Thursday, April 3, 2014

[ADMISSIONS EXPERT] Ryan Sullivan - Start Your Next Study Abroad Journey in Canada

WES Student Advisor: Ryan, could you share with us some of the great advantages of studying in Canada?

Canada has long been known as a study destination and is a multinational country that welcomes people, culture, and food from every part of the globe. There are over 200 ethnic groups that live in Canada making it one of the world’s largest cultural mosaics. Known as one of the best countries in the world in which to live, Canada has a rich history in welcoming new arrivals. In fact, in their annual Human Development Index, the United Nations consistently ranks Canada’s quality of living standard as one of the highest in the world.

The quality of education in Canada is second to none. More is spent on education (as a percentage of Gross National Product) than any other G-8 country. The high quality of education is consistent across Canada’s publically funded universities and colleges. There are approximately 100 universities and degree granting colleges of all sizes and scope from which to choose and there are more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate programs offered. The distinguished reputation spans across Canada’s large comprehensive universities to its smaller liberal arts colleges.

WES Student Advisor: How should students go about finding the best fit university for them in Canada?

Canadian universities offer a very consistent high quality education across the country so no matter which institution a student chooses they can feel confident in their decision. Because of the consistent quality of education students have the luxury of looking for a university that is the “right fit” for them rather than one that is “ranked” better. Students should consider the academic program that interests them, type of community in which they want to live, activities outside of the classroom that are important to them, and their annual budget. Websites such as,, and, have searchable databases for Canadian universities.

Applying to study in Canada can usually be done online or with a paper application available directly from the university or college. The exception to this is in provinces where they have central application centres. Each university or college will have its own academic requirements. Admission to undergraduate programs is generally based on secondary school results. Standardized tests results (SAT, ACT, etc.) can sometimes be required or considered as well. Essays or personal statements are not usually required except when applying to some fine arts or performance programs where a portfolio or audition may be required. Teacher recommendations and resumes are not typically compulsory for admissions, but for certain competitive programs additional information may be requested.

Canadian universities and colleges also recognize the academic rigour or advanced programs like the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, General Certificate of Education, and baccalauréat français for advanced credit toward first-year courses. If English is not your primary language proof of proficiency will be required. Each institution will have its own requirements for tests like TOEFL or IELTS. Students applying from international secondary schools where English is the medium of instruction may be exempt from submitting English test results. For students applying to study at francophone institutions French proficiency may be required in the form of TFI or DELF scores.

WES Student Advisor: What are some expectations students can have about studying and living in Canada?

The cost of living is also generally less in Canada then similar size communities in the United States or the United Kingdom. Most universities and colleges will have residence communities to live in. These residence communities offer low-hassle living that often includes all costs (room, board, internet, cable, etc.) in one price. If you choose not to live in residence, Canadian towns and cities offer very safe and friendly neighbourhoods in which to live. Either way, you will be able to enjoy all the beauty of Canadian campuses for your studies. You will have access to some of the latest computer technologies, large libraries, world-class athletic centres, top-rated food service venues and high-tech classrooms.

Canadian campuses are also very active. Whether you are interested in competing at top-level interscholastic sports or more recreational intermural sports there are lots of opportunities. You will also find hundreds of clubs, societies, and groups of all interests, which will enable you to enjoy many extra and co-curricular events.

Of course students will also get to enjoy four distinct seasons in Canada which provides them the opportunity to try exciting winter sports, enjoy the hot temperatures and beautiful beaches in the summer, the magnificent colours of the trees in the autumn, and the beauty of the spring flowers.

WES Student Advisor: Are students allowed to work while studying full- or part-time in Canada?

International students are able to work on and off campus while studying full-time in Canada. Some universities have employment programs that provide work opportunities for students in campus libraries, sports venues, food services, or doing research with a professor. Students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time hours during holidays. Post-graduation work permits are also available for international students allowing them to gain valuable work experience in Canada after their degree for up to three years.

Canadian universities and colleges also often offer very generous scholarships and bursaries as well. Most of these awards are merit-based and can range in value from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. There are even some very competitive awards that will cover full fees. Canadian or provincial student loans are only open to Canadian citizens or permanent residence. American students can apply their William D. Ford and Direct PLUS loans to their Canadian programs provided the institution is recognized by the U.S. Federal Department of Education. Applicants should contact the Canadian institution directly to obtain the appropriate federal school code when completing their loan application. is a helpful website for students looking for scholarships.

WES Student Advisor: Thank you so much for your advice. Do you have any last words of advice for our students?

Many Canadian universities and colleges organize orientations or welcomes for international students that include airport pick-up, networking and social activities, and academic preparation workshops. Don’t be shy about contacting Admission Offices and asking lots of questions. We’re always happy to help! In choosing Canada as your education destination, be prepared to have fun, meet friendly, outgoing people from Canada and around the world, and receive an exceptional education.


Ryan Sullivan is currently the Director of International Recruitment at St. Thomas University. With 2,300 students St. Thomas is the only university in Canada to focus exclusively on liberal arts. He is also the president of the Overseas ACAC and past member of the Council of International School Canada Higher Education Committee. He has presented to thousands of students in close to fifty countries on options for studying in Canada and post-secondary issues. An avid runner and ice cream connoisseur, and enjoys being active and outdoors. He lives with his wife Julie in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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