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Coming to Canada as an International Student? Tips That Are Helpful

8.25 minute read
"Are you planning to study abroad in Canada? Known globally for its multicultural society, high quality of life, and academic excellence, Canada has consistently been the top choice for international students planning to study abroad. There are several universities in Canada that feature every year among the top 100 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Nov 20, 2021
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Are you planning to study abroad in Canada? Known globally for its multicultural society, high quality of life, and academic excellence, Canada has consistently been the top choice for international students planning to study abroad. There are several universities in Canada that feature every year among the top 100 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. 

Why Choose Canada for Higher Education?

The 2 most popular universities in Canada are the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. All over the world, these universities are known for producing high-quality and highly-respected research and studies. These 2 universities enroll more international students than any other university in North America. 

According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 95% of international students in Canada were incredibly satisfied with their experience. This is mainly because of the availability of cheaper study options, straightforward application processes, and several pathways to transition to permanent residence after graduation. 

Deciding from the first step of choosing a degree program to moving to your chosen destination, the whole process will take at least a year. If you are planning to study abroad in Canada, you must get familiarized with the university system, entry requirements, visa requirements, and your options after graduation. To know all of this, you’ll have to do some research. 

How Does the Canadian University System Work?

Canada has both public and private institutions. There are 2 types of universities among them: the U15 and Universities Canada. The U15 is an association of Canada’s 15 oldest and prestigious universities, which are also research universities. The U15 includes the following:

  1. University of Alberta
  2. University of British Columbia
  3. University of Calgary
  4. Dalhousie University
  5. Université Laval
  6. University of Manitoba
  7. McGill University
  8. McMaster University
  9. Université de Montréal
  10. University of Ottawa
  11. Queen's University
  12. University of Saskatchewan
  13. University of Toronto
  14. University of Waterloo
  15. Western University 

Universities Canada represents various universities, post-secondary colleges, and a mix of professional, vocational, and training institutions offering study programs ranging from culinary arts to business analysis and management. 

University degree programs are usually 4-5 years long while college degree programs that span around 2-3 years. Every university will have its criteria for choosing your subjects and courses within your degree program. You’ll be required to check your university’s requirements to make sure that you are eligible for the program you are interested in. 

For degree programs, you must first choose the area of study that interests you the most, for example, arts, science, forestry or kinesiology, etc. You will have the chance to choose your specialization within that subject area after a year or 2 of study. 

Certain universities in Canada have a major/minor system. The major will be the main area of study you want to pursue and the minor will be another subject that you want to learn alongside your major. For such universities, you will have to decide your major and meet the criteria for getting admission. 

Canadian universities also offer options like dual degrees or double majors programs which allow you to focus on a balanced combination of different subjects that will help you pursue your desired career. Such programs allow you to study a wide variety of subjects at the same time, for example, if you are planning to go into event planning, learning management and designing will help you a lot. 

Certain universities in Canada also allow you to customize your degree based on your interests outside of the classroom. You can go into undergraduate research or study at international universities across the world through partner programs. Universities also offer cooperative education programs which are full-time paid placements in a variety of occupations related to your study program. 

Is a Language Test Mandatory for Admission to a Canadian University?

The two official languages of Canada are English and French, so most of the study programs are taught in either language. Unless your native language is English or French, you will be required to demonstrate language proficiency by taking an approved language test. 

The most popular English language proficiency test is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) - the IELTS academic test, not the general one. Other commonly approved language tests include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Cambridge English Advanced Test.

The most common French language proficiency test are the following:

  • Test d'Évaluation de Français pour le Canada (TEF Canada) 
  • Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF Canada) 
  • Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF)
  • Diplôme d'Études en Langue Française (DELF)

How Much Does It Cost to Study in Canada?

All universities have different fee structures based on the study program, your home country, the province it's located in, and your degree level. The tuition fee for undergraduate programs differ significantly based on your study program and the institution you want to study at. The tuition fee for international undergraduates can range from $11,000 to $59,000 per year. The average tuition fee for an international student in Canada is $20,000, which is still significantly lower compared to universities in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. 

