Choosing a university in Canada

You should start searching for potential Canadian universities you might like to attend at least 12 months before beginning your studies, as it can take some time to complete the application process.

First, you should have a good idea what course(s) you would like to study, plus a rough idea of where exactly in Canada you would like to be located.

This will help you to narrow down your choices.

The best place to find out more information on particular institutions is their website.

Most universities have a section dedicated to international students. This should provide information on student life, accommodation, the admissions process, entry requirements and more.

Each university in Canada has its own unique style. You can study at a large, research-intensive campus in an urban centre, or if you'd prefer, you can enrol at a small liberal arts institution with a focus on undergraduate education, where most of the students live in residence.

Here we outline some factors you may wish to consider when deciding which Canadian institutions to apply to.

Academic excellence

First of all, be sure the courses provided by the institution are of high quality, with an excellent standard of teaching.

You can look at Canadian university rankings to see which ones score the highest at

However, keep in mind that the best universities in Canada according to rankings does not include all the variables that make up an ideal place to study.

All universities have strengths and weaknesses, and although a list of top universities might have greater strengths than weaknesses relative to other institutions, any student who completes a degree at one of these top universities might encounter the 'weakness' when they might have experienced the 'strength' of another university.

International student support

It’s worth investigating how good the course is for international students by seeing if the institution has an International Student Program Director, help with housing, an orientation to the university, city and Canadian education system, as well as advice services specifically for international students.

In other words, make sure that help will always be there when you need it.

A good course will also provide opportunities to meet Canadian students and will offer social events and an opportunity to get involved in student activities.


Look at a map on the internet to see exactly where the institution is located and investigate the area it is in.

Consider whether it is a place you would like to live for a prolonged period of time, and the sort of cultural and social activities it offers.

Would you prefer to live in a large urban city, or somewhere more rural?

Find out if your accommodation will be on the campus, and if not, how good the transportation links are.

Most of Canada experiences long and very cold winters - this is due to the high latitude of much of the country, along with the low-lying land east of the Rocky Mountains, which offers no barrier to the cold air from the Canadian Arctic.

Much of the interior of Canada has a very continental climate with surprisingly high summer temperatures, in spite of the shortness of the summer, although the winter is long and extremely cold.

If you want to avoid the bitter winters, opt for an institution in the area West of the Rockies, in British Columbia.

Here winters are mild and summers warm, with rain falling all through the year but with a maximum fall in winter.


You will also need to take into account financial considerations, as costs can vary greatly from institution to institution.

You will find that your living costs will be more expensive if you attend a university in a big city such as Toronto or Vancouver, and your accommodation is located in the centre.

To save yourself some money, try to find accommodation further out of the city, though make sure transport links are accessible and reliable.

Compare living costs carefully so you can stay somewhere convenient at a reasonable price.


Scholarships and awards for international students are available at some Canadian institutions for students with exceptional results.

The amount and type of award varies from one institution to another.

Obtaining a scholarship is competitive and applications must be made directly to each university.

Private institutions can sometimes discount or reduce the costs of tuition, though public institutions rarely have this option.

Ask the institution for information on financial aid when you request an application form from their admissions office.

You can read more about funding your higher education in Canada in our finance section.

Further research

If you have any friends or relatives who have studied in Canada, it’s worth talking to them to find out about their experiences, and what advice they can offer you in choosing a place to study.

It’s important to research universities and colleges carefully so you choose the ones that will meet your needs and interests – spending time and effort on choosing an institution can ensure you have a successful and rewarding experience.

If you can not find all the information you require about a particular institution on their website, contact them and ask for it.

More information

For more advice about applying to university in Canada, please see: