Universities In Canada: The Ultimate Guide For International Students

 In Canada, Education, The Finder

Looking for universities in Canada? As the second-largest country in the world, Canada is no stranger to high-quality education. It is well-established internationally and is a popular destination for many students wishing to study overseas. Out of Canada’s ten provinces, the most popular choices for international students are Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. In fact, in 2020, there were more than half a million international students furthering their education in Canada.

Many international students are attracted to Canada because of its high quality of life, internationally recognised education and welcoming culture. It’s also one of the world’s most developed countries, making studying in Canada an ideal situation for students worldwide. Three of Canada’s universities found themselves spots in the world’s top 50 universities, with 11 more positioned with the world’s top 300 universities.

The top three universities in Canada are the University of Toronto (ranked 28 worldwide), McGill University (ranked 33 worldwide) and the University of British Columbia (ranked 47 worldwide). Other top universities include the University of Alberta, McMaster University and Université de Montréal. Getting your bachelors degree requires three to four years of studying. This usually depends on the university and the subject chosen. Postgraduate degrees, on the other hand, usually require one to three years of studying – depending on if it’s your Master’s degree or Doctoral’s degree.

Different universities in Canada are run differently since each university is managed by the government of the province. A university in Quebec would be run differently than a university in Ontario since they have different provincial governments. If you’re applying to a university in Canada, you should check with the chosen university for more details on the syllabus and study period.

Top universities in Canada

1. University of Toronto

Photo credit: 123RF

The University of Toronto is the top university in the whole of Canada. Located in Toronto, Ontario, it’s also placed as the top 26 universities worldwide under QS World University Rankings 2021. It was founded in 1827 by the royal charter as King’s College, the first higher learning institution in Upper Canada. As the top university in Canada, admission to the University of Toronto is no doubt competitive. Some things that will be considered or needed during your admission include:

  • Academic grades
  • Some programmes require additional applications
  • Auditions or interviews

Admission criteria usually differ depending on the programme you are applying for. Applying early with all the necessary documents is strongly advised.

With the diverse nature of Canada, it’s no surprise to see the diverse culture at the University of Toronto. There are over a thousand unique organisations and student groups to apply to, whether it’s athletic clubs such as swimming, soccer and softball, or creative and artsy clubs. Find out more about campus life here.

The diversity at the University of Toronto is also seen through the huge variety of graduate programmes available. There are more than 280 different professional graduate programmes in various departments such as health sciences, engineering, biochemistry, art history and much more. Find out more about the various graduate programmes here.

Not interested in single degree graduate programmes? The University of Toronto also provides combined degree programmes for undergraduate degrees and master degrees. If you’re a professional wishing to pursue academic study without enrolling for a full degree programme, diploma programmes are also another option.

University of Toronto
Address: 27 King’s College Cir, Toronto, ON M5S 1A1, Canada
Tel: +1 416-978-2011
Opening hours: 24 hours

2. McGill University

Photo credit: 123RF

McGill University is ranked as the second top university in Canada. Located in Montreal, Quebec, it’s placed at the top 31 universities worldwide under QS World University Rankings 2021. It was founded in 1821 under the Royal charter granted by King George. It’s one of the most well known higher institutions of learning in Canada and is also a popular choice for international students looking to further their education. It is also a pretty competitive university, with the average entering grade being over 90 percent. Seats are also reserved for students from Quebec, making it even more competitive to apply.

Some admission requirements include:

  • Academic grades
  • Some programmes require additional documents (such as architecture, education, music, nursing and social work)
  • Some may require proof of english proficiency

There are over 400 programmes at McGill University in 80 various departments. Some popular programmes include English, Political Science, Physics, Computer Science, International Development Studies and more. Besides an extensive variety of programmes, the culture at McGill is also diverse. Students from over 150 countries come to McGill to receive a high-quality education.

Besides the university culture, McGill is also popular due to its location. It’s located in Montreal, a diverse and multilingual society. Both English and French languages are used in Montreal and many students take advantage of the bilingual culture to learn a new language. Rent in Montreal is also relatively affordable as compared to other cities in Canada. In fact, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $760.

McGill University
Address: 845 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3A 0G4, Canada
Tel: +1 514-398-4455
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weekdays)

3. University of British Columbia

Photo credit: Facebook / University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia is the third top university in Canada. It’s ranked at 45 in the QS World University Rankings 2021. Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, it is considered British Columbia’s oldest university and was established in 1908. Entering the university is competitive and comparative since it’s a pretty established university. The institute is globally recognised for excellence in teaching and research, along with global impact.

To be admitted to UBC, you must successfully meet the general admission requirements that apply to all applicants, as well as the degree-specific requirements that depend on which country you’re applying from and what degree(s) you’re applying to. Head over here to check the admission requirements. Some courses may require you to do an English language competency test.

