Applying to community colleges in Canada involves several steps, and you should begin the process well before your chosen program starts. Application requirements may differ from college to college; some have limited-enrolment programs with competitive admission, while others offer open admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, what you need to do to apply can vary greatly depending on the school and the program.

How to apply

Step 1: find out what's required
Community colleges in Canada each set their own admission requirements. Once you have decided where to apply, contact each institution's registrar or admissions office to find out exactly what international students are required to submit with their application. Most community colleges in Canada provide this information online, and usually have a special section for international student admission requirements.

Requirements and supporting documents
Community colleges in Canada 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. 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, personal essay or letter of intent. The main supporting document required when applying to community colleges in Canada is your official high school transcript (or any post-secondary transcripts, if relevant). International students applying directly to ESL programs may not be required to submit these educational documents. However, international students applying to any program 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 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 high school education they received is comparable to that of Canadian institutions. Community colleges in Canada will each have their own criteria for recognizing international student qualifications. Therefore, applicants should contact the community college's admissions office to ask about assessing international qualifications. All international documents must be clear and legible, and must be official documents issued by your last-attended institution. If your school's documents are not in English, certified translations into English are usually requested, and the college admissions office can inform you about requirements for translation and exactly what qualifications they recognize. International 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)

  • Canada: 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
    Intake at community colleges in Canada generally operates on a traditional fall/winter semester system. Applications therefore may have cut-off dates with specific deadlines after which applications are no longer considered. For instance, for a term beginning in September, your application may be due anywhere between February and June. International student applications may have their own specific deadlines. On the other hand, some community colleges have "rolling admission," in which applications are accepted all year round and are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Community colleges with internal scholarships and bursaries may encourage early application in order to qualify for awards.

    Step 3: submit your application
    Community college applications themselves generally consist of either: a downloaded form; a form completed and submitted electronically on the school's website; a form sent by mail to the institution. Applying to community college in Canada also usually includes sending a non-refundable application fee of anywhere between $25-$100, as specified by the institution.

    Some schools may request the initial application form by a certain deadline, followed by all other supporting documents. Other schools require all documents to be sent together with the application form. A college will then review the application, and if acceptable, will send you a provisional letter of acceptance. 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 credit card, 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.