A Guide to the Canadian Undergraduate Application Process for International Students

Photos of a lake surrounded by snowy mountains and a city street in Quebec are overlaid with a Canadian flag and checklists. There's also a photograph of a young woman wearing a headscarf and smiling.

Are you considering studying abroad as an undergraduate international student in Canada? There are many steps in the Canadian undergraduate application process, but if you give yourself enough time to get everything done, you’ll set yourself up for success. 

In this post, we’ll explore key application steps and application documents. Before starting any applications, refer to your target programs’ pages on the ApplyBoard Platform for current information.

Planning to study in Canada as a postgraduate student? Check out our blog on the postgraduate application process.

Get Started Early

Consider starting your research as early as 24 months before your program begins. Remember, some documents may need to be mailed physically. Also, ensure you account for the multiple weeks many institutions take to process incoming student applications.

To start learning about what studying abroad is like, talk with people who have worked or studied in Canada. Ask about their experiences, and what they wish they knew before arriving. 

With 20 months to go, continue researching or work with your recruitment partner to create a list of target programs. Depending on the program, you’ll need to meet or exceed a specific score on an English language proficiency test like TOEFL or IELTS. Often, students will need IELTS scores of at least 6.0 or TOEFL scores between 70.0 and 90.0 to be considered.

Did you know: Lots of international students forget to add their English language proficiency test scores to applications. This can lead to application rejection. Don’t let that happen to you! Include your score on every program application. 

What’s the difference between PTE and TOEFL? How much does it cost to take a proficiency test? Find out in our blog! 

If you want to study at a Canadian college or university taught in French, take a French language proficiency test instead. Test d’Evaluation du Français (TEF) and Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF) are widely-accepted options.

An illustration of a Canadian school.

Assemble Your Application

With 12 to 13 months to go, start putting your applications together. Below are documents you’ll want to include:

An illustration of a light bulb. To obtain certified copies of academic transcripts, contact your secondary school. Transcript processing times vary, so it’s best to request these as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: If your transcript is not in English, factor in time to have it translated.

An illustration of a light bulb. To uphold privacy laws, some institutions will ask you to fill out a third-party authorization form. This gives the university permission to look up information about you, or make transactions relating to your education.

An illustration of a light bulb. Start assembling a portfolio of work, if you’re applying to a program that requires one. Design, art, software engineering, or architecture programs may request a portfolio.

An illustration of a light bulb. If you’ve taken time off to work or care for your family, you may be asked for study gap documentation. Documentation may include a letter of reference from your employer, pay slips, or a statement.

An illustration of a light bulb. Don’t forget to include information like copies of the first page of your passport, your emergency contact info, and a reference list (if required by your institution). 

An illustration of a light bulb. If your program asks for reference letters, past teachers or employers are great to ask. Always ask for references from people who will give you a strong recommendation.

An illustration of a light bulb. Give yourself time to work on a personal statement or essay if your program asks for one, as you might create different versions. It’s a great way to share how you’ve prepared for your studies.

Once you’ve decided which programs you’re applying to, check individual program pages for their application requirements.

Events Calendar

Application Timelines

It’s also a good idea to learn when each of your target programs’ applications are due, and which intake sessions align with them. Many programs only admit new students in September.

Canadian academic intakes are in:

  • Fall: Application deadlines are between January and March. The semester starts in September.
  • Summer: Application deadlines range between January and March, with the semester starting in May.
  • Winter: Application deadlines range between September and November. The semester starts in January.

That said, some institutions have rolling intake sessions. This means classes start every couple of months. Other schools offer rolling admission, where incoming applications are processed as they’re received, and programs close once filled.

Start applying as soon as your application materials are ready. Ideally, start applying nine months before you’d like to begin your studies. This gives you enough time to apply for immigration documents. In fact, to apply for your Canadian study permit, you’ll need a Letter of Acceptance from the institution where you’ll be studying, which can take up to two months after the academic application deadline to be issued. 

Explore first-year pathway programs at Navitas Canada colleges! Learn more about Fraser International College, International College of Manitoba, Ryerson University International College, or Wilfrid Laurier International College on the ApplyBoard Platform.

Apply for Visa

Study Permit Timelines

It takes a few months to process a study permit, so factor that delay into your timeline. As of April 2022, the Canadian Government estimated that study permits will take 13 weeks to process. You can use the government’s calculator to see current timing estimates.

As part of the study permit application, you’ll create a study plan outlining how your studies will impact your career. The study plan’s questions ask whether there are similar academic opportunities in your home country, and how studying in Canada aligns with your academic plan.

Ready to write your Canadian study plan? Here are some common questions and answer strategies.

Apply for Visa

School Responses and Travel Planning

With four or five months to go, you should start hearing back from the institutions you applied to. Now, work independently or with a recruitment partner to make your program selection, accept and return the offer, and pay a tuition deposit. 

Then, start planning your student life! Set up housing, health insurance, and travel arrangements. There’s lots to discover off-campus, too. Look at the area to find out what makes it special, as learning that can help your new community feel like home.

Wondering about health and travel insurance options available to international students? Find out more on our blog.

A month before classes begin, submit your arrival info to parties who require it. Soon, you’ll be an international student in Canada. Best of luck!

ApplyBoard is proud to work with over 1,500 academic institutions in four countries. Our Canadian partner schools include: Carleton University, Fanshawe CollegeMount Saint Vincent University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.


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