How to Get Into Canadian University

Get a Study Permit

Did you know that at the University of British Columbia nearly 1 in 3 students are international students? Increasingly, Canada is a top destination for students from around the world seeking a quality education in English or French at competitive rates that compare well with universities in places like the United States or the UK. Not only that, a post-secondary education in Canada can be a stepping stone to living and working in the country as a permanent resident and eventually as a Canadian citizen. But remember, you must be seen by immigration and educational authorities as a serious student whose primary goal is to come to Canada to further your education.

So how do you go about making your dreams of studying in Canada come true? Here’s a guide with step by step procedures to get you on the path and help you fulfill your goal of studying in Canada.


Choosing your degree and educational institution

If you are planning to study as post-secondary student at a Canadian university or college, you should first be clear about what program of study or what degree you will be applying for. You should be confident that academically, you can successfully apply to your chosen educational institutions. The first step in this part of the process is to find the designated universities or colleges in the city or province in which you wish to study. In Ontario alone, for example, there are hundreds of eligible universities, schools, and institutes. Go here and choose a province or territory to see a complete list of eligible institutions in that province or territory.

Next you need to choose the right university depending on the degree you will be pursuing. Here’s several rankings of the best universities in Canada for engineering, medicine, computer science and business.



School Rank last year Program reputation Research reputation Publications Citations Field weighted citation impact
University of Toronto (1) 1 1 1 1 3
University of Waterloo (2) 1 2 2 2 5
University of British Columbia (3) 3 2 2 2 5
McGill University (5) 4 4 5 5 11
University of Alberta (4) 5 5 2 2 13
Universite de Montreal (13) 9 7 6 6 22
McMaster University (8) 6 6 9 10 28
Queen's University (6) 6 8 13 11 20
University of Calgary (7) 8 9 7 7 24
Concordia University (16) 11 15 8 12 19



University Ranking Ranking last year Student Satisfaction Reputational Survey
McGill University 1 (1) 9 3
University of Toronto 2 (2) 13 1
University of British Columbia 3 (3) 8 2
Queen's University 4 (4) 2 7
University of Alberta 5 (5) 7 4
McMaster University 6 (6) 4 5
Western University 7 (8) 5 6
Dalhousie University 8 (7) 10 10
University of Calgary 9 (10) 12 8
University of Ottawa 9 (8) 15 11



University Ranking Computer Science Subject Score Best Global University ranking
University of British Columbia 1 81.9 14
University of Waterloo 2 81.3 15
University of Toronto 3 76.3 25
University of Alberta 4 56 97
McGill University 5 53.1 108
Universite de Montreal 6 51.5 125
Simon Fraser University 7 49.4 135
University of Ottawa 8 47.1 151
Carleton University 9 42.7 175
Western University 10 39.2 194



University Ranking Ranking last year Program reputation Research reputation
University of British Columbia 1 (2) 1 2
University of Toronto 1 (1) 1 1
University of Alberta 3 (3) 6 3
Western University 4 (4) 3 6
McGill University 5 (6) 5 4
York University 6 (5) 7 7
Queen's University 7 (7) 3 5
McMaster University 8 (9) 14 9
Universite de Montreal 8 (11) 11 12


Now consider those universities in Canada with a high percentage of foreign students. If you crosscheck with the top universities listed in the tables shown above, you come up with the following list:



University Ranking % Foreign students in 1st year undergraduate classes
University of British Columbia 1 31%
McGill University 2 30.7%
University of Toronto 3 25.7%
Dalhousie University 4 20.2%
Waterloo University 5 18%
Simon Fraser 6 17%
University of Alberta 7 16.6%
Concordia University 8 12.9%
Carleton University 9 12.5%
Western University 10 11.5%


Remember that there are some Canadian universities with higher percentages of foreign students than the ones listed here, but this table shows the top universities in engineering, medicine, computer science, and business, who also have the highest level of foreign students. They combine top quality programs with a large international student population.


