Choosing a grad school in Canada is an important decision for your future. While international travel and study abroad are always rewarding, you still want to choose your grad school carefully to make sure you get the education you want. There are several key academic and personal factors to consider when choosing a grad school in Canada; making a check sheet of the individual categories below for each grad school can help you compare schools according to the aspects that matter most to you.
Aspects to consider when choosing a grad school in Canada:
Credentials offered: Consider thesis- and non-thesis based master's degrees, doctoral degrees, graduate diplomas or graduate certificates: consider duration and program specializations.
Programs offered: Is there a grad program offered in the area that interests you? Consider the courses available, instructor credentials, specialized facilities, faculty publications in peer-reviewed journals, etc.
Potential supervisors: Is there at least one expert in the field on staff that you would like to work with?
Facilities: Grad programs in Canada are research-intensive, so find out what the library is like. For example, how comprehensive are the holdings in your field? What are their interlibrary loan policies? Consider also what kinds of specialized equipment, labs, etc., the school might have that are important to your area of study.
Opportunities: Are there opportunities for grad students to participate in local, national and international competitions? to collaborate with professors on research and journal publications? Often, a school will mention these kinds of opportunities on its website.
Academic and language requirements: Consider what previous university study and GPA are required, which language tests scores they accept, and what level of language proficiency is expected.
Location: Consider the climate and setting, as well as the benefits versus challenges of small towns, medium sized cities, and large metropolises.
Size and culture: It's important to know what learning environment best suits your personality. Part of your grad school choice may be based on whether the school offers a more personal atmosphere or a large, bustling campus. In terms of an institution's "culture," you should consider an institution's religious affiliation, program focus (for instance liberal arts, technology, theology, etc.).
Cost: Consider basic living expenses, tuition fees and the cost of books and other supplies. Find out what kinds of teaching or research assistantships are available and how many hours a week might be involved.
Scholarships and awards/ financial aid: Are there specific scholarships, awards or loans for international students that you qualify for? How helpful is the grad school's financial aid office?
Housing options: Consider on-campus residence or dormitories, off-campus apartment rental and homestay.
Quality/ accreditation: Look for accreditation at both the institutional and program levels.
Extracurricular activities: Consider graduate student associations, clubs, sports, competitions, campus and community activities, etc.
Support for international students: Look for an international student centre, specialized tutorial services, language support programs, etc.
Rankings: Consider national and international rankings as well as "unofficial" student reviews.
Other international students' experiences: The grad school or other online resources can help you connect with other international students who have attended the institution and are willing to share their experience and advice.
Your gut feeling: In addition to weighing the intellectual pros and cons and costs of each grad school in Canada, listen to your intuition or instinct and how you feel about a school. After all, it's your education, your future.