Where to Study in Canada

A guide for international students

Canada provides superb education to students from all over the world. Every year, more than 400,000 students come to Canada to study. Canadian learning institutions welcome international students for secondary and post-secondary education.
Canada’s Education System
You may not believe it but Canada is the most educated country in the world! In 2021, it tops the list of all countries, with 56.27% of adults having taken some form of higher education. Within Canada, each province and territory manages its own education system. The federal government only establishes the strategy and main objectives of the country’s overall education policy. As a result, there are several region-specific peculiarities. For example, in most provinces, pre-elementary education becomes available for children who are five years old; but in Ontario and Quebec, children can start at the age of four. Our article about the education system of Canada provides more details.

Canada has both private and public schools. The education system in Canada is similar to many others in that it is divided into four levels:

  1. Pre-elementary education: Kindergarten is offered to children ages four and five, before they start elementary school. In the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, attendance is mandatory, while everywhere else it is officially optional—although few children opt out.
  2. Primary education: Also known as elementary education, this education is mandatory for all children, beginning at age 6 to about age 12. Primary education starts in Grade 1 and goes to Grade 5 or 6. The school year generally runs from September through June of the following year.
  3. Secondary education: It consists of two levels:
    • Lower secondary education (also known as junior high school) covers Grades 7 and 8; in some regions, this level is known as middle school and covers Grade 6 to 8.
    • Upper secondary education (also known as high school) covers Grade 9 to 12 in most provinces, but Grades 7 to 11 in Quebec.
  4. Post-secondary education: This category encompasses colleges, universities, and vocational or tech schools for those pursuing a vocational, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree. In most cases, post-secondary educational institutions require a high-school graduation.
Secondary Education Options

If you have a child 14 years old or older who wants to study abroad Canada offers many high-quality secondary education options for you. The quality of Canadian secondary education is recognized as one of the country's greatest strengths. According to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports, Canada’s high school students are among the best educated in the world, ranking 8th in science, 6th in reading, and 12th in mathematics. A growing number of international students choose to study high school in Canada each year. They receive academic and social support and can choose from a range of specialty high school programs.

Why Complete Secondary Education in Canada?

  1. Studying in a Canadian secondary school is one of the most effective ways to prepare your children for Canadian colleges and universities. They will become acquainted with the local education system as well as culture.
  2. Your children will not need adaptation time when their tertiary studies begin.
  3. Most of Canada's schools provide access to the latest classroom technology and curriculum, including tablets, interactive whiteboards, and information labs.
  4. Canadian high-school diplomas are widely recognized by tertiary institutions all over the world and are respected for preparing students well.
  5. Internship opportunities for foreign high school students are available, unlike in many other countries. They provide an excellent opportunity to explore future careers, practice skills, and gain experience.

There are two main options for students to study in a Canadian secondary school:

  1. Public high schools: Publicly funded schools deliver a standard curriculum or program of study. Students can take increasingly challenging courses to prepare for their university acceptance. After school, they can join various extracurricular activities, such as sport teams, arts clubs, model UN, debate club, etc. In all provinces and territories of Canada (except Quebec), international students can choose to study in English, French, or both.
  2. Private high schools: Private schools are more expensive than public schools. They deliver the same curriculum as public schools but usually offer more specialized courses. Class sizes in private schools are often smaller than public schools, where students may benefit from personal attention. Private schools can sex-segregated (i.e. a boys only school or a girls only school) or they can be co-educational. Some private schools also offer boarding programs.

Public high schools provide support for international students who have a low level of English fluency. Students can be placed in varying levels of ESL (English as a Second Language) courses to help them improve their language skills.

Private schools often require pre-existing language proficiency. Private boarding schools are the most common choice of foreigners since they provide a one-stop solution (education, living place, healthcare, and meals); children of royal families, business entrepreneurs and government leaders from across the globe most often attend boarding schools. Note that public schools do not offer boarding options.

