Applying to schools in Canada as an international student

The different levels of schools that can receive students in Canada and how to choose the right one.

Choosing a program and school

In Canada, each province and territory is in charge of its own education system.

Get more information about schools and the education system by contacting

  • the ministries and departments responsible for education in each province and territory
  • the Canadian Bureau for International Education
  • EduCanada for information for international students about education in Canada, with study program search, costs and more

Learn what you need to know before you choose a school.

Primary and secondary schools

Schools that teach students up to the grade 12 level are known as primary and secondary schools. Primary usually means grades 1 to 8 and secondary usually means grades 9 to 12.

All primary and secondary schools in Canada can enrol international students.

Learn what minor children need to study in Canada.

Post-secondary schools (universities, colleges, vocational schools, CEGEPs)

Post-secondary schools are

  • colleges
  • universities
  • private career colleges
  • vocational and technical schools

Each post-secondary school has its own set of rules on how to apply, including the level of English or French you need to be accepted.

If you apply for a study permit and your letter of acceptance is from an institution that is not a designated institution for international students, your application will be refused.

Get more information on post-secondary schools:

  • Universities Canada
    • Profiles of Canadian universities, a large study programs database and help to plan your university education
  • Colleges and Institutes Canada
    • Profiles of colleges and institutes
  • Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
    • Information on getting your past education assessed against Canadian standards
  • National Association of Career Colleges
    • Learn about schools that teach trades and vocations

Private career colleges

Provincial governments may regulate private schools differently for different study programs. Make sure the private school you apply to is included on the designated learning institution (DLI) list.

Language schools

There are many schools in Canada that teach English or French as a second language. Provincial governments regulate language programs at public institutions.

Most provincial governments do not regulate language programs at private schools. For more information about private language programs, contact Languages Canada.

Studying in French

There are many ways to study in French across Canada.

  • French-language education in Canada has information on schools and institutions that offer courses in French.
  • The Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne has information on university programs in French, English, or both.

Designated learning institutions

Provinces and territories approve (or “designate”) schools that can enrol international students. These schools are known as designated learning institutions (DLI).

If you need a study permit, your acceptance letter must be from a DLI. If it isn’t, we’ll refuse your application.

All primary and secondary schools in Canada are DLIs. You can search a list of the post-secondary schools, such as colleges and universities, and language schools that have been designated.

How to apply to a school

Once you choose a school, college or university, you must apply to go there. Every school has different rules on how to apply.

Make sure you apply at least

  • 6 months in advance if you want to study at a primary or secondary school
  • 1 year in advance for a post-secondary program at a university, college, etc.

Contact the school where you want to study to learn how to apply. They’ll give you the list of all the documents you need to send them. They’ll also be able to tell you about

  • the cost to apply
  • tuition fees
  • health insurance
  • rent and how much it costs to live in Canada
  • language tests

Fill out the application forms for the school or schools of your choice. Follow their instructions to submit them.

If the school admits you as a student, they will send you an acceptance letter. You need this letter to apply for a study permit.

Health insurance

The Government of Canada does not pay for the medical costs of foreign students. Health coverage for foreign students varies between provinces.

Contact the school to receive more information about medical coverage and health insurance.

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