Study in Canada
Everything you must know before going to Canada for your studies.
Canada is a very popular destination for students pursuing vocational and diploma courses as well as academic degrees. Being the largest country in North America and second largest in the world, Canada consists of 10 provinces and 3 territories. A generally cold weather does not mean it’s just the freezing, snow-laden destination popular media would have you believe – some parts barely ever see snow with temperatures rising as high as 30 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the country is very scenic and diverse: being home to several modern cities doesn’t hamper Canada’s reputation of accommodating beautiful national parks and reserves, immense wildlife, hilltops, coastlines, and other magnificent wonders of nature. After all, there are very few of us who haven’t heard of the renowned Niagara Falls.
Scenic beauty aside, the North American country is an extremely safe place to live given the low crime rates and boasts very high standards of living. Moreover, the healthcare is free (given that insurance has been purchased), which is a big plus-point for international students.
Canada is celebrated as a country that offers excellent quality in higher education. The qualifications offered are considered to be of the same level as degrees from the United States and United Kingdom, and are recognized, sometimes even preferred, by employers worldwide.
School systems in Canada vary from each other according to province or territory. Most places offer education in both English and French. Typical high school is from grade 9 to 12, Quebec being an exception – high school ends in grade 11 and is followed by CEGEP, a program preparing students for university or a technical field.
Beyond high schools, students can choose to either pursue a university degree or attend vocational school. Universities primarily offer a Bachelor’s degree and, should students choose to continue studies, followed by a Master’s or a Doctorate degree. Vocational schools give students the choice to earn certificates and diplomas in many different fields.
Some of Canada’s best colleges can be found in Toronto, Montreal and British Columbia. McGill University, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta and The University of British Columbia are very popular among those who seek to attain a full-time academic degree.
However, Canada is the first choice for most students seeking vocational studies as it affords more jobs compared to degree courses. It is important to note that owing to the country’s low population density, Canada welcomes potential immigrants and offers them a vast scope of employment opportunities. Postgraduate diplomas in fields like Business Management, Computer Science, Hospitality, Engineering and Media are in high demand at the moment.
All academic institutions in Canada are reviewed on a regular basis to sustain the high standards. Government organizations like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) operate in order to make sure that universities are offering their best to the students.
Students always have a choice on where to live, whether it be university managed accommodation or private housing. Usually, university accommodation may also include a catered option. The advantage of catered accommodation are obviously the cooked meals and the foreknowledge of the costs. However, students may to choose to manage meals for themselves as well.
Wherever you prefer to live, the university accommodation office is there to help. Like most students, if you choose university managed rooms for your first year of stay, the accommodation office will be able to inform on the availability of their lodging facilities. However, if your preference is to rent from a private landlord, or there isn’t any availability left at your university of choice, then the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of privately owned properties in the area.
Whatever your choice may be, it is always essential to be aware of your contractual privileges and obligations. In most cases you will be required to sign a tenancy contract, it is crucial that you read it thoroughly and understand all of the terms before you sign it.
The requirements for admission differ according to university, programme and level of study. But, by and large, the need to meet a minimum score in an English language test is a requisite in all cases. The most popular is the IELTS exam; the minimum score for undergraduate applicants is 6.0 (with no band less than 5.5) and postgraduate applicants 6.5 (with no band less than 6.0). GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and PTE (Pearson Tests of English) are pretty standard alternatives to IELTS. Note that these are simply references, the actual required score will vary depending on the course and university. A minimum academic grade will also be a requirement depending on the university and programme of choice. All of these will need to be proven through submission of related documents.
The required documents for applying are as follows:
- Copies of SSC and HSC or O Level and A level certificates
- Bachelor’s degrees (for postgraduate applicants)
- Two Letters of recommendation (this may be academic or professional)
- Statement of Purpose
- Scoresheet of English language test (IELTS/PTE/TOEFL)
- Portfolio (if applicable)
- Proof of funds
- Medical tests
- Any other documents stated specifically by the university of choice
For Canadian universities, the primary intake is in September (fall session), but there are a few universities that have January intakes (winter session). Canadian colleges usually have 3 intakes annually – September, January and May.
If your objective is to start studying in September, the most ideal time to begin applying would be the October of the year before – that is usually when the call for applications begin. It is advisable that you begin your research and preparation much earlier. Deadlines for applications are usually in January/February, but can be later as well. It can take up to 7 weeks for your application to be processed by the university after which you can expect a response. An Offer of Admission letter will always come with a rigid deadline, on accepting this offer you become eligible to start applying for your visa/study permit.
It is also important to note that, university and college applications will involve paying a fee. The application fee will vary from institute to institute.
The most common steps of the application process are listed below:
- Explore university and course options
- Contact the shortlisted institutes for relevant information
- Register for and take the requisite entrance exams (IELTS/PTE/GMAT/SAT/GRE, etc.)
- Write your Statement of Purpose (SOP)
- Acquire the Letters of Recommendation (LOR)
- Begin applications
- Partake in video/phone interviews
- Once accepted by an institution, start applying for your visa
Costs and Expenses
Although Canada is a major nation in the Western hemisphere housing several large cities, living there is considerably cheap when compared to the UK or America. Toronto is, admittedly, the most expensive city to live in and yet it is still cheaper than the likes of New York City or London. Furthermore, Canadian universities are subject to receiving government funding which, ultimately, leads to the tuition fees being considerably more affordable as well.
More to the point, the overall cost comes down to which university you’ll be attending, where you’ll be living and the kind of social activities you’ll be participating in. Other than the tuition fees, the following are where your money will be spent:
- Food and groceries
- Bills (Utilities including phone, electricity, water and heating)
- Airfare to and from your country of origin
- Other optional expenses (this may include eating out, travel, car rent, etc.)
The tuition fees for undergraduate students range from CAD $10,000 – $30,000 annually, while postgraduate studies will cost you approximately CAD $15,000 – $55,000 every year. Additionally, based on where you stay, living expenses can range from approximately CAD $8,000 – $15,000 per year.
The visa process should be started by June latest, for those who are aiming for the September intake. The student visa applications for Canada can only be started once accepted into a university or college. In order to prove your eligibility, you need to:
- Be admitted into a Canadian university or college
- Prove that you’re entitled to finances that will cover your tuition fee, living expenses and airfare
- Have no criminal record
- Prove that you’re in good health (you may have to undergo a medical exam)
- Verify that you’ll leaving Canada once your studies are over
Obviously other documents may and will be required, but the two of the most vital documents for student visa applications are the proof of acceptance and the proof of financial support.
The proof of acceptance is basically the letter your institution, whether a college or university, sent you confirming your admission. This letter needs to be included with the visa application. Proof of financial support is pretty self-explanatory – a document (usually a bank statement, unless stated otherwise) proving you have the necessary finances to support your education and stay in Canada. Other documents may include:
- Certificates and transcripts evidencing previous education
- Scoresheets of entry exams (IELTS/GMAT/PTE)
- Medical reports
- Statement of intent to leave Canada as soon as studies are complete
Important things to ensure before leaving for Canada:
- Book airline tickets
- Purchase travel and health insurance
- Arrangement of accommodation on arrival to Canada
- Arrangement of transport to home in Canada from the airport
- Check baggage and customs policy
Documents that you must have on you before leaving for the airport:
- Airline tickets
- Insurance certificates
- Letter of Acceptance (the one sent by the university or college)
- Key addresses and phone numbers
- The bank statement evidencing the required funds
- Prescriptions for any medication you might be carrying
- Cash or traveler’s cheques
- Medical and immunization records
- Past certificates and transcripts evidencing previous education
Post Study Options
Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) sanctions students who have completed studying from a participating university or college to gain work experience in Canada. The work experience you may gain through PGWPP will ultimately act as a stepping stone, should you choose to apply for permanent residence in Canada through Canadian Experience Class (CEC). A post-graduation work permit is only valid for as long as the duration of the course of study. For instance, if your course lasted two years then the duration of the work permit granted to you will also last two years. However, in order to qualify for the program, the duration of your study program must be a minimum of 8 months in length.