What is a boarding school?

A boarding school is a secondary education establishment where children live on campus while studying. The fee is higher to account for the cost of lodging and boarding students. Boarding schools are usually more competitive and selective, accepting only students with good grades and overall potential. The student’s schedule is not limited to school subjects; there may be many mandatory extra classes. International students are supported here around the clock by school staff.

Public High School

Private High School

Tuition fees

CAN $8,000–$14,000 per year. Students are also responsible for providing their lunches and stationery

Up to CAN $26,000 per year

Where to live?

Homestay (staying with a Canadian host family)

On the campus of a boarding school or Homestay

Entrance requirements

Must have completed equivalent grades that correspond to grade level 8 in Canada

Basic knowledge of English or French

Must have finished certain grades that correspond to  grade level 8 in Canada; and

Proficient language skills in English or French

Duration of study

Most provinces offer high school for four years, from Grades 9 to 12.

Most provinces offer high school for four years, from Grades 9 to 12.

How to enroll?

Contact our team and we will accompany you throughout the whole application process

Contact our team and we will accompany you throughout the whole application process.

Working opportunities

International high school students studying in Canada on a visa are not eligible to work.

International high school students studying in Canada on a visa are not eligible to work.

The most attractive high schools for international students are located in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta. The list of top-40 secondary schools in Canada for foreigners is a good starting point. However, our staff can help you with this decision.

Higher Education Options
Canada has — not only the most educated population but also — some of the world's highest-ranked universities. 10 of the top 250 universities in the world are located in Canada. All of these educational institutions welcome international students. Therefore, Canada is an excellent choice for international students who wish to pursue graduate or post-graduate education.

What is a designated learning institution (DLI)?

DLI is a list of educational establishments (such as a school, college, or university) that are allowed to admit foreign students. All primary and secondary schools in Canada are automatically designated as DLIs. Not all post-secondary institutions are designated, so you check and confirm if your preferred institution is in the Designated Learning Institution list.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, over 530,000 foreign students are studying in Canada as of July 2021, and this figure has been steadily increasing. Foreign students can choose any educational establishments in Canada that is included in the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) list. The DLI list is prepared by the Canadian government and is available at this website.

There are three main types of post-secondary educational institutions in Canada:

  1. University: Universities are focused on academic and professional programs. They are post-secondary institutions that are allowed to grant degrees. Every university offers bachelor’s degree programs, and many also offer master’s degree programs and PhD programs. University degrees in Canada are equivalent to those in the United States and Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom.
    Undergraduate programs last three or four years, and many universities allow combining programs into double majors. The university year usually runs from September to May. Some universities are on a semester or trimester system, with courses available in the summer as well. Canada has two official languages, English and French; an international student can obtain a degree at either an English-language or a French-language institution.
  2. College: College programs are career-oriented. A college graduate may complete practical training in employable skills, such as graphic design, engineering, or culinary arts. College tuition fees are often lower than fees at universities. The studies usually last one to two years. The uniqueness of Canadian colleges lies in their focus on employer-centered curricula that respond to national economic policy. Thus, you will have a high chance of getting a job offer upon completing your studies. College programs are ideal if you know what you want to study and you want to get to Canada quickly. Please make sure that the college you apply to is included on the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) list. Otherwise, you will not receive a study permit from the immigration authorities.
  3. Vocational or tech schools: These institutions do not require a high school diploma prior to enrollment. Vocational programs teach students the technical skills required to enter directly into the workforce, usually in skilled or low-skilled occupations.

The two most popular destinations for international students are universities and colleges. Let’s look at a more detailed comparison between them.



Level of education

Post-secondary (tertiary)

Post-secondary (tertiary)

Study programs

Academic and professional programs

Trade and applied courses

Level of degree

Bachelor, Master, PhD degree

Generally do not grant a degree

Grant an advanced diploma for three-year programs; diploma for two-year program; or certificate or one-year program.

