If you’re reading this, chances are you already have your sights set on studying in Canada. And we totally get why! Alongside having some of the world’s best universities, Canada has plenty going for it as a study abroad destination. In general, it’s more affordable than some of its other English-speaking counterparts, which is always a plus. Canada also has a wonderful quality of life and great post-study work opportunities! And with its friendly immigration policies, it’s often the dream destination for students aiming to settle abroad. And we’re only scratching the surface here. If any of the above checks off your criteria for the best study abroad destination, what are you waiting for? Let’s jump right into the application process for Canada to make your dreams come true!
How to Apply to Canadian Universities as International Students
First things first, you need to figure out where exactly you’re applying! An important thing to remember right off the bat is that your program needs to be from a Designated Learning Institute (DLI). These are universities that have the Canadian government’s approval as education providers fit to host international students. To get a Study Permit to travel and live in Canada, you need a letter of acceptance from a DLI.
Depending on your universities of choice, you might be sending your applications directly to each university or through a central platform. The latter is the case if you’re applying to certain universities in Ontario! If you are planning to study at any of the universities below, you’ll be applying through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC).
Some pretty prominent names feature on this list. And we’ll hazard a guess that you’ve looked into at least a few of them. Some of Canada’s best universities, like the University of Toronto, require OUAC applications. So, let’s find out what applying through the OUAC entails!
Application Process for Canadian Universities in Ontario
The application process for undergraduate and postgraduate programs through the OUAC is somewhat similar. The major difference – aside from the program and entry requirements – is that international students go through a single application for all their chosen undergraduate programs. For postgraduate programs, the university redirects you to its specific OUAC application portal.
OUAC Applications for Prospective Undergraduate Students
1. Research Your University and Program Requirements
The entire process begins, as you might expect, with research. Each university, and specific programs within each university, may have different requirements. A computer science program at the University of Guelph, for example, might not ask for an application essay, but one at Trent University might! To make sure you don’t set your application back or find yourself scrambling at the last minute to put together items you didn’t know you had to prepare, thoroughly look through what each university and program is asking of you. Typically, these would include:
- High school/secondary school leaving exam grades
- English language proficiency test scores
- Academic transcripts
- Academic references
The grade boundaries and English language test score margins programs and universities ask for may also vary. To make sure you know the score margins to target, take careful note of these requirements!
Remember, your OUAC application is a part of your overall application. After your chosen universities receive your application through the OUAC, they’ll reach out to you for supplementary information. Typically, you’ll sign up through the university’s student portal and upload the documents they specifically request. If you’re applying to multiple schools, it’s a good idea to keep organised checklists of what each program is requesting. This helps you make sure you’re on track for each of your applications!
2. Sign Up for Your OUAC Account
Once you’re set on your programs and universities, you’re ready to make your OUAC account. Through the homepage, you’ll see the options available to you. As an international student, the Undergrad (105) Application is the one for you! Once you click through this tile, scroll down to the Create Your OUAC Account option to access the sign up window. Here, you’ll provide your basic details and set up your password. A very crucial tip – make sure you’re using your most current email address. Check that there aren’t any typos and that your password is secure and memorable. It’s always a great idea to write it down somewhere safe! Remember, the OUAC and your chosen universities will mostly reach out to you through email. Regularly check through your spam folders and make sure you set up your email filters to direct these emails to your priority inbox. Once you confirm your email address, you’re ready to start off your application.
3. Fill Out Your Application Details
The application process might seem lengthy, but it’s pretty straightforward! Here’s a rundown of the details you’ll need to provide:
VERIFY YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
- Name: including your first/legal name and your last/family name. The names must match those in your official documents! Don’t type in any nicknames for these fields. You can, however, specify separately the preferred name you’d like to go by if this isn’t the same as your legal name
- Gender and Date of Birth
- Voluntary Declarations: These sections are not mandatory. Here, you can declare things like whether or not you’re a first-generation applicant. This means you’re the first person in your family attending a tertiary education institution. While this information isn’t compulsory, the OUAC does send it over to universities if you provide it. This might help you access services your chosen universities provide for first-generation university attendees!