However, tuition fees will not be your only expense in Canada. To travel to Canada for study, you will need to apply for a Canadian Study Permit. The visa fee for that is $10,000, and $11,000 if you are studying in Quebec. You will also be required to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in Canada. 

After you have arrived in Canada, you will need to budget for your living expenses. Every province will have a mandatory health insurance plan that you’ll have to pay for. There are a variety of accommodations available for students in Canada based on their price range:

  • Homestays- $1,150 per year
  • University residence or dormitories - $250 - $650 per month
  • Private shared accommodation: $250 -$700 per month

Your living expenses in Canada including food, course supplies, bills, traveling, etc will be around $15,050 per year, according to the University of Montreal. This can vary based on where you live, for example, Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada while cities in Quebec usually have a low cost of living. Canadian businesses, shops, and restaurants offer student discounts if you show them your student card. These discounts can range from 10 to 50%. Also, AirCanada offers discounted airfares for students, allowing you to enjoy your time in Canada while keeping under the budget. 

Are There Scholarships Available for International Students in Canada?

As a part of your Study Permit requirements, you will be required to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support your stay in Canada. There are scholarships, grants, and bursaries available for international students for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, provided they can show proof of savings. You can get any information regarding available scholarships and grants on the university’s website. You must start researching early and apply on time as these grants and scholarships are highly competitive and limited in number. 

Most scholarship programs will decide your eligibility based on your previous academic performance. You can also find country-specific scholarships aimed at helping students from developing countries. For students from commonwealth countries such as Australia, India, Nigeria, etc, the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program is available. 

Some universities also offer hybrid scholarships which are based on both the academic performance and the financial need of the applicant. While financial support is available, most students have to self-finance their education and living expenses in Canada. 

How to Apply for a Canadian Study Permit?

A Canadian Study Permit allows you to come to Canada to study at a designated learning institution (DLI) for a study program that lasts longer than 6 months. You will require an offer letter from a DLI in Canada to apply for a Study Permit. It will also allow you to work on campus and off-campus during your studies without requiring a separate temporary Work Permit

Once you have completed your study program, you can apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). A PGWP is an open work permit for international graduates to obtain Canadian work experience. It is valid for up to 3 years. To enter Canada, you will require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), or electronic travel authorization (eTa) in addition to your Study Permit. This can be done online. 

What to Do After You Graduate in Canada?

As mentioned above, right after your graduation you can apply for a PGWP to work in Canada. There is also ample opportunity to pursue an academic career in Canada. The Ph.D. programs in Canada are much cheaper compared to those in the US and Canadian universities have been known to waive off international fees for promising candidates. 

Completing a doctoral program in Canada further entitles you to work authorization for the next 3 years. During this time, there are many pathways for you to pursue Canadian permanent residence or even obtain Canadian citizenship. Currently, the top growing industries in Canada include services, technology, energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. 

Different provinces require workers in different occupations across various industries. For example, Alberta requires more workers in the energy sector owing to its huge oil and gas industry. Manitoba offers a separate provincial stream for international students to allow them to integrate into the local workforce. Each province and territory has its own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

How to Apply for a Canadian University?

Canadian universities and colleges will have different criteria, intake times, etc. Check the intake time of the university you are interested in. Intake time is when the university is open to applications. Most universities open to applicants in January, May, or September. September is by far the most popular intake time. 

Applications for a university are available almost 11 months before the program is set to start. Every university will have different deadlines, however, most require a completed application by spring at the latest. Sometimes, in addition to your academic performance, certain universities may ask you to submit supplementary information such as a personal essay, video, or portfolio. Usually, recommendations or reference letters are not required. 

Unless you plan on studying in Ontario, you will have to directly apply to the university for admission. To go to a university in Ontario, you’ll have to apply through the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) system. 

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