Many Canadian universities accept applicants on a first-qualified, first-accepted basis until all seats are filled, so it’s important to check you meet their criteria as soon as possible. This article will introduce you to the main requirements for completing your applications.
Your academic achievements will play a key role in determining the success of your application. Each Canadian university has its own criteria for recognizing international student qualifications, so requirements will vary depending on the institution you’re applying to, the program you’re applying for and the qualifications you’re applying with.
As a point of reference, here’s a sample selection of requirements for UK, USA, Chinese and IB applicants:
- Generally, you need to present A-, AS-, and GCSE courses with grades of A and B, with no individual grade lower than a C. See the University of Alberta's website for further details.
- A minimum average of B+/A- or an admission average of 3.3 on Advanced/Honour-level subjects
- SAT Score of 1200 (ACT equivalent of 25/36) with a minimum 600 in each section
- ACT minimum composite score of 26
- McGill University has further details on requirements for US applicants.
- A combination of A’s and B’s on the Joint Graduation Exam (Hui Kao)
- A competitive score on the University Entrance Exam (Gao Kao) that would normally be required for admission to a key university in China.
- The University of British Columbia has a detailed breakdown of admissions requirements for Chinese applicants.
International Baccalaureate (IB) applicants:
- Approximately 30-35 IB predicted points on the full diploma, including bonus points
- Full IB Diploma students may be eligible to receive admission base on predicted scores
- Final IB grades in the range of 4-7
- The University of Toronto has further information for IB applicants.
For most Canadian universities, applicants must show that they’ve successfully completed five academic subjects, although not necessarily at the same level (for instance, UK applicants may apply with a combination of A Level and GCSE grades). The academic subjects you need to present will vary by program and faculty.
To demonstrate your suitability for a university and program, admission offices require official secondary and/or post-secondary school transcripts. Usually, information about how a university assesses international applicants can be found on their website but, if not, you can contact their admissions office. You can also contact the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) for more information.
Useful link: New Youth offers accessible and easy-to-understand information on colleges and universities, for both international and home students.
Credit transfer, sometimes referred to as ‘advanced standing’, is available to students who are deemed to have better-than-necessary prior qualifications when entering university and can result in them being able to complete a four-year degree in three years. It’s often available to those who have completed GCE or International Baccalaureate qualifications, amongst others.
If you want to apply for direct entry to an English-taught degree and your native language is not English, you must provide proof of your proficiency. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam scores are the most common language requirement for Canadian universities. You can take these exams at testing centres worldwide.
Generally, Francophone universities require international students to complete their own test of French proficiency.
Proof of experience
Some applications will request a CV/resume or details of your achievements. This could include extracurricular activities, athletic participation or any awards or scholarships. As a rule of thumb, when detailing your extracurricular activities, it’s a good idea to highlight any skills that they helped you to develop, particularly those that are relevant to your chosen degree. You can use Unifrog’s ‘Activities’ tool to help you do this.
If relevant, you may also be required to provide a portfolio of your work. This is particularly common with subjects such as Art, Design and Architecture.
Letter of intent
Also referred to as a ‘letter of motivation’, ‘statement of interest’, ‘statement of intent’ or ‘description of interests’, this is your opportunity to tell the university your specific area of academic interest, how your past experiences have prepared you to be successful and what you hope to achieve through completing your chosen degree program.
Personal reference letters
Occasionally, universities will ask for two or three reference letters. You should request these from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualification.