All About: How to Study in Canada as an International Student

By StudyinCanada Team Modified on June 29, 2022
Tags : Money | Politics | Scholarships

There's lots to consider before choosing Canada. Here, we'll get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know — and how you can pay for it.

All About: How to Study in Canada as an International Student

This article is part of our About Canada series. Check out the other articles in this series here.

Table of Contents

Comparing Canadian high school diplomas to other jurisdictions

As an international student, it can be difficult knowing what kind of educational prerequisites your desired Canadian school may require. In most Canadian high schools, students go up to grade 12 and then go to university or college.

So, how will your GCE and A-Level subjects compare? Does your country have a different type of high school education? Try not to worry! Most schools in Canada are clear about what kind of prerequisites you'll need to get into their programs.

Generally, if you're from the EU, you'll most likely have earned a General Certificate of Education (GCE) that is comprised of O and A-Level Subjects. Typically, you need to successfully complete your GCE with a minimum of five O-Level subjects and two A-Level subjects. Or if you have AS-Levels, you'll need four of these instead of two A-Levels.

But how does this compare to Canadian high school? A-Level subjects typically mean that you'll have a year more of education than Canadian high school students. Due to this difference, Canadian schools may give you a credit for the subject you studied in your A-Levels, if the subject is available and accepted.

If you're not sure what kind of prerequisites you'll need for your program, check with the school you're applying to! They'll be able to let you know what kind of education background you'll need and any other prerequisites that may be necessary for your desired program.

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Costs of studying at a Canadian institution

Every school's tuition fee structure is different. There are many variables that help determine how much you'll pay for tuition. Often, the top two factors that determine tuition fees are school type and program.

Colleges tend to cost less than universities because their programs are typically shorter. On average, a college program's length is usually two years, whereas universities are often three to four years.

Similarly, some programs are more expensive than others. If you choose engineering, medicine, science, mathematics, or technology courses, chances are your tuition is going to cost a fair amount. However, if you choose courses that are in the humanities, arts, or communications, your tuition fees will be cheaper.

Explore this list of programs if you want to get a better idea of how much you could pay for your tuition as an international student in Canada.

The upside of studying a higher-cost program like engineering or medicine? You'll likely make more money over the course of your career! In this sense, paying a higher tuition now could be an investment in your future.

Graduate programs aren't any cheaper. In fact, the average tuition fee for international students in graduate programs has increased 3.6%, to $20,120 per year. No matter what program you choose, a master's degree will cost less than a doctorate, since it doesn't take as long to complete. However, the programs you choose will influence the cost. A master's program in business, engineering, dentistry, and law are considered to be the most expensive, whereas humanities and arts programs often cost less.

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Scholarships for international students in Canada

If you're worried about how you'll be able to afford your education and living expenses, consider applying for scholarships, grants, awards, and bursaries. These will help lighten some of your financial burden, but remember, it takes time to apply for funding.

In Canada, scholarships are a popular way to help reduce costs, but you'll have to apply to a few in order to make a dent. There are very few fully funded scholarships available in Canada. And when one is available, like University of Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships, it's incredibly competitive. The best way to tackle scholarships is to apply for multiple scholarships that aren't so competitive to give yourself the greatest chance at earning some funding. There are many resources available to help you find scholarships:

Curious to learn more about scholarships, bursaries, and awards for international students? Check out these frequently asked questions about international student scholarships on

After you've applied to scholarships, if you find you still need some more money, you can turn to student lines of credit and loans to help fund your education. The main difference between scholarships and students lines of credit/loans are that scholarships are free money and loans are money that you borrow and will have to pay back.

It might not be easy finding student lines of credit in Canada, as most require you to be a Canadian citizen, but TD bank does allow international students to apply for a student line of credit as long as you have a Canadian co-signer. Loans are much easier to find. Many companies like MPOWER offer loans for international students, even without a co-signer. Just remember to watch out for the interest rates as you'll have to pay that back as well!

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Applying for admission to a Canadian post-secondary school

The application process will depend on the school(s) that interest you. Sometimes you'll have a choice on how you'd like to apply. Here are the most common pathways:

Applying directly

Some schools will accept direct applications. You'll find instructions on their website. Direct applications are more common at career colleges than colleges or universities.

Applying through an application portal

Most colleges and universities are affiliated with a provincial application portal. For example, Ontario universities use OUAC, the Ontario Universities' Application Centre. In contrast, Alberta colleges and universities use ApplyAlberta. Check with the schools that interest you to find out which portal to use.

Appyling through an agent

Some schools work with agents: local people in other countries who specialize in helping international students reach Canada. Some agents can be unscrupulous, but if you find someone you can trust, agents can be an excellent resource when dealing with paperwork. The Canadian University Application Centre is an example of a trustworthy agency.

You can check with local agents in your area to see if they work with any Canadian schools. Be sure to confirm with the school that they in fact have a relationship with your agent!

Study permits

Depending on your home country, you may need a study permit to enter Canada. The Government of Canada makes it easy to find out if you need a study permit with this easy-to use tool.

Permanent residency (PR)

Canada is a desirable destination for many international students, who may view studying in Canada as a stepping stone to permanent residency (PR). PR is, in turn, a stepping stone to citizenship.

The process to move from international student to permanent resident is fairly straightforward in Canada. Students who graduate can obtain a post-graduation work permit, which permits them to remain in Canada for up to three years. Graduates with Canadian work history are then more likely to be eligible for permanent residency.

Some fields are more likely to lead to PR than others. Healthcare and agriculture workers are in short supply, so graduates in these fields may be able to attain PR more easily than others.

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