Applying to grad school in Canada is a great move for your future! Canadian grad schools are competitive, usually receiving applications from more prospective students than they can accept. Programs have limited enrolment, and admissions committees use both objective and subjective elements of the application process to determine which students are most likely to succeed at--and make positive contributions to--the institution.
How to apply
Step 1: find out what's required
Each grad school sets its own minimum admission requirements for all applicants, and the Graduate Studies office at a university is therefore a good place to start. Additionally, many grad schools in Canada will ask prospective international students to contact the individual program department they hope to apply to for information on program-specific admission requirements. Admission requirements for international students and recognition of foreign academic credentials may depend on the country from which you are applying. Some grad school websites list international student requirements by country.
Generally, applications to grad schools in Canada require a completed application form, official university transcript, any relevant test scores including language tests, a personal letter of intent detailing your academic and professional background and goals, a list of referees (people who the school can contact for references about you) and, possibly, reference letters from them. With regard to your referees, be sure to ask permission before using their names, and give them as much information as possible about the application(s) you are submitting.
In terms of English or French proficiency, individual graduate programs may set higher language proficiency requirements than those listed in the general graduate studies admission requirements.
Students who meet all academic requirements, but do not meet the minimum language requirements may be eligible for conditional admission. Some programs may also require specific program-specific entrance tests (such as the LSAT for law schools and GMAT for business schools).
Note that many of the standardized tests required by grad schools in the US (like the GRE) are not required by grad schools in Canada. Be sure to check with the specific program department you are applying to.
Step 2: know when to apply
Most Canadian grad school application deadlines are in the late winter/ early spring (anywhere between January and March, depending on the school), and university students are encouraged to begin their inquiries to grad schools and external scholarship sources at the beginning of the fall term of their final undergraduate year. Please be aware: many graduate programs in Canada have earlier application deadlines for international students. Be sure to check the deadlines for the program you wish to apply to.
If your program requires a test, be sure you know when the sittings are so that the scores will be ready for the application deadline. For example, many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall.
Step 3: submit your application
In most cases you can download applications directly off the website of the university you wish to apply to. Some grad school applications in Canada are submitted entirely online, with additional documentation (as required) forwarded directly to the program(s) you have applied to. If you cannot apply online, you can request an information package or paper application from the program you are interested in. Be sure to leave plenty of time for the postal service to get application materials to and from wherever you are.
No application will be considered until it is complete. The responsibility rests with the applicant to ensure that all documents (e.g., transcripts, letters of recommendation, test results or scores) are submitted by the program's deadline for application.
When you make an application to grad schools in Canada, you are required to pay an application fee. For online applications, the fee must be paid with a credit card. If you do not have access to a credit card then please contact the program(s) to request a paper application package. For paper application, the fee may be paid in Canadian dollars by cheque, money order or bank draft (make sure you know to whom it should be payable). The application fee may be waived for international applicants whose citizenship and address is located in one of the world's 50 least developed countries, as declared by the United Nations.
It is extremely important that your grad school application be complete, as informative as possible and free from errors. Fill in all forms neatly and thoughtfully; read all instructions carefully. It is a good idea to have someone read over your application and check for errors before you send it.