Applying to a university in Canada can be competitive, and universities usually receive applications from more prospective students than they can accept. Programs may have quotas or 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 the institution.

How to apply

Step 1: find out what's required
Universities in Canada each set their own admission requirements. Once you have decided where to apply, contact the registrar or admissions office at each institution to find out exactly what's required in their application package. Most Canadian universities provide this information online, and usually have a special website section for international student admission requirements.

Requirements and supporting documents
Most university and college programs have a minimum admission average and specific course requirements; therefore, the main required supporting documents are official high school transcripts (or any post-secondary transcripts, if relevant). Additionally, letters of reference, an essay or letter of intent, résumé, medical form, criminal record check, portfolio, etc. may be required, as specified by a particular institution or program. Each university will provide specific details and instructions on what they require. International students are generally required to submit proof of English proficiency through standardized language test scores. Different universities accept different tests and require different scores, so be sure to find out the specifics.

International students must also show that the quality of the education they received is comparable to that of Canadian institutions. Universities in Canada each have their own criteria for recognizing international student qualifications. Therefore, applicants should contact the university's admissions office to ask about assessing international qualifications. They will inform you about requirements for translation of your documents into English and exactly what qualifications they recognize. Applicants can also contact the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) for information or recognition and portability of academic qualifications. Some international students choose to consult one of Canada's international credentials evaluation services (also known as international qualifications assessment services), listed below. These agencies charge a fee from around $100- $200 C$.

  • Ontario: World Education Services (WES); Comparative Education Service (CES); International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS)

  • Alberta: International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)

  • British Columbia: International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES)

  • Manitoba: Academic Credentials Assessment Service - Manitoba (ACAS)

  • Québec: Centre d'expertise sur les formations acquises hors du Québec (CEFAHQ)

  • Saskatchewan: International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)

  • Northwest Territories: International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)

  • Other provinces and territories: For credential evaluation services in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut or the Yukon contact any of the above-listed offices.

  • Step 2: know when to apply
    Canada's universities are competitive and popular; therefore, it's good to prepare and apply early. Generally, international students should apply to a Canadian university up to eight months in advance of the expected start date (usually September or January semesters), However, many universities have "rolling-admissions" which means that they consider international students' applications as they come in throughout the year. Some universities in Canada have specific application deadlines for international students that differ from local student deadlines, so make sure to find out which deadline applies to you.

    Step 3: submit your application
    Many Canadian university applications involve downloading an online undergraduate application form and submitting it either by post or electronically, along with the supporting documents described in the section above. This step also usually includes submitting a non-refundable application fee (usually between $50- $100) which must be received by the institution before their particular deadline. For universities in the province of Ontario, applications are sent to a provincial university application centre website, with supporting documents later sent directly to the institution by the specified deadline. If you are submitting the application by post, make sure to leave enough time for the package to arrive at the university in Canada by the specified deadline.

    If your application is accepted, the university will make you an admission offer. Once you accept the admission offer, the university will send you an official letter of acceptance.