Applying to career colleges in Canada should begin well before your chosen program starts. Career colleges are generally private, independent institutions, so application requirements will differ from college to college; some have limited-enrolment programs with competitive admission, others offer open admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, applications can vary greatly depending on the school and the program.

How to apply

Step 1: find out what's required
Start by contacting the school directly: read the school's website, request a catalog or brochure, email an admissions representative.

Requirements and supporting documents
Canadian career colleges can range from "open admission" (requiring only a high school diploma or simply that you be over the age of 18) to more specific academic requirements, such as certain grades in particular subjects. Some vocational programs have additional course pre-requisites, and others may require a lower grade of educational completion (Grade 8 or 10, for example). Requirements are usually specified on a program-to-program basis. Additional requirements may include reference letters, current résumé, criminal record check, CPR certification, health and immunization record, portfolio, personal essay or letter of intent. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) may be recognized by some schools.

The main required supporting documents are official high school transcripts (or any post-secondary transcripts, if relevant). Students applying directly to a second-language training program may not be required to submit educational documents.

International students are generally required to submit proof of English proficiency (or French, where relevant), which can be through standardized language test scores or a college's own admissions test. Different career colleges 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. Career colleges in Canada each have their own criteria for recognizing international student qualifications. Therefore, applicants should contact the college's admissions office to ask about assessing international qualifications. Certified translations into English or French (depending on the institution's language of operation) for all documents in other languages are usually requested, and the college admissions office can inform you about requirements for translation and exactly what qualifications they recognize. Applicants can also contact the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) for information on 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
    Because the programs are so different--from health to hospitality, hydraulics to hairstyling--program duration and start dates also vary. Some career colleges offer continuous enrolment with programs starting every month, week or even every day; others operate on a more traditional semester system with a fall and/ or winter intake. Many career colleges therefore have no cut-off dates for admission and instead process applications all year round. Others have specific deadlines after which applications are no longer considered. Career colleges with internal scholarships and bursaries may encourage early application in order to qualify for these awards and financial assistance.

    Step 3: submit your application
    The career college applications themselves generally consist of a downloaded form or a form completed and submitted electronically on the school's website. The application also usually includes a non-refundable application fee of anywhere between $25-$100, as specified by the institution. School transcripts can be asked for in two ways: you may be asked for official transcripts from your high school to be sent directly to the college, or you may simply be allowed to provide a photocopy. Often, international students are required to pay a tuition deposit (up to 50% of the fees for your first year), which can be paid by Visa, MasterCard, cheque, or wire transfer. Admission is considered confirmed when the college receives your signed acceptance of their admissions offer along with the tuition fee deposit. Be advised that most international student fees are non-refundable.

    Because private career colleges are just that--private--they are run like a business and should be approached as though you are buying a product. This means: find out about tuition costs, equipment/ facilities, refund policy (should you decide not to complete the program) and reputation. Most career colleges publish a statement of student rights and responsibilities on their websites: be sure to read it carefully.