What is a community college? How is it different from university or career college?
Community colleges in Alberta are government-regulated post-secondary institutions offering 1- to 2-year academic and pre-professional certificates and diplomas, 2-year associate's degrees, 4-year applied degrees and 3- to 4-year specialized bachelor's degrees. Community colleges differ from universities in their smaller class size and focus on a combination of academic and industry-centred programs and co-op/internship opportunities. Academics at community colleges are generally more comprehensive than at job-focused career colleges, and community colleges offer specific university transfer programs that allow students to transfer college credits toward university programs.
What kinds of programs and credentials do community colleges in Alberta offer? How long will they take?
Community colleges in Alberta offer 3- and 4-year specialized and applied bachelor degrees, 2-year associate's degrees, 1- to 2-year diplomas, and certificates that run from 12 weeks to 1 year. The length of your study depends on the credential you take and whether you take it on a full- or part-time basis, or online.
What is an applied degree?
The 4-year applied degree credential was developed to meet the labour market demand for employees with more than just 2 years of diploma or associate's degree study. Applied degrees are specialized bachelor's degrees and are referred to as, for example, Bachelor of Applied Business or Bachelor of Applied Arts. The difference between a general bachelor's degree and an applied degree is that the applied degree focuses on advanced study in career or technical fields. For instance, you can take a Bachelor of Applied Arts in interior design, criminal justice, film and media production, and other areas that lead to direct employment. Applied degree programs normally include six semesters of instruction and two semesters of work experience.
Do I need to speak both English and French to attend community college in Alberta?
No. While French and English are both official languages in Canada, most community colleges offer programs in only one language of instruction (that is, English).
Do community colleges offer online or distance programs?
Often, yes, but not always. Community colleges aim to make learning accessible to as many students in as many communities as possible, including remote and northern communities. Therefore, many community colleges in Alberta do offer online programs. Check with the college you are interested in.
Will there be other international students at community college in Alberta?
Generally, yes. Different community colleges in Alberta have different international enrolment numbers: some have thousands, while others may have only tens. Some community colleges have specific exchange programs for students from particular countries, in which case the international enrolment will be higher.
Are community colleges less expensive for international students than universities?
Both universities and community colleges in Alberta charge special international student tuition. Tuition and other fees vary from school to school, but on average community colleges charge less for international tuition than universities.
How big are the classes at community colleges?
This depends on the school and the program. Some community college programs have extremely limited enrolment, while others accept more students. Unlike universities, which can end up with classes of several thousand students, most community colleges in Alberta have a cap on class size, with classes averaging between 20 and 45 students.
What if the program I want to apply to is full? What is a "waitlist"?
Because community colleges often have limited class sizes, a program may have more applicants than spaces available. Often, a community college's website will indicate which programs are still open. If a program you have applied for is full, you may be placed on a waitlist, which means that if a seat becomes available at a later date (if a student drops out or decides not to attend), you will be contacted. Waitlists may not carry over to the next academic year, so if you are not offered a seat in the year for which you applied, put in a new application early for the next academic year.
What housing options do community colleges in Alberta offer for international students?
Some community colleges have on-campus residences or dormitories, while smaller schools do not have on-campus housing. Community colleges accepting international students usually have people to help organize a homestay or other off-campus housing.
Is financial aid available for international students to study at community college in Alberta?
Yes, but not always from the school itself. Many community colleges offer internally and externally administered scholarships for incoming international students. Criteria may include academic success, artistic merit, athletic excellence, community involvement, references from instructors, or financial need. Scholarship and award programs are also administered by the federal government, provincial governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some community groups in the college's city or town. Bursaries are also sometimes available for international students who demonstrate financial need and reasonable academic standing.
How do I get my transcripts and other documents translated?
The community college's admissions office can inform you about the requirements for translation and authentication of your documents. You can also consult one of Canada's foreign credential evaluation service offices for advice on translation requirements, for example World Education Services (WES).
How do I know if my credentials will be accepted at a community college in Alberta?
Community colleges in Alberta each set their own admission requirements; therefore, you should contact the registrar or admissions office at each college to find out what they require in terms of assessing foreign credentials. Many community colleges have a special website section of information specific to international students. You can also consult one of Canada's credential assessment and qualification recognition services. For a fee, these offices provide an evaluation that shows you how your credentials compare with Canadian credentials. The purpose is informative only and does not guarantee recognition of your credentials.
Can I transfer my community college credits to a university in Canada? In my home country?
Most community colleges in Alberta have transfer agreements with various universities within the province and sometimes elsewhere in Canada. Credit transfer between institutions within the province is usually possible, bit it depends on the program. In terms of transferring credits to a university in your home country, it depends on your home country. Canadian credentials are often accepted and recognized around the world; however, you should still ask about recognition of Canadian community college credits and credentials in your country of origin.
What are the benefits of community college for international students?
Community colleges offer affordable tuition fees, the option of taking a degree or transferring credit toward a university program, small classes, a safe and close community environment, programs partly designed by industry leaders, bridging programs to help you meet institution and program requirements, employment training and work opportunities, industry connections, and extensive language and personal support for international students. Many community colleges in Alberta boast high employment rates for their graduates.
Where can I go/ who can I talk to if I have questions or problems?
A number of resources are available to help if you have questions or problems. Which resource you use will depend on the type of question or problem you're dealing with. Some people and offices which can provide assistance to international students at community colleges in Alberta are: Academic Counselling, Personal Counselling, International Student Services, Student Council, Student Services, Registrar's Office, Student Ombudsman.
Can international students participate in co-op education?
International students are encouraged to participate in co-op education, but must have the proper work permit that allows them to work in Canada. When accepted into a co-op program, you can obtain a letter from the college stating that you will be participating, and then attach that letter to your work permit application. Otherwise, the same rules for co-op eligibility apply to international students as to other students. A community college's international student office can help with further questions.
If my language test score isn't high enough, can I apply for an ESL or FSL course and be accepted into an academic program once I improve my language skills?
It depends on the school. Because community colleges in Alberta each set their own entrance requirements, some offer the option of upgrading your language skills at the college before entering an academic program, while others are strict about fulfilling the language requirement before you can be admitted to any of the college's programs.