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Choose Universities - Study in Canada

Once you’ve completed your research about studying in Canada, you will need to start selecting the universities you wish to apply to. This is a very vital step in the application process and wise decisions made at this point often result in getting good admission offers from universities.

As an international student, you will generally be allowed to apply to as many universities as you wish to. However, doing this is not practical due to the amount of costs involved. For example, the cost of applying to the University of British Columbia is around 106 Canadian Dollars.

Additionally, to apply to any Canadian university, you will not only have to fill and submit their application form but also arrange and send your documents like transcripts, supplementary certificates, recommendation letters etc. Doing this separately for every university can be tiring and also prove to be expensive.

Ideally, you should finalize on a list of 4 – 7 universities that you’re going to apply to. Keep in mind that this list should be well ‘balanced’. A well balanced list will contain your top choice or first priority universities as well as universities that you will easily manage to get into.

Applying to a ‘balanced’ mix of universities helps you avoid a situation in which you do not manage to get admission offers from either of the universities that you had applied to.

For example, if you apply to only the best universities in Canada, but your scores are not ideal for the top – level universities, then it is most likely that you will receive no offers as the admission criteria for all the best universities is generally very similar.

Even if you receive an admission offer, but then your Class 12th results do not turn out to be as you had expected, then it is possible that you do not manage to meet the minimum entry requirements for these universities. This will result in your admission offer being withdrawn.

To avoid such situations, it is advisable to apply to a ‘good mix’ of universities comprising of universities that are easy to get into as well as universities that are your top – priority.


What are the factors to consider while choosing which university to apply to?

Choosing the universities you should apply to is not an easy task as every institution has its own pros and cons. You will often come across universities that meet one of your criteria but not the others. In such situations, students often get confused and apply to the wrong universities.

Before applying to universities, you should consider the below – mentioned factors. These factors will help you apply to universities that meet most or all of your criteria and are therefore ideal for you.

These factors have been mentioned in order of priority. It is advisable to consider the most important factors first and then consider the less important ones while short listing universities on the basis of each factor along the way.

Information regarding most of these below – mentioned factors can be found on official university websites.


Course Content

The first factor that you should consider while deciding which universities to apply to is to see whether a university even offers the course you wish to pursue or not. This might not be a problem for a common program like B.A in History or a B.Com in Accounting, but if you wish to pursue a program like a Bachelor’s in Drama Studies, then your choice gets limited to only the universities who offer this program, which will be very few.

Not only that, but considering the content of the program is also very important. The program that the university offers might not focus on the aspects of the subject you want to learn about.

For example, you might want to pursue a program in Geography that includes a work – term, like the one offered by the University of Waterloo but might not be interested in a theory – based Geography program like the one offered by the University of British Columbia.

Therefore, you will need to first see the subject and the nature of the program offered by a university. Does the program cover the right aspects of the subjects you wish to pursue? If not, then you should not apply to that university.

This is the first and most important step in the process of short listing universities.



Out of the universities that offer your course, you will need to choose the ones that are ideal as per your competitiveness level. The ‘competitiveness’ of a university basically refers to how difficult or easy it is to get into that institution.  The more competitive universities are the ones with the best academic records and maximum number of applicants.

Competitive universities generally have an intensive selection process and consider your academic records and supplementary certificates along with other documents in more detail as compared to other institutions before making a decision with regards to your application.

You should go through the ‘Minimum Entry/Admission Requirements’ for Indian students to get an idea about the competitiveness level of a university. These requirements are normally mentioned on university websites.

The general entry requirements include a specified score in the English – language proficiency tests as well as a minimum required score in your Class 12th board exams. These requirements differ from course to course and university to university.

For example, at a competitive university like the University of British Columbia, Indian students would require around 74% (on a 33% pass scale) to be considered for admission. However, at a comparatively less competitive university like the Acadia University, the minimum admission requirements are around 50% (60% for required courses).

Keep in mind that universities generally mention ‘Minimum Entry Requirements’. This means that securing the mentioned percentage will only make you ‘eligible’ for admission and does not guarantee in any way that you will receive an admission offer. Whether you receive an admission offer or not depends on your overall academic record and the course you’ve applied for.

You should realistically assess your own qualifications and judge the strength of your application. Go through your portfolios, resumes, extra – curricular experience and supplementary certificates as well as your academic qualifications.

Compare your credentials to the general competitiveness level of the university. This will help you get an idea about whether you have a genuine chance of getting into that university or not.

