Summer in Canada for International Students: Studying, Working, and More

Discover your options for expanding your education through the summer break.

Summer Courses for International Students

Are you an international student wondering whether to continue taking classes during the summer break?

In Canada, working in the summer (which runs May through August) has been a long tradition. We use the summers to earn and save money, and get interesting experiences in doing so.

Canada puts no restrictions on international students on where you can work when there's an official break in your program. Over the summer, you may want to work, or you may want to take summer courses. Those aren’t your only options either, so be sure to explore your options for how you could spend your summer, and discover the benefits for each:

1. What are the benefits of taking summer courses?

If you'd rather get a jump start on your courses in the summer, here are some of the advantages:

Easier course-load in the full-time semesters

Depending on your academic program, you may be able to take summer courses. Some students like to do this to put less pressure on the full-time semesters. A typical full-time semester has five courses (engineering may have six), and this can be a very heavy load. By taking a summer course or two, you can get away with taking only four courses in upcoming semesters.

Because of the changes brought by Covid-19 and the growth of online learning, you have more opportunities than ever to take summer courses online. For example, if you want to stay with your friends in Toronto for the summer, you might be able to do so while taking summer courses.

Keep in mind that even if summer courses are available, they might not be available for your program, or your level of study. If, for example, you're entering the third year of your academic program, you may not find summer courses available. You'll have to check with your school to learn if relevant courses are available in-person or online.

Finish your program sooner than normal

Another benefit of taking summer courses for undergraduate students is finishing your degree one semester faster. Take, for example, a student who starts in September for a four-year bachelor's degree:

  • If she takes two courses in each of her first three summers, she can finish by December of her final year instead of by April of the next year
  • If she takes three courses every summer, and six courses in one of her final semesters, she might even be able to finish her entire degree within three years instead of four

It's always important to discuss this with a counsellor who can help to see if this type of goal is realistic.

2. Working in the summer

Canadians often travel to other parts of Canada according to our personal interests and particular work opportunities. For example, you might be interested in planting trees because you love being outdoors, the pay is high, and living expenses are paid by your employer. This means there's little chance to spend money, meaning a big chance for to save money!

Or, you might like to work in another part of Canada to spend time with an aunt or a good friend from home who's studying elsewhere. Maybe two friends study in Vancouver and Halifax, at the opposite ends of Canada, and decide to work together in Toronto for the summer. International students can freely follow the same thinking and the same opportunities!

You can look for jobs anywhere in Canada. If you wanted to work and still take a summer course, you can do so if online courses are available in your program, at your level. If they're not, then you'd need to stay in the city of your campus. You would also need to make sure the courses were at a time that didn't conflict with your employment.

3. Co-op in the summer

Also, keep in mind that many academic programs have a "co-op" element. "Co-op" is the short form word for Co-operative learning, or work/study. This is a program in which getting paid work experience is part of the program itself.

Engineering, business, and computer science are common examples of programs that typically offer co-op, although there's a wide range of co-op opportunities in Canada. In many cases, the co-op option will be through the May to August summer period. Some co-op options are available in other parts of Canada, far from campus, even in other countries. So, if co-op interests you, be sure to get information about co-op from your institution. Some students can even do "co-op" in their home countries if they prefer that.

4. Returning home in the summer

You can also certainly return to your home country and enjoy life there for the summer. You may want to spend time with your family, and you can work, or take summer courses, from home!

Questions about becoming an international student in Canada? Reach out to CUAC, the Canadian University Application Centre, for help.

Get in touch with CUAC to learn more

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