Preparing for university in Ontario involves both academic and personal preparation.
International students applying directly from high school to a university in Ontario should begin planning early, since universities--or particular programs within a university--can be competitive.
Academic preparation means making sure you have the necessary courses and grades to be accepted into the university and program of your choice. For instance, the courses you take in high school will differ depending on whether you are considering a science or technology-based program versus a more general program at university. Overall, English and math are the most-often required courses at universities in Ontario. Most universities in Ontario also have a minimum cut-off average for general admission (typically between 60-70%). Quota or other highly competitive programs may require an academic average of up to 85%, but this may change from year to year.
Universities in Ontario require international students to demonstrate proficiency in the language of instruction (either English or French). The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is commonly accepted, but universities in Ontario may also have their own tests, or may accept other English tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Assessment. Confirm language requirement details with the university.
University calendars, student handbooks, and admissions offices are the best sources of academic preparation information. Most universities in Ontario now offer their calendars and student handbooks online. Be sure to also read up on specific application requirements (transcripts, language tests, letters of recommendation, personal essays, portfolio, etc). Preparing for university in Ontario also means completing your governmental paperwork: read more in our How to Apply and Student Visas sections.
Personal: In addition to academic preparation, there's a lot you can do in your home country to prepare personally.
Work at becoming more familiar with English: read English-language books, magazines or newspapers (either print or online); watch English TV or films; practice your conversation with any English-speaking friends you may know. To improve vocabulary and comprehension skills for your specific university program, do some English reading about the field you plan to study.
University admissions committees in Ontario are often interested in an international student's personal qualities, which can be developed through extracurricular activities. Consider joining or even starting school clubs, whether related to your area of interest or not. This is a good way to demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills: be able to show your ability to succeed both within and outside of the classroom.
Prove your work ethic. University study in Ontario is rigorous; therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- is an achievement regarded highly by admissions committees because it shows you are able to responsibly handle a workload. Any work experience related to your chosen field is extremely beneficial.
Contact other international students already studying at the university. Most universities in Ontario have international student offices and/ or student societies that can put you in touch with current or former international students willing to share their experiences and advice on preparing for university in Ontario.
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