Applications Preparation University

Canadian Universities: Application Tips

Applying to Canadian universities? Were here to help! Here is Francine, student at the University of British Columbia, with a breakdown of the application process. This advice was originally in a presentation given at the August IBlieve Global Virtual Summit, and has been written up by High School Ambassador Celine.

Application Timeline

The application timeline in Canada is pretty much the same for the entire country, but may differ a bit from school to school. Applications open in September.

  • Early application deadlines: Early December
  • Regular application deadlines: Mid-January to early May
  • Registration: Late May and onwards

It’s always best to apply early, as admissions are usually done on a rolling basis. What this means is that only will you have a better chance of getting in if you apply early, but if you don’t get in for the first round, they will continue to take you into consideration for the following rounds. Some universities may also take you into deliberation for financial aid scholarships if you apply early. 

Regular application deadlines are anytime between December to mid-January or early May. There is no specific date for admission offers, as mentioned earlier that they are done on a rolling basis.

If you get into your university and want to go there, the next step is registration. This confirms your spot to study at that university. Usually registration is late May and onwards.

Essential Parts of a Canadian University Application

There are 4 main components of a Canadian university application. This will differ by university, so you need to do research on the specific school you want to attend. These are the components that are general to most applications, and some tips for them:


These are different from US and UK essay applications, where you can pick anything you want to write about. For Canadian universities, they will give you prompts, and there will be several essays for you to write. Again, this also varies, but there is typically around a maximum of 300 words per essay.

Keep in mind that you have a limited amount of words, so use them wisely. Don’t use fancy words to try to impress, just be direct and honest. Another tip is to make sure all of your short essays make sense together, so look at the big picture. Do they represent you as a whole? Do they show your growth as a person? 


Universities will ask you about your extracurriculars and your past work experience.

A useful piece of advice is to show commitment. You don’t want to jump around from activity to activity just for the sake of doing it, because universities can tell. Show that you’re passionate about your extracurriculars. 

You should also show leadership. It can be quite difficult to get leadership positions, but you don’t have to stay within your school community to make yourself stand out. Go out to the real world and make your own opportunities—volunteer for initiatives within your neighborhood or even start your own organization! This is where you can use your CAS experiences to your advantage.


This will depend on the school, but usually programs such as business, international economics, and medicine will require you to have interviews.

When you answer a question, you want to get to the root of what they are trying to ask, so think critically about what the university is trying to assess. Some questions may seem superficial, like “What fruit would you want to be and why?”, but universities don’t actually have a right or wrong answer—they just want to see if you can articulate your thought process. 

Take your time, don’t ramble, and carry on even if you made a mistake. These interviews are usually conducted online through video recordings, so they will give you a few practice rounds to get used to the set-up. Make the most out of these practice rounds, as not only will they allow you to relax, but they can also give you a sense of what kind of questions they ask. Remember to relax, be direct, be honest, and be yourself.

Another thing to think about is that if you’re an arts student, you may have to submit your portfolio. If you’re a theater student or a music major, you may have to do some additions as well. 


This will be your IB predicted grades, high school report, and standardized tests depending on where you’re from.

Before applying to a program, make sure that you take a look at the subject prerequisite requirements, as universities will not take you into consideration if you don’t meet these requirements regardless of how good your grades are. Your mock exam and predicted grades will also be sent to the universities, so it is important that you prioritize these and maintain consistency with all your assessments.

Aside from IB grades, some of you may also need to take the IELTS or TOEFL if you didn’t take high school in Canada. The requirements differ from university to university, so make sure that you check out their websites for more information on if you need to take these tests. Additionally, the SAT and ACT are not required.

Application centres

These are basically websites that you would send your application through. It’s not based on the university, but based on the location of the university. Not all Canadian universities work through province-based application centres, but it is an added step you want to take note of. e.g. You have to apply through OUAC (Ontario University Application Centre) for any university in Ontario.

Not only do you have to submit it through the application centre, but you also have to submit it through the university itself (so you have to do it twice).

To conclude

We would like to wish the best of luck to those students who are applying to Canadian universities. You’ may be anxious, but remember to be excited for what the future holds. All of your hard work WILL pay off and we can’t wait to see where you go!

You may also like…

  • Find Adas thoughts on whether the IB helped her get into Canadian universities here.
  • Read Anoushkas advice on how to research universities as a high school student here.

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