How to Study in Canada: A Complete Guide for International Students

Canada has long been an attractive study destination for international students, with its multicultural cities and bilingual population drawing them in from all over the world to experience life in one of the most stunning countries on Earth. However, the process of studying in Canada can be very different from what you’re used to, and it’s important to know about these differences if you want to make sure your time here is as enjoyable and enriching as possible. For this reason, we’ve written a complete guide to study in Canada so that you can feel fully prepared when it comes time to start your university or college career here!

How to Study in Canada: A Complete Guide for International Students

Canada is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world, receiving more than 150,000 international students each year. With its beautiful landscapes and friendly citizens, it’s easy to see why so many people are attracted to the Great White North to further their education. Studying in Canada can be a great option for students from other countries, whether you are seeking an undergraduate or master’s degree, or have your sights set on a Ph.D. or medical school program.

Canada has long been recognized as one of the world’s most welcoming nations for immigrants. That sentiment also extends to those who want to study in Canada, whether they’re locals or not. With an abundance of top-notch institutions to choose from, including many that specialize in graduate and doctoral-level studies, Canada is an excellent place to further your education, no matter what your age or field of study may be. With more than 36 universities, Canada has the third-largest student population in the world and is home to some of the best universities in the world. Students from all over the world come to study in Canada, making it an attractive destination for international students looking to pursue their higher education abroad.

But how can you choose the best school and program for you? When choosing where to study, there are many factors that you should consider, including safety, quality of education, cost of living, and opportunities available to graduates. For any international student hoping to study in Canada, this guide on how to study in Canada will help you through every step from picking your location to figuring out your Canadian insurance policy. By the time you complete this guide, you’ll be well on your way to studying in Canada!

Why Study in Canada?

Canada is known to offer high-quality education at an affordable tuition fee with globally recognized degrees. In addition, excellent quality of life, immense postgraduate study work, and immigration opportunities. These are just a few of the reasons why Canada stands out as a popular country to study among international students.

Here are the top reasons why international students consider Canada as an ideal study destination.

1. Academic Excellence

High quality of education is one of the most important reasons why international students choose to study in Canada. When a student receives a degree from a Canadian University, it represents a mark of trust and excellence. Moreover, approximately 27 of Canada's universities rank in the world university rankings.

2. Ample Research Opportunities

One of the biggest reasons why the Canadian education system stands unique is because of its strong focus on research and development. The Canadian government provides great support to research in the disciples of medicine, telecommunication, agriculture, environmental science, and technology.

3. Affordability

Furthermore, the tuition fee in Canada is fairly cheaper, when compared to universities in other top study destinations, such as the US and UK. Moreover, there are plenty of scholarships you can apply for to cut down on your educational expenses.

4. Cultural Diversity

The Canadian people are known to be a very friendly bunch, they are very welcoming to foreign nationals. In Canada, you will find extremely warm and welcoming people who come from varied ethnic groups with different cultures and lifestyles. 

5. Earn While You Study

Furthermore, Canada provides all its international students with the opportunity to work for up to 20 hours every week during school sessions and full-time during the summer and winter breaks.

6. Citizenship and Immigration Opportunities

The Canadian Postgraduate Work Permit Program (PWPP) allows international students to stay and work in Canada for up to three years after completing their graduation. You can gain some international work experience and apply for permanent residency which may lead to citizenship later on.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in Canada?

Studying abroad can be very expensive, but there are many cheap colleges in Canada with far more affordable options when compared to other top study destinations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. However, the average annual university tuition fees are as follows:

  • Canada: CA$5,000 - CA$20,000 per year
  • United States: Starts around CA$23,000 per year
  • United Kingdom: CA$12,800 - CA$22,400
  • Australia: CA$20,000 - CA$45,000 per year

Furthermore, there are two primary factors affecting how much it costs to study in Canada: where you want to study and how long you want to be studying. The total cost of your Canadian education will include tuition, accommodation, food, transportation, and miscellaneous costs. Even if two universities are relatively close together geographically speaking, they can end up costing a huge difference.

Top Universities to Study in Canada in 2023

The Government of Canada only allows international students to study at Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). This refers to educational institutions approved by a Canadian provincial or territorial government to allow international students to complete educational qualifications.

However, there are hundreds of high-quality universities in Canada, and most do accept international students. However, choosing is not only about prestige and ranking. It's about finding the right place for you. To make things easier for you, here are the top universities in Canada in 2023.

1. University of Toronto

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto is a public university. It has three campuses one is located in Mississauga. There are over 80,000 students enrolled at the university. Moreover, the University of Toronto offers undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees, and doctoral degrees. The University of Toronto is not only ranked as a top university in Canada but also as one of the top universities globally.

2. University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908. It is a global center for teaching, learning, and research. UBC is ranked as one of the world's top 40 universities and is home to more than 65,000 students at its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

3. McGill University

McGill University, founded in 1821, is an English-language public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It has been ranked number 21 in the world university rankings and is one of the top universities in Canada. McGill University is one of the best schools in Canada for medical studies. The university offers more than 300 courses in over 40 fields ranging from undergraduate to doctorate programs. It is also famous for its law school, which has been ranked number six by Maclean’s Magazine.

4. McMaster University

McMaster University is a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It is a member of the U15, a group of research-intensive universities in Canada. Over the past year, McMaster has climbed two places in the QS World University Rankings to claim the title of Canada's top university. Furthermore, McMaster is home to 70 research centers and institutes, with a particularly strong focus on health sciences, including cancer and stem cell research and engineering.

5. University of Montreal

The Université de Montréal is a French-language public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It offers more than 650 undergraduate programs and graduate programs, including 71 doctoral programs. 

6. University of Alberta

The University of Alberta is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It's currently ranked among the top six universities in Canada. The university has over 39,000 students from 155 countries worldwide.

7. University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa, often referred to as uOttawa or U of O, is a bilingual public research university in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Founded in 1848, it offers more than 450 undergraduate programs and over 170 graduate and doctoral programs across 10 faculties to more than 43,000 students each year.

Top 5 Cheapest Universities in Canada

Just like we mentioned earlier, studying abroad can be very expensive, but there are many cheap colleges in Canada with far more affordable options when compared to other top study destinations such as the US, UK, and Australia. Some universities in Canada can be expensive, depending on your degree program. Here's a list of some of the best cheap universities in Canada for international students.

1. Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN)

The Memorial University of Newfoundland, also known as Memorial University or MUN, is a public university in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University offers certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs, as well as online courses and degrees. It is one of the most affordable and respected DLI-approved colleges in Canada. The tuition fees at MUN start at around CA$11,500 per year, making it one of the most affordable, quality universities in Canada. In addition to its low fees, the university offers an array of scholarships for outstanding international applicants.

2. University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is a comprehensive public research university in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. With annual tuition fees starting at around CA$10,700, the University of Guelph is highly affordable for international students.

3. University of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan is a Canadian public research university, founded on March 19, 1907, and located on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The University of Saskatchewan is on the cheaper side of this list, with annual fees starting at around CA$8225 per year. The university also offers many scholarships for international students.

4. University of Regina

The University of Regina is a public research university located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. The University of Regina is one of the best DLI-approved colleges in Canada. It is one of the cheapest universities in Canada with around CA$21,000 per year.

5. Brandon University

Brandon University is a university located in the city of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, with an enrollment of 3375 (2020) full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. Depending on your degree, annual tuition fees at BU can range from around CA$4,013 to CA$18,150, making it one of the best cheap colleges in Canada for international students.

How to Budget as an International Student in Canada

Creating a budget for studies in Canada is a big part of your planning process. Here's an easy guide on how to budget as an international student in Canada. To begin with, here are a few common expenses to budget for as an international student in Canada.

1. Tuition fees

Your tuition fees is your most costly expense. Canada is still more affordable than other top study destinations, although international students pay more tuition fees for public schools than citizens or permanent residents. However, the tuition fee range for undergraduates in Canada is from CA$550 to CA$30,000 per year. Bachelors in Medicine, Engineering, and Social Science are among the most expensive study programs. Whereas the tuition range for Master's degrees is from CA$1,075 to CA$65,000 per year. Master's in Business, Engineering, Computer Science, and Law are the most expensive.

2. Living expenses

Living costs in Canada are a bit above average. Vancouver and Calgary are some of the most expensive cities in Canada, where living costs can reach CA$2,000 per month. Then, you would need between 800 – 1,500 CAD/month for most provinces, such as Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa.

