Saturday, March 22, 2014

5 Steps to Successfully Apply to a Canadian University

By Dan Seneker
Manager Student Recruitment, University of Saskatchewan

When speaking with international students who have recently applied to a Canadian university, the words that most often come out of their mouths are, “I can’t believe how straightforward and easy the process was” or “That’s it?!”. And it’s all true. Applying to Canadian universities is extremely straightforward and the entire application process will take you under an hour to complete. Maybe the hardest part is coming up with a username and password!

At this point I will add my typical disclaimer: There are more than 100 universities in Canada and each one of us is different. While the information presented is what is “typical” for most institutions, there are institutions and programs that have varied processes so it is best to examine the application processes for each institution you are interested in applying to and only use this information as a general starting point. Here are the five key steps to successfully applying to a Canadian University:

#1. Check application requirements for each school - Education in Canada is the responsibility of our individual Provinces, and because of this we do not have a central clearing house like UCAS in the UK or the Common App in the USA. When applying to universities in Canada, generally you will be applying to each institution individually. There are exceptions though, such as the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) where you can apply to multiple universities on one single application. There are other provinces that have variations of the OUAC system, but for the most part you will be applying to universities individually.

#2. Apply online in no time - Applications can be found and completed entirely online. As previously mentioned, the entire application should take you no longer than an hour to complete (probably closer to thirty minutes). Most applications only require your biographical information, educational history and information such as your intended program of interest and start date. Typically there are no supplementary information requirements such as letters of reference, essays or test scores. Again there are exceptions to this so please check with each university. But like students say, “That’s it?!"

#3. Check application deadlines with each school - Canadian university application deadlines are typically later than in other countries. Most applications do not open until October of your senior high school year and deadlines range anywhere from January to June. Some universities also have multiple start dates to accommodate students studying in various countries or curricula. The “typical” start date is September of each year but some universities have January or even May start dates so there are many options for students.

#4. Check the type of application process each school uses - Many Canadian university programs operate on a “rolling admission” process, meaning that once we receive your application and transcripts we can evaluate you and make an admissions decision. Sometimes, from a complete application to the point of admission, an admission decision can be made in about one week! There are “competitive admission” programs as well which will not evaluate applications until after an application deadline has passed so make sure you understand what the application process is for your program of interest.

#5. Know what final requirements you need to enroll - Canadian universities will typically offer you a “conditional offer of admission”. What this means is that we are admitting you to the program for which you have applied (or alternate program if you are not qualified for your preferred program), but there are certain conditions that you still have to meet in order to obtain full admission. Usually these conditions include maintaining your academic average and successfully completing your high school program and graduate. Be sure to read your admission offer letter carefully as there could be other conditions that aren’t as transparent or obvious. International students can also use these Conditional Letters of Admission to start the application process to obtain your study permit. All non-Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents are required to have a valid study permit to pursue studies that are longer than four months in length. For more information on study permits please visit:

Pursuing your studies in Canada is a great opportunity. One of the biggest benefits of studying in Canada is that nearly 95% of our universities are publicly funded and adhere to similar accreditation standards. That means you are going to get a high level of quality no matter which university you choose. The reputation of a Canadian education is highly regarded across the globe and a degree from one of our institutions enables students to seek further education, employment or other opportunities around the world. You really can’t go wrong with any Canadian university! Welcome to Canada eh?

For detailed information about universities in Canada please visit the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada website:


Dan was born and raised in southern Ontario, completed his Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in history at Bishop’s University and Masters of Communications Studies and University Teaching Certificate at the University of Calgary. He has worked in various roles in the area of Student Affairs over the past fourteen years, mainly in the areas of student recruitment and admissions at three major Canadian universities – University of Saskatchewan, University of Calgary and Queen’s University. Dan has also presented on various topics within these areas at a number of conferences both within Canada and internationally.


  1. Yes, the application process seems easy, but most universities want official transcripts for final decision. Can photocopies or scans of transcripts work?

    1. AnonymousJuly 26, 2015

      Of course no.

  2. nice post thank you for sharing this information..

  3. great post really helpful information i got but i want to complete my MBA from Canada but i have some financial problem can you share some Canada Universities that provide scholarship..i have found some information on but i want more detail information..

  4. Hi,
    Can i submit my English proficiency Proof later, once after uploading my documents online? And also if it is a recognized foreign university, they have mentioned that it is an exemption. So insipte of this, do they requier my IELTS scores ?

  5. Hi.. I am from Sri Lanka, I have Completed the National Diploma in Information Communication & Technology (NVQ Level 05)
    Can I apply for the Top up Degree in Canadian University , How Can I appy for online application pls ?

  6. Sir, I've scored 58% in my senior secondary examination, 65% in higher secondary but 47% in my graduation. My ielts scores are L-6.5,R-6.5,S-6.5 and W-7 bands. I've done Bachelors in commerce with few backlogs and one year diploma in Occupational health and safety. I'm I eligible to apply in any Canadian University?

  7. Sir, I've scored 58% in my senior secondary examination, 65% in higher secondary but 47% in my graduation. My ielts scores are L-6.5,R-6.5,S-6.5 and W-7 bands. I've done Bachelors in commerce with few backlogs and one year diploma in Occupational health and safety. I'm I eligible to apply in any Canadian University?

  8. hi dan,
    i have completed my graduation in chemical engineering in 2014 and currently doing a job in india. I want to pursue my further chemical engineering in canada. Universities you mention do offer Masters in engineering in chemical. i want to apply to university of calgory for this year September intake. i just want to know that is there any minimum individual score requirement in ielts exam. as they have only mentioned overall 7.0 bands. I have 8R 7.5L 7S 5.5W. Kindly tell me if any. What are my chances of getting admitted as my graduation percentage is 78%.
    Mohit Mittal

  9. hello sir, it's urgent. I want to know how the process of selecting a supervisor for masters program works in canada. The universities say that unless a supervisor is ready to take you the university will not give an admit. I have sent formal letters to faculty members in a format given by universities expressing my interest in the field and how i would love to work under them. Now the problem is whatever replies i have got said that either they are taking only phd students or that they have stopped taking any. Not all professors have replied yet though. My problem is how would i know if my admit is pending due to this main reason? what should i do?

  10. I have the same problem. I applied long back but I still couldn't find any professor who has a position to supervise me. Most of them do not even reply to my emails. It is very discouraging.

  11. Great article!

  12. Am a Kenyan citizen. I did Diploma in Clinical Medicine and Community Health. How can I apply a for Canadian university /college to further my career. Renos Kipruto kirwa


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