Ultimate Survival Guide for New Immigrants to Canada

December 6, 2021

Requirements for Applying to a Canadian University

The admission requirements vary vastly depending upon the level of study, program, and the institute. In this blog, we'll cover the following academic scenarios -

  1. Undergraduate Diploma
  2. Graduate Degree
  3. Post Graduate Diploma
  4. Post Graduate Degree - Masters
  5. Course Vs Research-Based Masters
  6. Ph.D.

But before we get into that, there are certain general and immigration requirements that are nearly the same for each case. Since I want to keep this post purely academic, I'll be listing them and avoiding getting into many details.

  • A Valid Passport
    Ideally, your passport should be valid for the duration of your study. If you are planning to enroll in a one-year program starting Jan 2023, your passport should be valid till Jan 2024. Of course, you can apply for passport renewal during that duration if the dates are too tight. But that is an entirely different procedure and it is not complicated at all. Crux - you can get your passport renewed in a foreign country pretty easily.
  • Academic Transcripts
    If you have graduated from High School or University, get a sealed copy of your academic transcripts beforehand.  This would help you reduce the time academic institutes take to process your requests. In this case, you can directly mail the sealed copy of your transcript to the institute you are applying for. In the majority of the cases, you need an academic transcript from your most recent institute. Say, if you are applying for a master's, you would need transcripts of your bachelor's degree.

  • Language Exams
    Some institutes might not need IELTS or TOFEL, but it is always better to have the scores just in case. So, get done with your IELTS as soon as possible. It doesn't take more than 15 days to go through some sample papers and get familiar with the examination pattern.
  • Credit Card
    A credit is a pretty basic thing that you'll need for paying the application fee. Most of the debit cards are not able to do international transactions or are restricted in one way another. So if you don't have it yet, now is the time to get one.
  • Funds
    Tough, universities never ask for proof of funds but they are needed with your Visa application. Also, it is important to make some rough estimates. Some universities may be willing to provide scholarships and stipends in case of masters and Ph.D. programs.
    But as a rough estimate, at least $10000 for a year of stay plus the tuition fees. This doesn't mean that all of your funds need to be sitting in your bank account for the entire program. The value attached to the property, or support your sponsor can provide works perfectly fine in my experience.
  • Statement of Purpose
    It is always better to submit a statement of purpose if possible. The selection committee goes through each application carefully and sometimes your SOP could help you make it. SOPs play a rather more important role for admission to master's degree programs. An answers some common questions like " why do you want to pursue this program", or "why do you consider yourself a good fit for this program", etc. The selectors would be much more interested in a candidate who have genuine motives and desire to pursue the program.

Let's get back to our main topic.

1. Undergraduate Diploma

  • All India Senior Secondary School Certificate (AISSSCE) issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
  • Higher Secondary (School) Certificate (HSC/HSSC) (issued by state board)
  • Indian School Certificate - Class XII (ISC) issued by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
  • Intermediate Certificate (issued by state board)
  • Pre-University Certificate (issued by state board)

Cons:  A Under Graduate Diploma doesn't equate to a Bachelor's degree. Irrespective of the number of diplomas one might have or the time one might have spent earning those diplomas, it will never be considered equivalent to a bachelor's degree. So, you might want to consider having a degree if you want to have a hinder less academic path.

2. Graduate Degree

  • An equivalent minimum average of 80% over the following senior-level courses, with no less than 70% in each course:
  • English
  • Pre-Calculus Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Cons: None except they are time-consuming and require plenty of hard work.

3. Post Graduate Diploma

A diploma program cab be 1-2 years long. There are certain immigration benefits of choosing one over the other. You might want to consider them before making a decision.

  • An undergraduate diploma or degree from an accredited institution, with good academic standing. A minimum of 2 years of full-time undergraduate level coursework from an accredited may also be considered
  • Demonstrated English Language Proficiency (if educated outside Canada)
  • Submit proof of graduation from or enrolment in the final year of a post-secondary:
  • Diploma (two-year or longer program) or Degree

Cons:  A Post Graduate Diploma doesn't equate to a Master's degree. In case, if you ever want to pursue a Ph.D., you'll have to enroll in a Master's program which can then be converted to Ph.D., if the research problem is good enough.

4. Post Graduate Degree - Masters

Masters in Canada are classified as Course and Research-Based. Although American counterparts treat both master's degrees the same way that is not so true within Canada. The admission requirements for both research and course-based masters are the same in terms of university regulations. There are some differences which we'll discuss in the next section 5. The requirements below are generalized and vary according to the university.

  • Requirements may vary according to the program you are applying for. Please check their website as well.
  • Of course undergraduate degree 3/4 year. 4-year undergraduate degrees appear to be common these days.
  • IELTS - At least 6.5 with no less than 6.0 individually. Different universities have different minimum requirements.
  • Transcript - At least most recent 'degree'. Additional transcripts may be required if you have more degrees.
  • Grade Equivalence -  Every university follows its metric for converting and scaling the grade from your home country to theirs's. In my experience, the results may vary vastly. So, if you think you have a weaker profile, you must apply to multiple universities to increase your chances. Of course, your application cost increase, but it is worth that expense.

5. Course vs Research-Based Masters

Course-Based -

  • Involves undergoing coursework only with an option of Coop for some programs. The number of credit hours you need to take varies according to the program and university. But, in most cases, 24 credit hour coursework is needed.
  • There is no special requirement to get enrolled in a course-based program, apart from the one discussed above.
  • There are little to no funding opportunities for course-based programs.
  • You may be able to switch to a research-based program if someone is willing to supervise you.

Cons: hard to pursue a Ph.D. in Canada. They often prefer students with research-based masters. In some cases, students have to do master's again with research and then get transferred to Ph.D.

Research-Based -

  • You would need the support of an academic advisor who is willing to supervise your research. 
  • Finding an academic advisor is the most challenging part.
  • Research Proposal - You can either write a proposal yourself and approach a relevant professor, or you can write a proposal in the professor's domain.  Writing a research proposal is an entirely different topic that we will cover in a new post. If you have a proposal ready, this would give you a better chance of getting accepted by the professor. This shows that you have relevant information about the domain that you are interested in and will be able to pursue the research.
  • There is no special requirement to get enrolled in a course-based program, apart from the one discussed above.
  • The number of credit hours you need to take varies according to the program and university. But, in most cases, 24 credit hour coursework is needed.
  • For example, M.Sc. in Computer Science requires 16 credit hours + thesis to graduate. Whereas, M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering requires 12 credit hours + thesis to graduate. (* requirement was 16 credit hours 2 years back. They decided to change it. )
  • You may be able to switch to coursework if the department has a coursework option. Some programs are only research-based. In these programs, you won't be able to switch.

Cons: Nothing. It's often tougher and requires a more elaborate process - thesis proposal, acceptance, research, etc. Pursue this road only if you have a lot of patience and passion. Due to all the complicated things involved degree often extends beyond 2 years.

6. Ph.D.

Basic requirements are the same as that of research-based masters. Some additional course-work is required. Course work is often not the primary concern. To graduate you'll need to pursue valid research problem and publish a few papers. Ph.D. is tough and time-consuming. If you are applying for Ph.D. you'll need to find your own way and do appropriate research on your own.  But a piece of advice would be "select your Ph.D. supervisor very carefully". The best way to do so is by inquiring about him only and maybe try getting connected to some of his previous or current students. Of course,  things may go south with your supervisor and you certainly can't have any control over it. But, changing Ph.D. supervisors is something I have seen quite often. Although it may be a bit tough, you'll be able to find someone after struggling a bit.

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