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You’ve done it. You’ve found a program you’re excited about at a University or College that you’d be proud to attend. It’s in a Canadian city you’d like to explore. All that’s left is to apply to the post-secondary school. So, what does that look like?

Before You Apply

A few quick notes to consider before you apply:

It really is crucial that you apply to a Designated Learning Institution. Find out more about DLIs, including a list of institutions, on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

Applying To A Canadian University or College

The application process for each University or College varies, and it looks different based on your program of choice too. The best way to determine what the application process looks like is to review the educational institution’s website or to reach out directly.  

But, there are a few steps in the process that are common to almost all schools and all programs of study, namely that you will need to: 

  • Provide supporting documents, including your high school transcripts and potentially an Educational Credential Assessment. 
  • Sit a language test to prove your proficiency in English or French. 
  • Pay an application fee. Most universities and colleges charge an application fee of $50-$100 per program. 

Learn more about these requirements below. But first, some quick tips: 

3 Quick Tips for Applying To A Canadian University or College

  1. It’s wise to apply earlier than the university or college deadline, because you will still need to apply for your study permit even after being accepted. IRCC recommends that anyone intending to study a post-secondary program apply a year in advance of their anticipated start date.
  2. Thoroughly research the admission requirements. You don’t want to throw away the application fees by applying to a program you aren’t eligible to study or aren’t likely to be accepted into. 
  3. Your application essays should reflect your interests, achievements, and the reasons you are attracted to the program. If you’re applying for multiple programs or to different schools, make sure you tailor your personal application essay for each. 


Application Requirements

Supporting documents

Once you know where you want to apply and the program you want to apply for, it’s time to get your documents in order. 

Most universities and colleges will require: 

  • A copy of your high school transcript. 
  • An educational credential assessment to show that your transcript is equivalent to the level of a Canadian high school diploma, and 
  • An official translation, if your transcript is not in English or French. 

Check your intended institution’s website for the requirements for educational credential assessment, as this can vary by institution and program.

Further requirements and conditions for application can vary extensively between institutions, so be prepared to do your research and consult each institution’s website. All the information you’ll need will be clearly presented online, but you can also reach out in person to the admissions department of your intended Canadian university or college – they’ll be happy to help you.

Common further documents required by Canadian post-secondary schools include: 

  • Letters of recommendation, 
  • A portfolio, and
  • A personal essay.

Other supporting documents may also be requested, depending on the program or institution. As always, it’s best to consult your intended institution directly for the full requirements.

If you’re applying to a post-graduate program such as a Master’s-level or PhD program, requirements will be different, but you can expect to be asked for university-level transcripts or career experience that make you eligible for the program. However, it is advised to contact the Canadian university you wish to study in advance for their specific post-graduate program requirements.

Proof of language

As an international student, you will also need to show proficiency in English (or French, depending on the institution). Generally, this means you need to supply results of a recognized language test such as the TOEFL, PTE Academic, or IELTS – required results and recognized testing bodies will vary by institution.

Students from some countries are exempt from the language requirement, but the exemptions and conditions can also vary by institution and program, so you’ll need to check with your intended institution. 

Generally, if you’ve studied in English and the recognized language of school-level education in your country is English, you may be exempt from the requirement to provide a language test.


How To Apply To Study In Canada

Once you have the documents you need, it’s time to get online and go for it. 

Depending on where you want to apply, you may need to go through a centralized online application system such as Apply Alberta, Education Planner BC, Ontario Universities’ Application Centre, or Ontario Colleges

Other provinces may not have a centralized application system, so you’ll need to apply directly through the university or college’s website. Each Canadian university and college will clearly explain their application process on their website.

Application processes are now almost completely automated online – in some cases you may need to provide physical documents at a later stage, but generally speaking you can expect to get through the initial application stages online.

Pay Your Application Fee

You should also expect to submit a fee for every application you submit. This can vary from about $50-$150 depending on the institution, and is generally non-refundable.

When To Apply

You guessed it – this also varies by institution, so check their websites. Some universities have earlier deadlines for application, often because they receive a lot of applications. Often, smaller universities and colleges have later application deadlines.

Remember that whatever the application deadline is at your intended institution, you need to include enough time to ensure that your study permit application can be processed in time for the start of the semester. IRCC recommends applying a year in advance of your anticipated start date.

Next Steps

After you’ve submitted, you’ll have to wait for a decision from the universities or colleges you applied to. Many application systems allow you to check the status of your application online, and it’s recommended that you rely on this. However frustrating the wait may seem, be patient – you will get a response, whether you are accepted or not.

Once you are accepted, you’ll receive a Letter of Acceptance from the Canadian university or college. Your university or college will also need to apply for a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL), and they should provide this to you after you’re accepted. If not, you will need to reach out to the school to request one. You cannot apply for the PAL yourself. 


What’s Next? Apply For Your Study Permit

After you’ve been accepted to a Canadian post-secondary DLI and you’ve received your Letter of Acceptance and your Provincial Attestation Letter, it’s time to apply for your study permit.

To help, we’ve created a guide to applying for a study permit in Canada.

You can also create a free Moving2Canada account. Our Student Checklist provides a tailored list for hopeful students that sets out all the steps and to-dos you need to tackle to study in Canada.

About the author

Rachel Dancel video content at Moving2Canada

Rachel Dancel

Newcomers Influencer & Video Content Creator
Originally from the Philippines, her immigration journey began as an international student, leading to permanent residency in 2021. Passionate about sharing her immigration experience, she created a YouTube channel during a pivotal time. A visual storyteller, Rachel adds unique perspective to the team as our Video Content Creator. She crafts engaging and informative content to help fellow immigrants navigate their journey to Canada.
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