Marching band on a city street in red uniforms carrying a Canadian flag

What's It Like? An Inside Look at College Life in Canada

Canada has amazing universities that attract top-tier students. Here's what to expect of the college admission process, learning, and life in Canada.

Recognized for attracting top-caliber students and academics, Canada provides an opportunity to study with the best and brightest. Experience discussion-based classrooms, intriguing lectures, and engaging research with some of the top scholars from around the world. Join thousands of students from every corner of the world who, each year, choose to attend university in Canada. Canada has a reputation as a study destination. It’s 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. Let's take a look at what to expect from the admission process, college costs, academics, and what life in Canada is like.

The international admission process

Applying to Canadian schools can usually be done online or with a paper application available directly from the university or college, with the exception of provinces with their own central application centers. Each university will have its unique academic requirements. Generally, undergraduate programs base admission on secondary school results. Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.) may 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 résumés are not typically compulsory for admission, but for certain competitive programs additional information may be requested. Canadian universities and colleges also recognize academic rigor 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 maybe required in the form of TFI or DELF scores.

Once you receive an offer of admission, students will need to apply for a study permit and visa. This can be done through your local Canadian embassy, high commission, or consulate. Information and requirements on the application process can be found on the Citizen and Immigration Canada website. Many Canadian universities organize orientation or welcoming activities for international students that include airport pickup, networking and social activities, and academic preparation workshops. 

Related: The International Application: An Insider's Perspective

Paying for university

Canadian universities and colleges often offer very generous scholarships and bursaries. 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 cover full fees. Canadian or provincial student loans are only open to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. American students can apply their Federal Direct and Direct PLUS loans to Canadian universities, provided the institution is recognized by the US Federal Department of Education. Applicants should contact the Canadian institution directly to obtain the appropriate federal school code when completing their loan application.

International students are able to work on campus without a work permit. Some universities have employment programs that provide work opportunities for students in campus libraries, sports venues, food services, or doing research with a professor. International students can also apply for an off-campus work permit after they have completed six months of full-time studies at a public university. This permit allows the student to work up to 20 hours while school is in session and full-time hours during holidays. Post-graduation work permits are also available for international students, which allow them to gain valuable work experience in Canada after their degree for up to three years.

Related: The International Student's Helpful Guide to Financial Aid

A look at Canadian academics and campus life

International students benefit from Canada’s commitment to education. Education is a provincial jurisdiction, but funding is available to universities and colleges from both the federal and provincial governments, cutting the cost of postsecondary education to a fraction of comparable institutions’ in other countries. Because of this consistent balance of funding and quality, students know that no matter which institution they choose they will receive a top-quality education at a very reasonable cost. Canadian campuses are also very active. Whether you are interested in competing at top-level interscholastic sports or more recreational intramurals, there are lots of opportunities. You will find hundreds of clubs, societies, and groups of all interests, which will enable you to enjoy many extracurricular and cocurricular events. 

Living in Canada

Although it’s known for natural beauty, including spectacular beaches, majestic mountains, and vast forests, Canada also offers some of the most vibrant cities in the world. There are many communities from which to choose. Whether you want to live in the sights and sounds of a big city, or you prefer a smaller community where you can enjoy a slower pace of life, you will find Canada’s towns and cities to be safe and secure. 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 publicly funded universities. There are over 100 universities and degree-granting colleges of all sizes and scopes, and there are more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate programs offered. The distinguished reputation spans from Canada’s large comprehensive universities to its smaller liberal arts colleges.

The cost of living is also generally less in Canada than similar-sized communities in the United States or the United Kingdom. Most universities will have residential communities to live in with low-hassle living that often includes all costs (room, board, Internet, cable, etc.) in one price. If you choose to live off campus, Canadian towns and cities offer very safe and friendly neighborhoods. Either way, you can enjoy all the beauty of Canadian campuses during your studies. You will have access to some of the latest computer technologies, large libraries, world-class athletic centers, top-rated food service venues, and high-tech classrooms as well.

Related: Video: Going to College in Canada

Making the decision to study abroad is a major one—but it's likely to be one of the best choices and experiences of your life. Picking the right country is as important as choosing the right school. When choosing Canada as your education destination, be prepared to have fun, meet friendly local people from Canada and around the world, and receive an exceptional education. 

You can explore tons of international universities and US colleges that offer study abroad opportunities by searching for "Canada" with our College Search tool

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