- Citizenship and Language Information
- Your status in Canada
- Country of citizenship
- Your First Language
PROVIDE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION
- Your current and up-to-date email address
- Your addresses – both home and mailing addresses
- At least one contact number
LIST OUT YOUR ACADEMIC INFORMATION
- List down all the secondary and postsecondary institutions you studied at
SHORTLIST YOUR PROGRAM CHOICES
This is where you add and organise your program choices! If you noted down the OUAC codes for your chosen programs, searching up the right ones is much easier. You can change and delete your choices too.
There’s no limit to the number of Ontario universities you can apply to. However, you can only apply to a maximum of three programs at one university. Some universities also have their own limitations on how many programs you can apply to. While you can organise your programs in the order of preference, this doesn’t typically affect your application.
UPLOAD YOUR DOCUMENTS
Remember the checklists we recommended keeping? This is where they can be super helpful! Make sure you’re uploading only the documents you need to. These need to be in PDF format, with a maximum file size of 5MB. While the document requirements of different universities will vary, here are some of the items you might need to provide:
Documents the OUAC Accepts
English language proficiency tests
- Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL)
- Cambridge Assessment English
- Duolingo English Test
- PTE Academic
Unofficial Exam Results
- Advanced Placement (AP)
- American College Testing (ACT)
- General Certificate of Education (GCE)
- International Baccalaureate (IB)
- Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
- Secondary and post-secondary transcripts, which must be:
- Sent directly from the registrar’s office
- A document that’s either
- On the institution’s official transcript paper, with the school’s seal and relevant signatures
- Sent electronically through valid procedures
Unofficial Credential Evaluation
- World Education Services (WES)
- International Credential Advantage Package (ICAP)
This may include supplementary information like:
- Extenuating circumstances
- Medical documentation
- Personal support letters
- Letters of intent
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRANSCRIPTS
Your transcripts need to cover every school, college, or other secondary or postsecondary institution you attended or are attending. This includes any institutions you dropped out from, too. If you’ve ever undertaken course work holding a Letter of Permission, transferred credits across institutions, or hold exchange program credits, your transcripts need to cover these too.
As an international student, your university might ask you to submit your official academic transcripts directly to World Education Services (WES) Canada. WES Canada evaluates and verifies the international degrees you hold and provides Educational Credential Assessments (ECAs).
LIST OUT YOUR EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND WORK EXPERIENCE
Starting with the most recent, here you can list out your work experience and extracurricular activities. Any part-time job, volunteering, community work, club activity, etc., that you’ve been part of between high school and the present go here!
4. Check Through Your Application, Submit, and Pay
Once you’ve gone through all the steps, the last thing to do before you submit is review your application! Comb through each section, making sure there aren’t any typos or missing information. Remember, a mistake now could set back your application! Once you’re sure everything is correct, complete, and in its proper place, read through the Applicant’s Declaration and then select the “I Verify and Agree” option.
After this, you can proceed to payment. For the 105 application, you can apply for up to three programs with a base fee of CAD 156. For each additional program you add on, you pay CAD 50. So, if you’re applying for two other programs alongside the initial three, you pay CAD 100 plus the base fee of CAD 156. As an international student, you also pay an International Service Fee of CAD 10.
For your supplemental documents, you might need to pay additional evaluation fees. These will vary from university to university. Some programs may ask for supplemental program fees too. Before going through with your payment, make sure you understand the breakdown of all these payments. In some cases, universities might ask you for additional document evaluation fees – these are payable to the university directly.
Once you make your payment – through debit/credit card or FlyWire – the OUAC sends off your application to your chosen universities! At this point, you’ll get your OUAC reference number. Make sure you note this down alongside your account details. You’re going to need this for your future correspondence with the OUAC and with your chosen universities.
5. Following Up After Your Application
After your OUAC application, each of the universities you apply to get back to you through email. You might have to log into the student accounts these universities supply you with. And if there are any additional documents the universities need – like your English language proficiency scores, transcripts, application essays, etc. – this is when they’ll ask you to submit them! Keep a close eye on your inbox – especially the spam folder – to make sure you can respond to these emails as soon as possible.
Remember, admissions for Canadian universities can be pretty competitive. Admissions offices usually go by a first-come, first-serve policy. So, the sooner you apply, the better your chances for getting into your dream university! You can also both accept and reject offers through your 105 application, so hold on to and regularly check your OUAC account.