Duration of study

3-4 years (Undergraduate program)

1-2 years (Master’s program)

1 year (Certificate program)

2-3 years (Diploma program)

Tuition fees

Generally ranges between CAN$ 5,000–$26,000 per year for bachelor’s degree programs and CAN $6,000-56,000 for master’s programs.

CAN $2,000 per year to CAN $18,000 per year

Scholarship options

Many merit-based scholarship options

Not many scholarship options are available to international students, but the tuition fee is quite low to begin with.

The most popular Canadian provinces for international students are Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. You can learn more through a profile of Canadian universities as well as a large study programs database that will help you to plan your education journey to Canada.

Selecting the right institution is an important, complex, and time-consuming task. We can help you wade through this complexity by matching your background, financial situation, future plans, and lifestyle goals with a suitable educational institution. Please contact us if you are considering Canada for your or your children’s education.

What is the difference between a college diploma and a college certificate?

The main difference between a diploma and a certificate is the length of the program. Both of these levels of education provide students with training for entry into a specific occupation. A certificate generally requires one year of full-time study at a college or vocational institute, while a diploma generally requires two years or more of full-time study.

Factors to consider
The choice of educational institution is arguably the most important decision in any education plan. Your choice of a university or college may define your future in many significant ways. Since this is an important life-decision, it should be made with thought and consideration. There are several factors students and their parents should consider while making this decision:
  • Location: This can determine the living conditions, costs, the people you will meet , and career opportunities. If you like the university or college but don’t like the location it may be unpleasant to spend several years there.
Our tips: If possible, visit the city and campus of your potential educational institution(s) before making your choice, to at least get a general idea of what it might be like to live there long-term.
  • Scholarship: Scholarships can fully or partially cover your tuition fee and, in some cases, can provide you with monthly stipends that can cover your living expenses as well. Scholarships for international students are available but in limited situations.
Our tips: Research and monitor the university or college website for information about available scholarship programs. You may also find external websites that gather such information. Note that you should start looking for aid well in advance, as many programs close six months or more before the university year begins. Contact our team and we will help you to apply for any kind of scholarship.
  • Size of educational institution: Larger universities draw some of the most accomplished and ambitious students each year. They have better and more numerous facilities and amenities (such as student housing, specialized libraries, health centers, gyms, and entertainment). They also have a more extensive alumni network. However, that doesn't mean a smaller school should be a student's Plan B. Small universities mean smaller class sizes, which results in more face time with professors. Small schools also foster leadership and social skills through increased student engagement.
  • Financial cost: Tuition costs for international students in Canada depend on the educational institution and the type of program. Average undergraduate tuition fees for foreign full-time students vary from CAN $8,500 (Education) to CAN $48,000 (Dentistry), while annual tuition fees for master’s degrees cost between CAN $4,000 (veterinary medicine) to CAN $56,000 (MBA). International students will pay more than Canadians. Additionally, you should consider your cost of living. You can learn more detailed information about tuition fees, cost of living for students, and other financial expenditures.
  • Ranking: University ranking lists may help you narrow down your choice of where you would like to study. Of course, a university that ranks higher usually offers more opportunities, better professors, and a deeper network. However, ranking shouldn’t be your only criterion, as the specific criteria used to determine the rank may not correspond with what’s important for you.
Our tips: Trust only internationally recognized ratings, compare different ranking systems, and don’t rely solely on this factor. Evaluate the ranking factors to compare them with your priorities.
  • Programs available: Check the website of the educational institution whether the program you want to apply for is available this year. The institution's website is the most authoritative source of information and you should use this resource extensively as part of your research.
Our tips: Find a study program that will fit your situation. For example, if you want to work while studying you will need a flexible class schedule, or options to study online. Check websites that allow you to compare various study programs in Canadian universities: Schoolfinder.com; StudyinCanada.com; TopUniversities.com etc.
  • Extracurricular activities: Keeping students active and challenged is an essential part of the Canadian lifestyle. That is why universities and colleges offer their students a huge variety of clubs, organizations, sports and activities, from playing football to performing in theatre productions.
Our tips: Find out about extracurricular activities on the website of your university, and ask contact persons about them.
Estimating Your Costs When Studying in Canada

Education in Canada is more affordable than education in the USA, Australia, or the United Kingdom. However, you should establish a budget for your student journey to Canada. This will help you to avoid unexpected financial difficulties and make your study more predictable.

