Studying in Ontario: How to Prepare for University

11 May 2019 by National Bank
study in ontario

If travel shapes youth, what does studying abroad do? Ontario has a lot to offer international students: high quality education, top universities, diploma recognition, etc. Here’s a quick guide to make your studies a success.

Canada attracts a large number of students from different parts of the world making Ontario the most multicultural province. According to the Council of Ontario Universities, almost 60,000 international students from more than 200 countries are enrolled in Ontario universities. China, Saudi Arabia and India are the largest sources of international students, with India growing so much that in one Ontario college, 57 percent of students are Indian.

A number of international students choose Ontario for the quality of its education and to see the beauty Ontario has to offer. Toronto is a particularly attractive city for international students. Year after year, Toronto universities are ranked among the top comprehensive universities in Canada, offering a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

Understanding the school system in Ontario

In Ontario, children ages 6 to 17 inclusive must attend school. The province’s school system consists of two levels: elementary school and secondary school, often called “high school”.

After high school, students may choose to take advantage of post-secondary education at an Ontario college or university.

The province has 24 publicly-funded colleges, known as Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs), where students can enroll in two-year diploma programs.

Ontario also has 22 public universities, where students can complete a university degree. University studies generally take three to four years for a Bachelor’s degree, another two years for a Master’s and four years for a Doctorate. It’s important to note, however, that the duration of Master’s and Doctorate programs can vary depending on the discipline.

Selecting a college or university

With so many schools in Ontario, which do you choose? The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) offers some attractive options right in the heart of the city, such as York University, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, one of the most well-known and influential universities.

Outside of Toronto, you’ll find, among others, McMaster University in Hamilton, Western University in London, Queens University in Kingston and the University of Waterloo in Waterloo.

In Ottawa, Carleton University offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs in engineering, business, technology, industrial design, the arts and the social sciences.

Enrolling and getting accepted

Each college and university in Ontario sets its own admission standards, and these can change from year to year. It’s always a good idea to check the school’s website for the most current information to ensure you meet the criteria.

The same can be said when it comes to evaluating your previous education. Some colleges and universities may do it themselves, while others may ask you for a Credential Assessment Report. This report allows admissions staff to understand how your education from your home country compares to credentials obtained in Ontario.

To apply to a Canadian college or university, your education needs to be equivalent to an Ontario high school diploma. Some examples include:

  • All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE) in India
  • Second-year standing from a recognized university in the Philippines
  • Senior High School Graduation Examination in China

Before accepting you as a candidate, colleges and universities will also assess your skills in the language in which their courses are taught. While some schools in the province offer courses in French, Ontario’s largest universities are primarily English. Therefore, becoming fluent reading and writing in English is a must before you enroll.

Registration deadlines for Ontario colleges and universities vary depending on the school and the program. Check the deadline and ensure you have your paperwork in order: you will need to fill out a 105F application for international students with the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre.

Getting your Canadian study permit

Once you’ve received a letter of acceptance from an Ontario college or university, you will need to apply for a study permit. This can be done online or with a paper application, available from a visa application centre. You will need to provide certain documents to help evaluate your financial independence, plus, provide biometric data (photo and fingerprints) for the Canadian government.

In addition, Canada requires that residents of certain countries pass a medical exam before being granted a study permit. Students may also need a temporary resident visa to receive a diploma on Canadian soil.

Financing your studies

International student fees for Ontario colleges are approximately CAN$14,000 a year. For undergraduate arts and science programs at Ontario universities, they’re approximately CAN$23,500 a year. As part of your immigration requirements, you will need to prove that you have enough money to fully support yourself during your stay in Canada, which includes paying for your education.

Students from other countries must pay the basic tuition fees required of residents of Ontario, plus additional international student fees that vary depending on the field of study. For example, degrees in medicine, fine arts, architecture and pharmacy come with higher international fees. Remember, universities always add other fees to your bill, for example, for student services and insurance.

In certain cases, you can receive an exemption from the international student fees if, for instance, your parents are diplomats, you have received a Merit Scholarship or you are a refugee.

Obtaining healthcare

While in Ontario as an international student, you will not be insured for medical or hospital care under Canada’s Universal Health Care plan. Most colleges and universities do, however, have a health and dental plans available. For details, contact the International Office of the school you are planning to attend.

Pursuing scholarship opportunities

Besides the scholarships available to you in your home country, there are many other forms of financial aid that can help you pay for your education. With strong academic grades and well-rounded experience, you may be eligible for a scholarship from the federal Government of Canada or a Trillium Scholarship from the province of Ontario.

Canadian colleges and universities, along with certain international organizations and associations, also offer scholarships to study in Ontario. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend or check with organizations like EduCanada and the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.

Finding part-time employment

As an international student, you are not eligible to receive financial assistance from the Canadian government or qualify for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Therefore, many international students choose to get a part-time job to help offset the cost of their studies. Full-time students are permitted to work on-campus without a work permit, however, you will need one to work off-campus.

Starting your career

Once you have your diploma in hand, you may choose to remain in Ontario. Governments are increasing their efforts to encourage international students to do so, thanks to a special work permit that allows graduates to work in Canada for up to three years after graduation.

Through Ontario’s Provincial Nominee Program, you may also be eligible to live and work in the province permanently. To qualify, you need to be a recent graduate or graduating soon from a publicly funded college or university. Plus, you must have a qualifying full-time job offer from an employer in Ontario. International students with a Master’s or Doctorate degree, however, are eligible without a job .

Who knows? Perhaps after taking the steps to move to Ontario, successfully completing your study program and gaining valuable work experience, you will fall in love with Ontario for good!

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