Applications University

Overview: Applying to Canadian Universities Part 1

Thinking about applying to a Canadian university? We’ve got you covered. This article covers the Canadian post-secondary application process. With a focus on the University of Toronto (UofT), University of Ottawa (UOttawa) and York University (YorkU). 

Researching and Picking the Right School

1. Location

  • There may be an intimidatingly long list of universities in Canada. But the best way to sift through them is to sort them by location. Canada is broken down into 10 provinces with varying concentrations of schools. As an example, the province of Ontario has around 13 or the top 39 universities in Canada while Manitoba has just 1. The lucky thing about Canada is that each province often varies greatly in terms of urbanization and weather (Pro-tip: Northern Canada can be up to 20℃ colder than Southern Canada on any given winter day). More urbanized areas include the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario while more rural areas include Alberta and Saskatchewan. 
  • Location may also provide important information on the cost of studying. As an example, colleges in the GTA are usually more expensive than those on the outskirts of Ontario as they are closer to downtown Toronto. The cost of living is an extremely important factor, especially for international students who would most probably have to live in Student Residences which can make up the bulk of one’s tuition.

2. Specializations and Courses

  • Most top-ranked universities in Canada are the best in their fields. As an example, UofT is known as a pioneer in the global research of biomedical sciences. Though, it is not particularly known for studies in Agricultural Sciences. These are important things to consider especially when thinking in terms of one’s major.
  • Different universities will have different terms for degree types like UofT having specializations and UOttawa having Honors Bachelors. Additionally, the type of degree may be taken into account with UofT having Type 1, 2 and 3 programs as well as different credit requirements as compared to other colleges. Cross-university comparison based on assumptions never turns out well as they are rarely perfect equivalents of each other. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these terms using the official college websites.
  • Speaking of official college websites, Canadian universities often have websites filled with information about technicalities such as the ones mentioned above. Additionally, many will have specific pages dedicated to Course and Class availability with descriptions and requirements. Make sure that you make the most of these. 

3. Scholarships

  • Many public and private scholarships, given by both the Canadian government and private institutions, are available. The criteria may depend on your residency status (Provincial citizen, Canadian citizen, International student) but this is not to say that international students do not qualify for any of them. The biggest scholarships are entrance scholarships which are automatically offered to applicants who have reached a certain grade threshold (ex. 90%). It should be noted that the amount of money given often varies. YorkU and UofT may give anywhere between $1000-$4000 CAN while UOttawa can give up to $10,000 CAN. In addition, there are also other scholarships available such as those for ethnic minorities and outstanding leaders. Though, these are not automatic and require further application to be considered. 

4. Acceptance Rates

  • Acceptance rates are one of the biggest drivers for college applications. The higher the general acceptance rate, the higher the chance of you applying. However, something colleges do not tell you is that the acceptance rates for specific programs fluctuate greatly. As an example, the general acceptance rate of 1st-year undergraduates for UofT in 2022 was 43%. However, for the Architecture program, it was around 15%. Additionally, UofT has three campuses: St. George, Scarborough and Mississauga wherein St. George generally has much lower acceptance rates than the other two. 
  • It should also be noted that low acceptance rates should not deter you from applying. There is no foolproof way to predict whether  you will or will not fall into the lot of accepted students because admissions depend on many different factors (more of that below)

5. A word on school rankings

  • Although rankings are an important aspect in considering a college, prospective applicants should not be heavily reliant on them as most rankings only consider a specific field. As an example, US News Best Global Universities has rankings for the field of Social Sciences which was often mistaken as a general ranking. If you do want to consider rankings as a big factor in applications, at the very least be mindful of which rankings you are considering. An example of a reliable database is QS World University Rankings. 

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