What is a community college? How is it different from university or career college?
Community colleges in Canada are government-regulated post-secondary institutions offering 1- to 2-year academic and pre-professional certificates, diplomas, 2-year associate's degrees, 4-year applied degrees and other 3- to 4-year specialized bachelor's degrees. Community colleges differ from universities in their smaller class size and focus on a combination of academic and industry-centred programs and co-op/internship opportunities. The academics are generally more comprehensive than in the shorter and more vocationally-oriented programs at career colleges, and community colleges offer specific university transfer programs that allow students to transfer credits toward university programs.

What kinds of programs and credentials do community colleges in Canada offer? How long will they take?
Community colleges in Canada offer 3- and 4-year specialized and applied bachelor degrees, 2-year associate's degrees, 1- to 2-year diplomas, and certificates that run from 12 weeks to 1 year. The length of your study depends on the credential you take and whether you take it on a full-time, part-time or online basis.

What is an applied degree?
The 4-year applied degree credential was developed in response to labour market demand in areas that require more than just 2 years of diploma or associate's degree study. Applied degrees are specialized bachelor's degrees and are referred to as, for example, Bachelor of Applied Business or Bachelor of Applied Arts. The difference between a general bachelor's degree and an applied degree is that the focus of applied degree programs is on advanced study in career or technical fields. for instance, you can take a Bachelor of Applied Arts in interior design, criminal justice, film and media production, and other areas that lead to direct employment. Applied degree programs normally include six semesters of instruction and two semesters of work experience.

What exactly is a CEGEP?
CEGEP stands for the French name for this school system: Collège d'enseignement général et professionel. The CEGEP system is a public, post-secondary education system that is unique to Quebec and dates from 1967. Situated in all regions of the province of Québec, the 48 CEGEPs are divided into 43 French-language and 5 English-language colleges. Quebec students enter CEGEP after completing 11 years of schooling (6 years of elementary school and 5 years of secondary school). CEGEPs offer 2-year pre-university programs in areas like Social Sciences, Pure and Applied Sciences, Commerce, Fine Arts and others, as well as 2- to 3-year technical career programs which prepare students for employment. Regardless of their program, students must take also general education courses including humanities, literature and physical education. CEGEPs do not offer degrees; rather, graduates receive a diploma of collegial studies.

Do I need to speak both English and French?
No. While French and English are both official languages in Canada, most community colleges and CEGEPs offer programs in only one language of instruction (that is, English or French).

Do community colleges offer online or distance programs?
Often, yes, but not always. Community colleges aim to make learning accessible to as many communities in Canada as possible, including remote and northern communities. Therefore, many colleges offer online programs. Check with the college you are interested in.

Will there be other international students at community college in Canada?
Generally, yes. Different community colleges and CEGEPs have different international enrolment numbers. Some colleges have several thousand international students, while others may have only tens. Some colleges have specific exchange programs for students from particular countries.

Are community colleges less expensive for international students than universities?
Both universities and community colleges in Canada charge special international student tuition. Tuition and other fees vary from school to school and province to province, but on average community colleges charge less for international tuition than universities in Canada. For example, the average undergraduate university fees for international students in British Columbia are about $13,500, while the average international fees for community colleges in BC are about $10,500.

How big are the classes at community colleges?
This depends on the school and the program. Some community college programs have extremely limited enrolment, while others accept more students. Unlike universities which can end up with classes of several thousand students, most community colleges have a cap on class size. Generally, community college and CEGEP class sizes average between 20 and 45 students.

What if the program I want to apply to is full? What is a "waitlist"?
Community colleges often have limited class sizes; therefore, it sometimes happens that a program has more applicants than available spaces. Some community colleges websites indicate which programs are still open. If a program you have applied for is full, you may be placed on a waitlist. A waitlist means that if a seat becomes available at a later date (if a student drops out or decides not to attend), you will be contacted. Waitlists may not carry over to the next academic year, so if you are not offered a seat in the year for which you applied, put in a new application early for the next academic year.

What housing options do community colleges in Canada provide for international students?
Some community colleges have on-campus residences or dormitories, while others are small and do not have on-campus housing. Community colleges that accept international students usually have people to help you organize a homestay or other off-campus housing.

Is financial aid available for international students to study at community college in Canada?
Yes, but not always from the school itself. Many community colleges in Canada offer internally and externally administered scholarships for incoming international students. Criteria may include academic success, artistic merit, athletic excellence, community involvement, references from instructors, or financial need. Scholarship and award programs are also administered by the federal government, provincial governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some community groups in the college's city or town. Bursaries are also sometimes available for international students who demonstrate financial need and reasonable academic standing.

How do I get my transcripts and other documents translated?
The college's admissions office can inform you about the requirements for translation and authentication of your documents. You can also consult one of Canada's many foreign credential evaluation service offices for advice on translation requirements, for example World Education Services (WES).

How do I know if my credentials will be accepted at a community college in Canada?
Community colleges in Canada each set their own admission requirements; therefore, you should contact the registrar or admissions office at each college to find out what they require in terms of assessing foreign credentials. Many Canadian community colleges have a special website section for international students. You can also consult one of Canada's credential assessment and qualification recognition services. For a fee, these offices provide an evaluation that shows you how your credentials compare with Canadian credentials. The purpose is informative only and does not guarantee recognition of your credentials.

Can I transfer my community college credits to a university in Canada? In my home country?
Most community colleges in Canada have transfer agreements with various universities within Canada. Credit transfer between institutions within Canada is usually possible, bit it depends on the program. In terms of transferring credits to a university in your home country, it depends on your home country. Canadian credentials are often accepted and recognized around the world; however, you should still ask about recognition of Canadian community college credits and credentials in your country of origin. Since CEGEP is a system unique to Québec, some countries may not be familiar with the diplomas they offer. It's a good idea to check with universities in your home to confirm acceptance of Canadian community college or CEGEP credits or credentials before you leave.

What are the benefits of community colleges in Canada for international students?
Community colleges offer affordable tuition fees, the option of taking a degree or transferring credit toward a Canadian university program, small classes, a safe and close community environment, programs partly designed by industry leaders, bridging programs to help you meet institution and program requirements, employment training and work opportunities, industry connections, and extensive language and personal support for international students. Many community colleges in Canada boast high employment rates for their graduates.

Where can I go/ who can I talk to if I have questions or problems?
There are a number of resources if you have questions or problems, depending on the type of question or problem you're dealing with. Some people and offices which can offer help to international students at community colleges are: Academic Counselling, Personal Counselling, International Student Services, Student Council, Student Services, Registrar's Office, Student Ombudsman.

Can international students participate in co-op education?
International students are encouraged to participate in co-op education, but must have the proper work permit that allows them to work in Canada. When accepted into co-op, you can obtain a letter from the college stating that you will be participating in a co-op program. Attach it to your work permit application. Other than this, the same rules apply to international students as to other students. A community college's international student office can help with further questions.

If my language test score isn't high enough, can I apply for an ESL or FSL course and be accepted into another program once I improve my language skills?
That depends on the school. Because community colleges each set their own entrance requirements, some offer the option of upgrading your language skills at the college before entering a program, while others are strict about fulfilling the language requirement before you can be admitted to any of the college's programs.