Common foreign student expenses consist of:

  1. Tuition fees: They vary significantly in Canada. Tuition fees depend on the location of your educational institution, your chosen program of study, etc. International students generally pay significantly more in tuition than Canadian students.
  2. Housing and accommodation: Most universities offer on-campus residence for their students within walking distance to the campus, so you do not have to pay for transportation. The average cost varies between cities and universities: it may be from CAN$900 to CAN$1,300 per month. These prices include cafeteria meal plans. You may also choose to live off-campus (CAN$2,000 per month, but you can share apartments) or homestay (typically CAN$1,000 per month).
  3. Study Permit fees: You must pay CAN $150 for a Study Permit plus CAN $85 for biometrics. You will be granted a Visitor Visa for free.
  4. Food and groceries: If you plan to live on-campus, you generally need to purchase a meal plan. However, you will still need to budget for monthly essentials. You can find out the costs of products online by looking at Canada’s major national grocery store chains.
  5. Transportation: You should plan your transportation cost by estimating the amount of money you will need for:
    1. Public transit within your city of residence, like buses and subways;
    2. Plane ticket from and to home;
    3. Bus or train tickets to travel across the country. However, you can buy a bike, like many other international students do, and enjoy bike paths in recreational areas and bike lanes on busy streets. This is the most economical and healthy way to travel within your city.
  6. Health insurance: International students in Canada are required to obtain health insurance for the duration of their stay in Canada. Thus, students must buy private health insurance or register for insurance through their universities. It costs around CAN $75 per month.
  7. Entertainment: Be sure to include some expenditures for recreation in your budget plan. The best time to explore Canada is during the summer and winter holidays. You can see a hockey match for CAN $60-70 or go to the cinema to watch a new blockbuster for CAN $10-15, etc.

You can learn more detailed information about tuition fees in Canada, cost of living for students, and other financial expenditures.

Do not forget that there are often discounts for international students in Canada. Many attractions and transportation systems offer significantly reduced prices for students. You should have a valid student ID or International Student Identification Card (ISIC) to make use of those discounts.

Application Process

Once you choose a school, college, or university, you must apply and secure a spot, especially in competitive post-secondary programs. Please note that every school, university ,or college has different rules on how to apply. The application process begins:

  • For secondary school: Approximately six months before the studies start;
  • For post-secondary schools: Approximately one year before studies start.

You should directly contact the educational institution where you want to study and learn its application process. They will provide you with a detailed guide on how to apply, including the list of necessary documents. Admission to a Canadian high school is typically less difficult than to university, and the list of documents required is shorter. Note that all of the required documents must be submitted in English or French.

The university can also provide you with information about:

  • Tuition fees;
  • Required health insurance;
  • Language test results;
  • Accommodation, etc.

If your educational institution admits you as a student, you will be issued a Letter of Acceptance. This document is a prerequisite for your application for a Study Permit in Canada, which is your final step in the application process.

We Can Help
Applying for schools in Canada is a rather complicated process. It requires a set of documents to be well prepared in advance, completion of nitty-gritty details that you can unintentionally forget to do. Contact our team of professionals, and we will become your student advisors. We can provide you with many opportunities in different designated learning institutions that match your budget and dreams. We can even help you write a motivation letter to guarantee you a letter of acceptance from the university. Use our services, and we will guide you through the whole enrollment process and visa process. We are here to make your study venture in Canada unforgettable and comfortable!