  • Student accommodation in Canada: There are several housing options to choose from in Canada, as well as an equally diverse price tag. However, the main housing options for international students in Canada are:
    • On-campus accommodation: The average cost for dormitories is CA$250 - CA$625 and may also include meal plans.
    • Off-campus accommodation: Privately rented and shared accommodation is around CA$250 - CA$700 per month.
    • Homestays: Homestay arrangements typically charge an initial placement fee of $200 and the average cost per year is $1,150.
  • Groceries/ food costs: You won't spend too much on food bills, just around CA$300/ month for shopping from the local supermarkets and groceries. Even if your meal plan is included with your accommodation arrangement, you will still need to budget for other monthly essentials.
  • Transportation: You won't have any problems finding reliable transportation to get around, as long as you are living in an urban area or close to your university. There are monthly bus passes uber at special student rates available to get you to campus. Students enrolled in a Canadian university, aged between 18 and 25, will benefit from discounts when purchasing a monthly transport pass.

How to Apply to a Canadian University

In Canada, each province and territory is in charge of its own education system. Just like we touched on earlier in this article, Canadian provinces and territories approve schools that can enroll international students. These schools are also known as Designated Learning Institutions (DLI). When applying for a Canadian study permit, your acceptance letter must be from a DLI. Otherwise, your application will be declined.

Meanwhile, applying to a Canadian university/ college; once you choose your preferred university, you must apply to go there. Every school has different rules on how to apply. However, make sure you apply at least a year in advance for a post-secondary program at a university or college.

Then, you should contact the university you want to study to learn how to apply. The school will give you the list of all the documents you need to send them. The university should be able to tell you about:

  • the cost to apply
  • tuition fees
  • health insurance
  • rent and how much it costs to live in Canada
  • language tests.

Follow their instructions to fill out and submit the application forms for the university or universities of your choice. The university will send you an acceptance letter if they admit you as a student. You will need this to apply for a Canadian study permit.

How to Appy for a Canadian Study Permit

A study permit is a document issued to an international student, by the Canadian government, to study at one of the Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) in Canada. Most foreign nationals need a study permit to study in Canada. It’s good to note that your study permit doesn't act as a visa as well. You’ll have to obtain either a visitor's visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). 

Your study visa will be valid for the length of your study program plus an extra 90 days. These extra days can be used to apply for a work permit and find a job within your field. You may be eligible to work part-time with a Canadian Study Permit, usually up to 20 hours a week. Your study permit is not a visa. It doesn’t let you enter Canada. You may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA). However, if approved for the permit, the government will issue you with a visa as well.

Meanwhile, here's an overview of the Canadian study permit process:

  1. Get an admission letter from a designated learning institution (DLI)
  2. Apply for the permit online or download an application package\
  3. Pay the fee for your application and keep the receipt
  4. Have a medical check-up from a panel physician registered in your country
  5. Receive a decision on your application

Eligibility Requirements for a Canadian Student Visa

Furthermore, you will need to get certain documents ready for your visa application. However, one important factor in deciding if your study is granted is your finances. The Canadian government must be able to see that you can support yourself financially throughout your studies. Generally, you will need the following to apply for a study permit in Canada:

  • Admission letter from a DLI
  • Results from a medical exam and police check
  • Two passport-sized photos of yourself
  • Proof you can financially support yourself throughout your studies

Study and Work in Canada as an International Student

One of the major reasons international students consider Canada as an ideal study destination is that along with your study permit, you are able to work part-time as you study as well. Working while studying will give you working experience as well as extra cash to support yourself. You will be able to work both on and off campus. There are many ways to find a job in Canada as an international student. Furthermore, there are several scholarship and funding opportunities that are available to international students. Follow this link to learn more and how to apply.

Final Thoughts

Studying abroad offers students a unique, international experience and plenty of potential benefits. To make sure your studying experience is successful, it’s important to plan. Make sure you know all about getting student visas, insurance, transportation costs, and more before you start packing your bags! We hope that these tips will help you study in Canada without any trouble.

Our Canadian education guide includes information on studying at different levels—high school, undergraduate or graduate degrees—as well as financial aid options and visa requirements for international students. Learn everything you need to know about living in Canada while earning your degree by reading our guide on how to study in Canada today! Proceed with the link below for more detailed information on how to study in Canada.