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Preparing for grad school in Canada involves both academic and personal preparation.

International students applying to a grad school in Canada should begin planning early, since admission is very competitive.

  • Academic preparation first means researching the many options you have at Canadian grad schools! Grad schools in Canada have an incredible variety of degree program and department specialization options, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to search out what's available in your field of study. You may want to also find out who the expert professors and researchers in your field are and which schools in Canada they are affiliated with; many grad students choose their school based on who they want to work with.

  • Academic preparation also means making sure you have the necessary courses and grades to be accepted into a grad school in Canada. This will largely depend on the program you hope to apply to. Most grad schools in Canada require a minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission, and this will likely vary by program.

  • Grad schools in Canada 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 Canadian institutions often have their own tests for students or may accept other English tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), or the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Assessment. Confirm language requirement details with the university. Those interested in studying at a French-language institution should note that there is no standardized French-language test; French universities determine the level of a student's French skills on a case-by-case basis and may administer their own tests.

  • Grad school calendars, student handbooks or admissions offices are the best sources of academic preparation information, including recognition of your home country academic credentials. Most Canadian universities now offer their calendars and student handbooks online. Be sure to also read up on specific application requirements (reports and transcripts, language tests, letters of recommendation, personal essays, portfolio, etc). Preparing for grad school in Canada also means getting your paperwork completed and organized (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 for grad school.

  • Get more familiar with the language of instruction, whether English or French: read English- or French-language books, magazines or newspapers (either print or online); watch English or French TV or films; practice your conversation with any English- or French-speaking friends you may know. To improve the vocabulary and comprehension skills for your specialized grad school program, do some reading in the area you hope to study in the language you will be studying in Canada.

  • Grad school admissions committees in Canada are often interested in an international student's personal qualities, which can be developed through extracurricular activities. Consider joining or even starting clubs at your university or in your community, whether related to your area of interest or not. This is a good way to demonstrate leadership skills: be able to show success within and outside the classroom.

  • Prove your work ethic. Grad school study in Canada is rigorous; therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- related to your chosen field is extremely beneficial.

  • Develop your professional and academic relationships. Grad schools in Canada involve lots of personal work with professors, supervisors and other grad students. Invest the time now to develop solid relationships with your current professors or other professionals in your field of study who will be able to write you reference letters for your grad school application.

  • Contact other international students already studying at the school. Most Canadian universities have international student offices and/ or student societies that can put you in touch with an international student who can share his or her experience and advice on what to expect and how best to prepare. You can also contact the institution's Graduate Students' Society.
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