Applying to and being accepted by a Designated Educational Institution in Canada

Most major universities have an International Office where you can find help on how to apply to that university or college as an international student. You can apply online through your chosen university’s website. Remember that you will require a Letter of Acceptance from your university before you can apply for a Study Permit (see below). Remember that you will need the following documents to apply to a Canadian university or college:

  • Educational Credential Assessment: this is an evaluation of your secondary school transcripts and of any post-secondary transcripts you might have. These assessments are provided by:
    • International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICASA) OR
    • World Education Services (WES)
  • Different Universities will have differing academic standards that you must meet in order to have a good chance of being accepted for admission to the university. It will also depend from where you are applying. For example, if you are a student from China who is applying to the University of Toronto, you will need:
    • Senior High School Graduation Diploma
    • Academic proficiency test
    • Upper Middle School Graduation (Hui Kao) Exam
    • Chinese National University Entrance Examination (Gao Kao)site.
  • If your academic transcripts are not in English or French they will need to be translated. Go here to find a certified translator in Canada. Most universities will allow to start the process by scanning and uploading your academic documents (transcripts, research papers, etc.) in PDF format.
    • If the university also requires a paper copy, then if your secondary school or university can issue additional original copies of your transcript send those by mail to your university.
    • If additional copies cannot be issued by your school or university in your home country, then send a certified copy from the school or institute you attended in your home country, by mail to the university you are applying to. You may have to photocopy your original transcript and then have your university or school certify that it is a photocopy of the original document and send the certified photocopy by mail to the Canadian university or institute you are applying to.
  • Language proficiency test: you will need to submit a language proficiency test if your country does no have English or French as a language. The tests acceptable in Canada are:
    • TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language. This is a USA-based test that assesses your ability to study in English at the post-secondary level. It is taken entirely online in many locations around the world. Go here for additional information.
    • IELTS: International English Language Testing Service: This a British-based test that assesses your proficiency in English. It has a General and an Academic test. Find out which one you need to take. Go here to find out more.
    • MELAB: Michigan English Language Assessment Battery: This evaluates advanced English-language ability and is similar to TOEFL and IELTS. Go here for more details.
    • CAEL: Canadian Academic English Language Assessment: This is a Canadian exam designed to measure the proficiency of students wishing to study at a post-secondary institute in Canada. Go here to get the low down on the goods.


Applying for a Study Permit

Once you have been accepted by the university and you have an acceptance letter from them, you can now apply for a Study Permit. You will need the following documents to apply for a Study Permit:

  • Proof of Acceptance: This is the original copy of your acceptance letter.
  • Proof of Identity: A valid passport and two official passport-sized photographs. They should have your name and date of birth on the back of each photograph.
  • Proof of financial support: You must prove to the immigration authorities that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any family members that accompany you, in addition to having the funds to pay for your tuition. In Canada, international students can expect to pay around CAD $ 14,000 a year (for a standard two-term academic year) in tuition fees. These fees are higher than those paid by Canadian or Permanent Resident students. The more common methods for proof of funds are:
  • Proof of a Canadian Bank Account in your name if you have transferred funds to Canada
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (a term deposit with interest) held with a Canadian financial institution
  • Proof of a student loan from a bank
  • Bank drafts or bank statements
  • Letter from the sponsor (the person paying for) of your education
  • Proof of scholarship funding from a Canadian educational program
    Persons Coming to Canada Funds required in addition to university tuition (Per Year) Funds required in additional to university tuition (per month)
    Student (you) $10,000 $833
    First additional family member $4,000 $333
    Every additional accompanying family $3,000 $255

    This applies to locations in Canada outside Quebec. In Quebec these amounts are somewhat higher.

  • Letter of Intent/Explanation: This states your goals and reasons for studying in Canada and helps the immigration authorities confirm that you understand your responsibilities as an international student in Canada.
  • Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ): you will need this document issued by the Quebec government if you study in Quebec. Your local university will help you on how to apply for it.

The next step is to apply online or submit a paper application through your nearest Visa Application Centre (VAC). You must pay your application fees as well.

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