements for the programmes you apply for and that you fulfil these.


There are usually application fees to be paid individually to each Canadian university at the point of application. There is NO fee waiver for Canadian University applications fees.


Most universities base their decision purely on your application form and transcripts. However the following need more information especially from international students (subject to change):

UBC: Transcripts and Testimonial

U of Toronto: Transcripts and Testimonial

Simon Fraser U: Transcripts, Testimonial, Copy of passport

McGill: Transcripts, Testimonial, Reference from Faculty Member


Normally Canadian Universities do not ask for an essay or personal statement. However, for certain universities or specific programmes they might ask for it. Read and follow the instructions given.



In order to receive a testimonial you should ask your counselor. Many universities have additional forms that need to be sent with the reference and/or transcripts. Please make sure to pass this form on to your counselor with plenty of time before the university application deadline to avoid delays.


A Teacher Reference is a personal letter of recommendation from an academic member of staff. Some institutions will require two and very occasional three. We do not advise you assign more teachers than required (max of 2). Choose the teachers who write letters of recommendation for you carefully. Since those letters are another way for the colleges to get to know you better, they should come from teachers who know you well. Don’t forget that some of the subjects which challenged you the most may provide an even more meaningful letter than the ones from whom you got easy marks!

Once you have decided which teachers you would like to write references for you, ask those teachers (in person) if they are willing to do so. Leave them at least a few weeks before the deadline to complete this.


All universities will require a transcript (in English) of your grades from your previous school for the last four years, and if applicable, details of your GCSE or equivalent examination grades.
Some Universities might also require a Mid-Year Report showing all grades up to February of your last school year as this shows progression. The university you finally want to attend needs to also receive your Final Transcript which includes your final IB grades.


No SATs are required for applying to Canadian universities.


Some universities will require TOEFL or IELTS; other institutions might waive this requirement if you are taking the right English course in the IB with their required predicted points. Universities will require official score reports sent by the testing authority. For more information on how to send scores please check online:



It is your responsibility to understand these test, prepare for them, register and take these tests in due time.


Please remember that it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that your application, together with all additional documents arrive at your chosen universities by their deadlines. Make sure youknow the deadlines and meet them, in fact get it submitted EARLY before the deadline. The majority of deadlines are in January and February. However, there are some universities with earlier deadlines for scholarships such as U of Toronto or UBC.


The tuition costs and living expenses in Canada vary widely between universities. Because the costs are often listed depending on which courses you take during the year it is not always easy to see exactly how much it will cost. Most international fees start at about CA$15,000 (£9,300) per year. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) has a useful website illustrating the costs at different universities across the country.Living expenses can vary quite a bit from one part of Canada to another. Big cities like Toronto or Vancouver tend to be more expensive than more rural university campuses. Therefore, it is important that when you decide which university or college to attend, you are absolutely certain that you can pay the full cost of your tuition fees AND the cost of living.