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Canada is a top choice for international students, and it sees a significant number of international students arriving each year. With world-class universities, a welcoming multicultural environment, and pathways for international students to stay in Canada post-graduation, it has earned its international reputation.

But, there’s a lot that goes into the decision to study abroad. You need to decide on a program, apply for and get your study permit, find a place to live, choose a bank, and more. This can seem overwhelming. So, we’ve created this guide to walk you through some of the major hurdles you’ll need to overcome to study in Canada, and show you why it’s worth it.

Why Study in Canada?

  • Quality education. Canada is home to a number of highly ranked universities and is known for its quality education. Recent changes in the study permit system (the PAL requirement) seek to further improve the quality of education for international students. 
  • Welcoming environment. Canada is a diverse and multicultural country that is welcoming to international students. That’s why Canada consistently has cities ranked among the best in the world for students! 
  • Safe and liveable. Canada is a relatively safe country with a low violent crime rate. It consistently ranks amongst the best countries in the world in terms of quality of life. 
  • Post-graduation opportunities. International students who graduate from certain institutions or programs in Canada are offered the opportunity to stay in Canada after graduation to work. This increases the odds of those students being able to apply for permanent residence in Canada in due course. 
  • Amazing travel opportunities. Canada is extremely beautiful and students have plenty of opportunities to explore during study breaks. 
  • Study in French or English. Canada offers the opportunity for international students to study in either French or English. The only official language is English in many other countries (the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, for instance). 
  • International students in Canada can work for up to 24 hours per week during semester, and on a full-time basis during school breaks.

Read our top reasons to study in Canada.

Life As A Student In Canada

From busy cities to smaller communities, student life in Canada is as unique as it is varied. If you’re looking for culture, arts, diverse foods, nightlife, and bustling streets, consider Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. If something slower paced with more mountains and fewer street cars appeals, studying in a smaller town in BC or Alberta might be a better fit. No matter what you’re interested in, Canada has a university town for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right resources to help you choose. Luckily, we have created a range of destination guides outlining some key facts and features of popular destinations in Canada. 

Education System Overview 

Each province and territory in Canada oversees its own education system, which means that there are differences between educational institutions and the university or college application process. You’ll also need to choose between University or College in Canada. 

Universities in Canada offer undergraduate and graduate programs for academic and professional fields. 

Colleges often focus on programs that are more focused on job readiness or readiness for a university program. Typically, students would leave colleges with a certificate or diploma. 

That being said, the lines are blurring between colleges and universities. Some colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in an applied field, while some universities have applied programs. So it can be helpful to focus on a field of study instead of colleges vs universities generally.

Whether you choose university or college depends on your goals and personality. 

  • Are you more practical or academically inclined? If you love assignments and research, university might appeal more. For those who want work-related training, college might be a better bet. 
  • What can you afford? College tends to be more affordable than university. These programs tend to be shorter too, allowing you to enter the workforce more quickly (though, they may not offer the same opportunity to work in Canada after graduating). 
  • Do you want to stay in Canada after you graduate? If so, you’ll need to pick a program and school that offers a PWGP. 
  • Are you a motivated student? University programs often require students to be more self-motivated. 

Cost of Studying in Canada

The cost of studying in Canada will vary from school to school and province to province. However, the average cost per year to study in Canada is as follows: 

Studying An Undergraduate Program in 2024

The average cost of studying in Canada is $34,628 per year in 2024, according to Statistics Canada. But, the costs vary widely depending on the province you intend to study in. 

These are the average costs of an undergraduate program per year in Canada, in order of least expensive to most expensive: 

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $15,892
  • New Brunswick: $16,186
  • Manitoba: $17,197
  • Prince Edward Island: $17,959
  • Nova Scotia: $23,207
  • Saskatchewan: $25,262
  • Alberta: $28,688
  • Quebec: $28,996
  • British Columbia: $32,068
  • Ontario: $42,223

There was no data available about the costs of studying in the Yukon. 

Remember, these are the average costs to study. Your individual program may be more expensive or less expensive. 

Studying A Graduate Program in 2024

The average cost to study a graduate program in Canada in 2024 is $20,061. But, again, the cost varies between the provinces and territories.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $4,370
  • Prince Edward Island: $10,459
  • Saskatchewan: $8,152
  • Manitoba: $11,592
  • New Brunswick: $12,416
  • Alberta: $16,386
  • Quebec: $18,217
  • Nova Scotia: $20,703
  • British Columbia: $21,315
  • Ontario: $25,599

Bear in mind that this is just the cost of tuition. This amount does not include living costs, such as rent, food, and fun, or other costs of studying, such as administrative fees, parking on campus, or books.

Steps to Study in Canada

Here’s the process for getting a study permit in Canada: 

Step 1. Choose your school and program.

Step 2: Apply for and gain admission to your school in Canada.  

Step 3. Gather your documents and provincial attestation letter

Step 4. Apply for your study permit. 

Step 5: Get accepted, or know what to do if your study permit is rejected. 

Step 6: Prepare for your arrival in Canada. 

After that, it’s up to you to make the most of your time in Canada and to chart your path to the life you want after graduation. 

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

He/Him
Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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Citation "The Complete Guide to Studying in Canada." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation