The higher education system in Canada includes public and private colleges, universities and polytechnics. All Canadian universities offer bachelor’s degrees, while colleges and polytechnics offer shorter, career-oriented programs and may not include a bachelor’s degree.
Most colleges and universities in Canada follow a two-semester system, with the first semester beginning in September and ending in December. The second semester usually begins in January and ends in April or May. It usually takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in Canada, but some students may be able to complete their degree in three.
Below is an overview of the college application process in Canada and the role that College Board programs like the SAT and AP can play in the admissions process. Scroll down to the Resources section for helpful links that can help you find and apply to study in Canada.
Application process for a Canadian university
When you apply to a university in Canada, you usually enroll in a specific program or course of study at that university. This differs from the application process in the United States, where you determine your field of study, or academic major, after you apply. You can apply to more than one program at the same university.
Each academic program at the same university often has different admission requirements. Read the university’s website carefully or contact someone in the admissions office to make sure you understand the admission requirements for the program you are applying to.
In general, universities evaluate applicants based on the following criteria:
High school transcripts/grades/GPA and scores on standardized tests such as the SAT and AP
Personal statement or essay
Letters of reference
Standardized tests of English or French language proficiency (if applicable).
You will find links to information on how to submit SAT and AP scores to colleges in the Resources section of this page.
How do I apply?
Some Canadian provinces, such as Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, each have a centralized online application portal that usually allows you to apply directly to a specific university. A small number of Canadian universities also accept the Common App, an admissions platform used by more than 800 institutions worldwide.
Visit individual university websites for the most accurate information on how to apply for admission.
Canada Admission Deadlines
Admission deadlines vary widely among Canadian universities, and even among different programs at the same university. The deadline for applying for admission usually runs from January to April if you are applying to study in the following fall.
Universities often have earlier deadlines for scholarship applications than for admissions, so check each university’s website to see which deadlines apply to you.
Important: Universities in Canada often accept applications from international students after the official deadline. If you think you need more time, or if you’ve already missed a deadline, contact the universities you’re interested in to see if you can still apply.
How Canadian universities use College Board test scores.
Most universities in Canada accept SAT and/or AP exam scores as a way for applicants to meet degree program requirements, and some may even make them mandatory. Always check a university’s website or contact the admissions office directly to make sure you know the current policy regarding College Board test scores.
Even if a program doesn’t require it, College Board test scores can be a great addition to your application – and can help you qualify for merit-based scholarships at some universities. Universities understand that SAT and AP test scores can help them assess a student’s academic performance. If you perform well on the tests, we encourage you to send your scores to universities.
AP exam scores and college credit
Many universities in Canada give college credit, advanced courses, or both, to students who earn qualifying scores on AP exams in certain subjects. Earning college credit before you go to university can save you time and money when you graduate.