Your Road Map to Study in Canada

The university selection, application, and admissions process can be an exciting — and overwhelming process. The decision to study at a university and the choice of study program is crucial, and can shape your future dramatically. Making the right decision for you may help you to start a satisfying career and discover your full potential.

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Each university in Canada has its own requirements, fee structure, and deadlines to note, while each applicant has his or her own unique needs, qualifications, and desires. Matching an institution and study program to your own educational profile and goals is a detailed process, and should not be taken lightly.

Many prospective students choose their preferred institution before considering study programs, while others may decide on a program of study before researching institutions. Both approaches have one thing in common: research is key.

Getting Started: Career Interests and Programs of Study

In addition to challenging themselves academically, senior secondary students should take the time to fully explore their future study options in light of what they would like to do with their lives and careers. Not everyone is lucky enough to know this definitively; most people change their minds a few times along the way. The good news is that Canadian university programs allow for some flexibility and self-discovery in this regard.

First year business students at the University of British Columbia, for example, may study Economics, Commerce and English, as well as a selection of elective classes in any subjects they choose. Years two, three, and four require a higher degree of specialization. This is where students choose a “Major” specialization and commit to the idea of pursuing a career in Finance, Marketing, Real Estate, or Entrepreneurship. Most Canadian universities follow this pattern: students try a range of courses in different disciplines before choosing Major and a Minor specialization programs.

If there is a specific career interest that motivates the decision to study, plan accordingly in steps. If you would like to become a teacher, architect, or a lawyer, in addition to taking the right program of study in university, your decision will also require external tests, work experience or internship, or further studies to become professionally licensed.

While programs of study in various specializations number in the hundreds, schools usually organize these subjects in departments called faculties. Therefore, if you are looking to study Athletic Performance and Nutrition (in order to become a Sports-Nutritionist, for example) you would look to the Faculty of Science, whereas aspiring teachers may look to the Faculty of Education. These faculties are created because universities are big places requiring organization and specialization.

Here are some sample programs of study and their respective faculties.

Program of Study Faculty, Department, or Division
Biochemistry Faculty of Science
Real Estate Marketing Faculty of Business Administration
Anthropology Faculty of Arts
Sports Nutrition Faculty of Science
Corporate Finance Faculty of Business Administration
French Language and Literature Faculty of Arts
Early Childhood Education Faculty of Education

Choosing an institution

When considering an institution, it is crucial to research the surrounding location. Consider factors that may be important to you: do you prefer to live in an urban or rural area? Is there an international airport nearby? What are the costs of living in the area? These factors may not be of immediate concern, but if you are settling in an area for several years during your studies, it could have a noticeable effect on your quality of life.

Other prospective students may value name recognition when selecting an institution. Canada has a number of universities that rank strongly worldwide, and are known abroad for the quality of their research and the capabilities of their graduates. However, it is important to note that the name does not mean everything. Employers look at an applicant’s character and skills when hiring, and not only the university they attended.

Learn more about 15 Cheapest Universities in Canada for International Students

How Admission to a Canadian University Works

Unlike many international universities, Canada’s public universities rarely use external tests — such as Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) — to determine a prospective student’s admissibility. Instead these schools look very closely at transcripts, or academic records, language proficiency, and proof of graduation (most often a completed senior secondary diploma) to decide if an applicant has met the minimum academic requirements. These schools will also require you to apply by deadline.

It’s important to remember that not all senior secondary school programs equate to the Canadian standard. Many institutions publish international admissions requirements, which applicants from countries outside Canada may be required to meet. Many colleges offer academic upgrading courses to help students attain the level required for entry into a main study program. Starting a program at a college may allow a student to pursue courses to reach the academic requirements of a larger university, before starting a main study program.

When applying to a college or university, it is important to research faculty-specific requirements as well as general admissions requirements. For example, prospective students who wish to study Chemistry may be required to show they have completed science courses in secondary school.

In addition to differences in the program composition and requirements, two other major criteria should be noted: language requirements, and fees. If one or more of these factors requires upgrading, a language test, or saving more money, determine whether or not it’s possible to prepare in time to meet the university application deadlines.


Before you apply to a Canadian university you should have a basic idea of your program of study and what you intend to do upon graduation. If you are intending to build a specific career through education, you should know all the steps towards your goal. On the other hand, many students pursue the study programs they are passionate about, without a view to a specific career. The wealth of programs on offer at Canadian universities ensures there is something for everyone.


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