OUAC Applications for Prospective Postgraduate Students
For postgraduate programs, the university website redirects you to its dedicated OUAC application channel. Like the undergraduate application, you might need to complete part of the application through the OUAC, and then provide supplementary or supporting documents when the university reaches out to you directly. Again, it’s important to make sure you research the Canadian university admission requirements for the university and your program!
To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s what your OUAC application checklist will look like!
- Program Choices
- Personal Information
- Contact Information
- Academic Background
- Scholarships and Finance
- Transcript Requests
- Test Scores
- Professional Background
- Other Information
Application Process for Canadian Universities Outside Ontario
Several Canadian universities also take applications directly. And again, we can’t stress this enough – do check what each program and university is asking for from its applicants! Putting together a solid application based on the university’s eligibility requirements boosts your success rates. Here’s what a typical Canadian university admission requirements list would look like:
- Personal identification documents (scanned copies of your passport, national ID, etc.)
- Academic transcripts and certificates
- English language proficiency test scores
- Academic/professional references
- Expression of interest/statement of purpose/letter of intent
- Research proposal/research statement (for postgraduate students)
If you’re applying to a university in which the primary language of instruction is French, you may need to meet French language proficiency requirements instead. There may be additional requirements depending on your program, the university you’re applying to, or your country of citizenship!
When Should I Start the Application Process for Canada?
Most universities in Canada offer up to three intakes. The fall intake – around September – is the primary one and sees the most number of universities offering the greatest number of courses. Many universities also offer a second intake in the winter, around January. While fewer universities offer fewer courses during this intake, it’s mostly comparable to the fall intake. If you missed the September deadline, for instance, because you didn’t get your grades or English language tests done in time, you can aim for the Winter intake. Some programs offer a Spring or Summer intake too. This may only apply to a handful of universities offering specific courses, though.
It’s important to look into the intakes available for your universities and programs of choice up to a year before semester start dates! There’s a lot of items you need to arrange for your application, and that takes time. Plus, you also need to account for the time you’ll need to apply for the Study Permit. You need to have a letter of acceptance before you can go ahead and apply for a visa. And the visa itself takes time to apply for and process. So, getting a head-start helps you prepare more efficiently!
Another important note that we’ll reiterate – Canadian universities accept applications on a first-come, first-serve basis! You don’t want a scenario where you have a really solid application but miss your chance because you submit your package too late. Since many programs are quite competitive, starting as early as six to eight months before the application deadline gives you the leeway to prepare a complete package without rushing and submitting a subpar or incomplete one.
Canadian University Application Deadline 2022
While each university will have its own application deadlines, here’s a general overview of the Canadian academic calendar for universities:
August 2021 – March 2022
September – December 2022
October – December 2022
Our Concluding Thoughts on the Application Process for Canada
A vital thing to keep in mind for the application process for Canada is that each university has its own way of doing things. Since you’re going to navigate a lot of information – program requirements, English language test scores, application deadlines, supporting documents – it’s best to start as early as a year before your target intake. Keeping track of all the requirements for your chosen schools lets you prepare your application with minimal room for error. And getting a solid application package through the first time around helps secure your spot at your dream university! Since admissions offices consider applications on a first-come, first-serve basis and you need a letter of acceptance to apply for a student visa in the first place, the sooner you apply, the better. This doesn’t mean we’re recommending rushing with your application either. By giving yourself more time, you can approach all the steps meticulously, fill up any gaps, or fix any mistakes!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do international students apply to Canadian universities?
If you’re applying to universities in Ontario, you’ll likely be applying through the OUAC. As a prospective undergraduate student, you can apply to multiple universities through a single OUAC 105 application. As a postgraduate student, the university will direct you to their distinct OUAC application page. Alongside the OUAC 105 application, universities might ask you to send them specific supporting documents directly to them.
Other universities accept the complete application directly. Each university has its own breakdown of application processes and entry requirements. So, the university website itself is a great place to start to figure out how to apply to uni in Canada as an international student!
Is there a list of Canadian universities with free application for admission for international students?
Here are some Canadian universities with no application fees:
- Royal Roads University (no application fees for online application)
- Booth University College (no application fees for Canadian and American students)
- Tyndale University (no application fees for Canadian and American students)