Studying abroad is a very enriching experience, and Canada is a great place to do it. Canadian universities are well-regarded across the world and offer a wide variety of programs for students. Tuition fees, even for international students, are also typically more affordable than in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. But before you rush to buy a plane ticket, here is a list of things to consider:
Choose a university that’s right for you
Not all universities are the same; programs, degrees and student experiences vary from one university to another, so it’s important to know what you are looking for when deciding where to apply.
Larger universities offer degrees and expert professors across many fields, and often have more clubs and activities to partake in. They also tend to be located in bigger cities, which offer a greater variety of amenities, people and opportunities. In comparison, smaller universities often focus on specific fields of study, such as engineering or liberal arts, and the reduced class sizes mean professors are more available to answer questions and offer guidance. Small universities also offer a unique sense of community; you’ll be surprised how quickly you get to know your classmates, professors and people in the community. The choice between a larger or smaller university ultimately comes down to personal preference. Consider using tools such as universitystudy.ca to learn about different universities and find the one best suited for you.
Canada is a bilingual country and, as such, its universities teach in English, French or both. Depending on the language of the university you choose and the language you have previously studied in, you may need to take an exam, such as the TOEFL or the IELTS in English and the TCF or the DELF/DALF in French, to demonstrate your proficiency. Check which tests are accepted in each university, as well as the minimum scores required to study there.
Apply for visas and study permits early
Visas and study permits can be a little tricky. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, apply at least three months in advance and earlier if possible. This will give you time to make sure everything was submitted properly and allow for the request to be processed before you are scheduled to leave for Canada. Make sure you understand the conditions of your visa or study permit, including its validity period and whether it allows you to work in Canada.
If you are studying in Canada for less than six months—as part of a student exchange, for example—you do not need a study permit, though you will still need a travel visa or ETA to enter the country. If you are planning on staying longer than six months, you need to apply for a study permit and, in some cases, for a temporary residence permit. You will also need a work permit to participate in co-op programs and internships during your time in Canada. Visit the Government of Canada’s website or EduCanada.ca for information on study permits and visas.
Prepare for the weather
Canada is known for its long, cold winters. But that is not true of the whole country, and it’s not the only kind of temperature you’ll face once you’re here! Whether you’re only here for a semester or staying for several years, make sure to research the type of weather associated with the region you will be moving to so you can plan accordingly. For example, many parts of Southern Canada have very cold winters and very hot summers, while the West Coast has wetter winters and cooler summers. Knowing what to expect in advance can spare you from having to buy a winter coat or a pair of rain boots at the last minute. Plus, you may get an idea of popular Canadian activities to try, such as skiing, ice skating, hiking or visiting some of Canada’s many lakes!
Make a budget
Studying internationally can be expensive, and if you are not careful, you could find yourself short on money faster than you expect. With tuition, course materials, rent, groceries and other expenses to pay for, it’s important to stay on top of your spending and create a budget.
EduCanada offers tools to help predict your expenses, including tuition and cost of living, based on your chosen program of study. You can also check your university’s website for estimates of what students pay each semester. This information can help you establish a realistic budget and reduce financial stress.
Don’t forget the smaller details
Phone plans, bank accounts and understanding the local currency are important details to consider when studying internationally. Doing your research ahead of time can save you a lot of time and worry once you’ve landed in Canada.
Research Canadian phone providers and plan ahead of time so you know which one to choose once you arrive. If you intend to open a bank account in Canada, check with your home bank before leaving for information on opening an account and sending funds overseas. Many banks in Canada offer student accounts with perks and features better suited for your needs.
Finally, understanding Canadian money and how it compares to your home currency can help you manage your finances and shop confidently. It can be as simple as learning to recognize the different bills and coins. (Did you know that one- and two-dollar coins are called ‘loonies’ and ‘toonies’?) If you are planning to use a foreign credit card while you get settled, make sure you’re aware of any currency exchange fees and consider switching to a less expensive option down the road.
About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.
Canada must get its house in order, or risk losing the global fight for talent
New Canadian scholarship program addresses inequality in developing countries
Johnston: Let's boost international education for Canadian students
International education leaders convene, discuss Canada as a global study destination