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A Guide to Studying in Canada for International Students

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studying in Canada

Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and enriching experiences for a student. Getting to live in a new country, experiencing a different culture, and pursuing your education in a world-class institution are just some of the major benefits. For international students looking for a top study destination, Canada should be at the top of their list. With some of the best universities in the world, Canada is globally recognized for its high-quality education system. In this comprehensive guide, we will look at everything you need to know as an international student looking to study in Canada – from application processes and requirements to costs, scholarships, top universities, and much more.

Why Study in Canada?

There are many reasons why Canada is considered one of the best study-abroad destinations in the world:

1. World-Class Education – Canada has 20 universities in the QS World University Rankings 2021, with the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia consistently ranking in the top 50. You’ll have access to cutting-edge research, resources, and highly qualified professors.

2. Multicultural Society – Canada is known for being extremely welcoming and open to international students. It has a multicultural population, with people from over 200 ethnic origins. You’ll be able to easily integrate into the community.

3. Affordable Education – The cost of tuition and living costs for international students in Canada is generally lower than the UK, US and Australia. There are also many scholarships available to help finance your education.

4. Post-Graduation Work Opportunities – International students on a study permit are allowed to work part-time on campus during studies and full-time during scheduled breaks, up to 20 hours per week. You can also stay back and work in Canada for up to 3 years after graduation.

5. High Standard of Living – Canada is known for its high quality of life, thanks to factors like affordable healthcare, low crime rates and family-friendly communities. As an international student, you’ll enjoy a great standard of living.

6. Pathway to Permanent Residence – International graduates from Canadian institutions can apply for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class. If you want to eventually immigrate to Canada, studying there first can help.

7. Learn/Improve English – Canada has two official languages, English and French. You’ll be able to improve your English language skills while studying there. This will help boost your career prospects back home or if looking to work abroad after graduation.

Application Process for International Students

Here are the key steps to apply to universities as an international student:

1. Research programs and universities – Look for programs and courses that fit your interests and career goals. Make sure they are designated for international students.

2. Check admission requirements – These differ across universities, make sure you meet the minimum requirements like English language test scores.

3. Prepare application documents – This includes transcripts, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, resume etc.

4. Take language proficiency tests – Take mandatory tests like IELTS or TOEFL and achieve the minimum score required by your university.

5. Submit online application – Complete the university application forms online. Make sure to follow deadlines for each university.

6. Apply for study permit – Once accepted, apply for your Canadian study permit as an international student.

7. Apply for on-campus housing – Many universities help arrange accommodation on campus or nearby so research your options early.

It is best to start the application process at least 12 months before the intake deadline as the process can be lengthy. Giving yourself plenty of time and submitting complete, high-quality applications will help your chances.

Study Permit Requirements

To study at a Canadian educational institution for a course longer than 6 months, you will need to obtain a Canadian study permit. Here are some key criteria to be eligible:

– Letter of Acceptance from a designated university/college

– Proof of financial support to cover tuition fees and living expenses

– Valid passport

– Clean criminal record and health clearance

– Pay the CAD $150 study permit application fee

The processing time can take up to 12 weeks so make sure to plan ahead. You cannot travel to Canada on a tourist visa and switch to a study visa once there. The study permit must be issued before you arrive in Canada.

Cost of Studying in Canada

Canada offers high-quality education at lower costs compared to many other major study destinations. Here is an overview:

– Tuition Fees: The average undergraduate tuition fee for international students is CAD $27,159 per year. However, this cost varies by university and program. Popular programs like engineering and business tend to have higher tuition costs.

– Accommodation: Living on-campus in university dorms ranges between CAD $ 500 and CAD $1000 per month. Renting private accommodation can cost around CAD $750-CAD $1500 per month depending on location.

– Other Costs: You need to budget around CAD $1000 per month for food, transport, phone bills, health insurance, textbooks, winter clothing and other living expenses.

– Work opportunities allow you to offset some costs through part-time on-campus jobs. Overall, budget around CAD $35,000 per year as an international student in Canada.

Scholarships for International Students

Here are some of the major scholarship programs available in Canada for international students:

– Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships – For PhD students with CAD $50,000 per year

– University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowships – Up to CAD $14,000 per year at the University of Manitoba

– Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarships – CAD $40,000 per year for PhD research

– Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) – Up to CAD $15,000 for graduate studies

– University of Waterloo International Master’s and Doctoral Awards – $2,500 tuition award per term

Many universities also offer entrance scholarships for outstanding international students. Doing well academically and being involved on campus can help you qualify. External organizations, your home country government and private foundations also offer scholarships to study in Canada.

Top Universities in Canada for International Students

Here are some of the top universities in Canada for international students:

1. University of Toronto – Canada’s highest-ranked university (18th globally), based in Toronto, Ontario. Strong programs in business, engineering, law, and social sciences.

2. McGill University – The top university located in Montreal, Quebec. Highly ranked for medicine and life sciences programs.

3. University of British Columbia – Located in Vancouver, BC, well-known for programs in engineering, forestry and earth sciences.

4. University of Alberta – Based in Edmonton, Alberta. Excellent research opportunities in science and engineering.

5. University of Montreal – Second largest university in Canada focused on French instruction programs, located in Montreal, Quebec.

6. University of Waterloo – Located in the technology hub of Waterloo, focused on math, engineering, and business.

7. Western University – Undergraduate and research institution located in London, Ontario.

8. McMaster University – Ressearch-focused university based in Hamilton, Ontario, strong in medicine and engineering programs.

9. University of Calgary – Located in Calgary, Alberta, great for kinesiology, engineering and energy industry programs.

10. Dalhousie University – Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, known for law, engineering and earth sciences courses.

With top-ranked universities across major provinces, international students in Canada are spoiled for choice. Be sure to research each university to find the best program fit for your academic and career goals.

Top Cities for International Students in Canada

Canada’s most populous and multicultural cities also attract the majority of international students. Here are great Canadian cities to live and study in:

1. Toronto – As Canada’s largest city, Toronto attracts a large international population. It hosts top universities like U of Toronto and Ryerson University while offering a very high standard of living.

2. Vancouver – With a mild climate, thriving arts scene, and amazing natural beauty, Vancouver is consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. Key schools include UBC and Simon Fraser University.

3. Montreal – A world-leading student city, Montreal offers international students affordable tuition, summer festivals, and busy nightlife. The top schools are McGill and the University of Montreal.

4. Ottawa – Canada’s capital is home to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. This trilingual city has a rich cultural scene and plenty of jobs.

5. Waterloo – This innovation hub is home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, perfect for students interested in technology and business.

6. Calgary – Close to the beautiful Canadian Rockies, Calgary offers a sunshine-filled lifestyle. Key schools are the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.

7. Edmonton – The gateway to the northern Canadian wilderness, Edmonton hosts the University of Alberta, NAIT, and other institutions. The cost of living is quite affordable.

8. Halifax – Located on Canada’s East Coast, Halifax is a lively port city with top schools like Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University.

Post-Study Work Opportunities in Canada

International students can work part-time during their studies and full-time during breaks. You can also work in Canada for up to 3 years after graduation through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. Your partner may also be eligible for an open work permit.

This makes Canada one of the best countries for international students looking to gain work experience abroad. During your post-study work term, you can gain valuable Canadian skilled work experience and improve your eligibility for permanent residency through Express Entry.

Make sure your study program is eligible, apply for the PGWP within 90 days of completing your program and have all required documents. With Canada’s skills shortage and aging workforce, graduates with Canadian credentials and work experience are highly employable.

Tips for International Students in Canada

Here are some additional tips to make the most of your international student experience in Canada:

– Get health insurance – Register for mandatory UHIP or your university’s health insurance plan

– Open a bank account – Enroll for a bank account after arrival to manage your expenses

– Make living arrangements – Book student housing/dorms on-campus or rent off-campus apartments

– Get a phone plan – Purchase a local mobile phone chip or plan; shops on campus usually offer student deals

– Register for courses – Meet academic advisors and register for courses well before each term

– Apply for tax credits and loans – Research provincial and federal financial aid you are eligible for

– Join student clubs – Take part in on-campus activities and network with peers

– Explore the country – Travel locally and during breaks to see more of the beautiful Canadian landscape and culture

– Learn about community services – Know about emergency services, local laws, health services, and community centers around you

By being prepared, doing thorough research, and immersing yourself on campus, you can make the most of your Canadian study experience.


Canada offers a world-class education system, a welcoming environment, a high standard of living, and post-graduation work opportunities for international students. By following the step-by-step application process, securing funding through scholarships, researching the top institutions and cities, and making the right preparations, you can have an enriching study experience in Canada that kickstarts your global career.


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