With over 740 courses available at UBC, the university also comprises of two campuses. One is in Vancouver while another is in Okanagan. Some popular programmes include environmental science, agricultural sciences, arts and humanities, biology and biochemistry, cell biology and chemical engineering.

You can also feel at home at one of the many clubs and societies found at the University of British Columbia. With over 350 clubs, you’ll be sure to find your interests or hobbies at UBC. Join a club and make friends with fellow like-minded people. Besides clubs, UBC also has multiple volunteering opportunities for you to commit your time to. You can write for Ubyssey or help run a radio show at CiTR. Find out more about joining clubs at UBC here.

University of British Columbia
Address: Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
Tel: +1 604-822-2211
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weekdays)

4. University of Alberta

(image: University of Alberta)

The University of Alberta is ranked fifth in Canada, and 119 internationally in 2021. It’s also known as U of A, or UAlberta, and is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1908 by Alexander Cameron Rutherford, this university is known for its high-quality research.

The U of A is also one of the top teaching and research universities in Canada, is known worldwide for its excellence across not only the humanities and creative arts, but also sciences, engineering and business. Although not as competitive as the above-mentioned universities, U of A still has an acceptance of only 58 percent. Different departments also have their own different acceptance rates and requirements. Requirements are based on your previous grades and academic history. Specific courses may require an English proficiency test and the completion of required subjects. The application fee is also $125. Find out more about admission requirements here.

Some of the top courses in U of A include nursing, earth sciences, business administration, chemical engineering and environmental science. Besides having over 400 unique programs, the University of Alberta also has over 450 unique student groups that include religious and cultural groups.

University of Alberta
Address: 116 St & 85 Ave, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada
Opening hours: 24 hours

5. McMaster University

(image: McMaster University / Facebook)

McMaster University is in the top 6 universities in Canada and is ranked 144 internationally according to the QS World University Rankings for 2021. Located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the McMaster campus is on 121 hectares of land near residential neighbourhoods like Ainslie Wood and Westdale.

It also has a proud history of academic and research excellence as seen by its alumni, which include three Nobel Prize winners, business leaders and successful individuals. McMaster is also considered competitive for international students to get into, so make sure to submit your admission documents early on. Find out more about admission requirements here.

McMaster University is internationally renowned, with six different faculties of study – Health Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Science and Engineering. With over 100 programs that have hands-on and research-focused studies, it also has over 350 different clubs that are perfect for you.

McMaster University
Address: 1280 Main St W, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada

Admission processes in Canada

1. Admission criteria

University requirements for entering universities in Canada are usually simple. Admission is usually based on academic marks made in general education or high school national examinations. Each university may also differ slightly in admission requirements, and so does each program accepting students. Universities generally accept school-leaving results such as GCSE A-Levels or SAT. Depending on the school you are applying for and the number of applicants you are up against, a pre-admission test or interview can also be administered.

Besides grades, having a resume or testimonial may also come in handy. Here are some common admission requirements:

  • Filled-in admission application form
  • Academic transcripts
  • English proficiency test
  • Testimonial or Resume

2. Application period and semester dates

Depending on the school, the semester can vary. Some schools have the year split into three semesters – August to December, January to April and April to July. If the semester is split into two terms, these terms are usually running from September to December and January to April. Schools can also offer summer studies during holidays, which will be from May to August.

International students should keep an eye out for the different application dates for different universities that they may be interested in. Application processes are relatively similar despite slight differences and are usually done online. Fill out the online application form and also pay an application fee – which can be from $20 to over $100. Some universities may not even require an application fee. It’s also important to ensure that you submit all necessary documents online before the application closing date. If you’re applying for the fall intake, application deadlines are usually around January. For the beginning of the year intakes, application deadlines are around August.

3. Tuition fees and scholarships

It’s important to note that international students are charged much more than local Canadian students. In fact, international students actually pay an estimated three times more than local students, with an average of over $30,000 per year. Academic fees also usually depend on the course of study being taken. Humanities courses are cheaper than more expensive subjects such as engineering or medicine.

4. Accommodation

There are numerous options for international students looking for a place to live in Canada. Students can either stay in University dormitories, a shared apartment with other students or stay in their own apartment if they can afford it. Dormitories near campus grounds are usually fully furnished, although students will usually have to share the kitchen, bathroom and other amenities. Rooms are usually also shared with a roommate, or you can also stay in a single dormitory. Students should choose the best option based on their preference, comfort level and budget.

Feeling ready to make the big move?

Head over here to begin your journey
Or start ticking off your relocation checklist here

Still unsure?

Learn more about Canada here
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