It is only worth applying to a university if you feel that all your credentials and academic qualifications together make a strong enough application for that university and hence you are likely to receive an admission offer.

Some of the most competitive universities in Canada are the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and the McGill University.



After short listing universities on the basis of their competitiveness level, you will be left with a list of universities that are at your competitiveness level and also offer the course you wish to pursue.

The next step is to select the most reputed universities out of this list. Under most circumstances, the highly reputed universities are the ones that are excellent in terms of academics. Not only that, but big reputations also generally result in bigger salaries for students as the value of their degree increases.

Keep in mind that alongside the overall reputation of the university, the reputation of your program (offered by that particular university) is also important.

There is no point in applying to a reputed university if it is not known for the program you wish to pursue. Similarly, it is not a bad idea to apply to a university which is not that reputed in general, but is well – known for your program.

Take the Dalhousie University as an example. According to the ‘QS World University Rankings – 2013’, it is one of the top 200 universities in the world for Psychology. However, it is comparatively less known internationally for other subjects.

Go through the following websites to get a better idea about the most reputed colleges and universities in Canada:



By now you will have a list of the most reputed universities that offer your course and are at your competitiveness level. Out of this list, you will have to select the universities that are financially within your budget.

Go through the websites of the universities to find out about the tuition fees for your program. The tuition fee will depend on the program you wish to pursue as well as the university you wish to join.

There are universities in Canada which are more expensive than others. For example, at the University of Toronto, a Bachelor’s of Arts course will cost you around 35,283 Canadian Dollars annually. On the other hand, the tuition fee for the same course at the Simon Fraser University is around 15,000 Canadian Dollars annually.

Similarly, some programs tend to cheaper than others. For example, at the York University, Arts based programs generally cost around 20,000 Canadian Dollars a year, whereas Business programs cost around 27,000 Canadian Dollars per year.

Apart from the tuition fees, the living costs also make a big impact on your total expenditure. Go through the typical living costs mentioned on the university website and compare it with other universities. The living costs in big cities like Toronto can be much higher than the living costs in other places across Canada.

For example, at the University of Manitoba situated in the city of Winnipeg, the annual living costs range from 12,000 to 23,000 Canadian Dollars. However, at the Queen’s University situated in the town of Kingston, the annual living costs range from 10,000 to 13,000 Canadian Dollars.

Do not forget to go through the type of financial aids and scholarships offered by the university to international students. Financial aids like merit based and need based scholarships can significantly reduce your overall expenditure and make studying at a particular university possible for you.


5. Location

After short listing universities on the basis of cost, you will have a list of universities that are affordable, reputed, at your competitiveness level and offer your course. The next step is to select those universities that are in locations that suit you.

The location of a university can make a major impact in your life while pursuing your education. The idea is to select those universities that are not only in locations that suit you personally but can also benefit you professionally.

For example, you might not want to live in a very cold place, and hence choose to not study at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg or you might want to live in a big city and hence choose to study at the University of Toronto.

Additionally, it might be beneficial for students pursuing programs in subjects related to business to study at a university in Toronto whereas students pursuing programs in Oceanography might prefer to study in port cities like Halifax.

The location of the university will also affect your cost. Generally, living costs are lower in small towns and areas that are comparatively less populated such as Kingston.

Keeping your personal preference, professional benefit and budget in mind, you will need to select those universities that are in locations that suit you.


6. Campus Life

By now you would have a list of universities that apart from being affordable and reputed, also offer the course you want to pursue, are at your competitiveness level and are situated in locations that suit you.

The next and the last step in this short listing process is to select those universities that have the most vibrant campus lives.

Most Canadian universities have vibrant campus lives that provide students various opportunities to explore all aspects of their personality including academics, arts and sports.

Go through university websites and see the types of clubs and associations they have for students. Such organizations provide students with the opportunity to meet and interact with like – minded students who share common interests.

Also find out about the number of international students on campus. You might want to join a university that is more international student friendly as compared to others. An active international student community at the university can help you adjust to campus life during your first few days in Canada.

According to the ‘QS World University Rankings – 2013’, McGill University and the University of Toronto are 2 of the best universities in Canada for international students.


After having short listed universities on the basis of these above factors, you should have ideally come up with a list of universities that not only offer the courses you wish to pursue, but are reputed, affordable, situated in ideal locations, have great campus lives and are realistic targets as per your academic credentials. These are the universities you should apply to.


Study in Canada