Moving to another country, studying in a different language, and living alone for the first time is a big step for anyone. There will be new responsibilities and also new freedoms that your child will experience by studying abroad in Canada. The decision for young adults to study abroad is also stressful for their parents who want to ensure that their child is ready for and will be successful in this next stage of their life.
From our time working with foreign students and parents, we have found that parents feel very comfortable with sending their kids to study in Canada because it is a safe, accepting, multi-cultural society – and it offers exceptional education and employment opportunities.
To ensure that both you and your child are prepared for studying in Canada, please see the list of seven helpful hints below.
1. Do Your Homework and Get Acquainted with Canada
It is the fear of the unknown that makes parents even more nervous about their child moving away from home to study. You will need to take the time to understand the Canadian school system, which schools and cities are best for your child, and also understand Canadian communities.
To do your homework, we often recommend that the parents:
- Talk to other parents in their community who are already sending their children to Canada to study – how do they feel about their decision and what made them decide on Canada?
- Talk to students in their community who have already studied in Canada and find out their experiences
- Take a trip to Canada and visit some of the universities and/or colleges your child is interested in attending
- Spend some time online getting to know Canada and the various schools, cities, and government resources
After doing your homework, you and your child may decide that they will benefit from another year or two closer to home. If this is the case, consider a branch of a Canadian university or college in your home country. In Dubai, the Canadian University of Dubai (CUD) offers programs that allow students to study in Dubai in a Canadian environment and in English before they complete their studies in Canada. The credits obtained from CUD will be accepted and put towards their degree from the Canadian university.
2. Start Early.
Studying overseas requires completing a lot of paperwork. The Canadian university and college admission process discussed below is the first step and is probably the most time-intensive due to the number of schools/programs to which most students apply.
Once your child has been offered admission to a university or college, they will then need to immediately apply for their Canadian student visa. This application process can take some time, especially if you forget to attach a required document or complete a question. Make sure to start this process as soon as possible. Also, note that the university or college your child is accepted to must be accredited and recognized by the Government of Canada to be eligible for a student visa.
Other items to consider are accommodation in Canada, bank accounts, and health care insurance.
3. Understand Canadian Immigration Programs and Employment Opportunities
The Canadian Government has put in place various immigration programs to help foreign students in Canada:
- Typically, if students are studying full-time on a valid study permit they will not require a work permit in order to work on or off-campus. Full time students will be permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during the regular academic year and will be permitted to work full-time during regularly scheduled breaks from school.
- If students are married and their spouse accompanies them to Canada while they are studying, the spouse may be eligible for an open work permit to allow them to work during the study period.
- After students have completed their studies, there are immigration programs which allow foreign students to stay and work in Canada to gain valuable Canadian work experience. Having Canadian work experience can help students apply for permanent residency and ultimately Canadian citizenship.
- Once a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, students may sponsor their parents, grandparents, spouse or dependent children to immigrate to Canada.
4. Organize the School Application Process
Most students apply to approximately 10-15 universities or colleges for admission. This process can be a time-consuming task and difficult to manage for you as a parent. Often applications will require students to submit essays (in English) and/or provide online interviews for which students should be prepped.
We suggest making a chart outlining the deadlines for admission to each school, what steps are involved in the application process, and a checklist of the documents to be provided. Canadian schools usually require that grades be sent directly from your child’s high school so you will need to organize this process.
Most of the applications are now online which reduces the cost of couriering application packages but will require various documents be uploaded on each school’s application site.
5. Decide What School is Best Suited for Your Child
There are approximately 100 universities and 200 colleges in Canada – all offering a huge variety of programs and classes. It can be a daunting task figuring out which schools are best suited to the needs of your child.
The preliminary factors to consider when choosing a school are what programs your child is interested in, location of the school, cost of studying, and general reputation. Maclean’s magazine offers an excellent summary each year of the top schools in Canada (https://www.macleans.ca/education/university-rankings-2016/).
In addition, you may also want to consider:
- Does the school offer on-campus living?
- Are the living arrangements single gender/co-ed?
- How safe is the city or town in which the school is located?
- Does the school have a large foreign student population?
- What are the classroom sizes?
- Does the school prefer self-study or large group assignments?
At Beeton & Co, we have partnered with the same Canadian educational companies that are used by Canadian high schools and guidance counsellors to offer international students the same up-to-date information on programs, universities and colleges in Canada. We offer each student a 50+ page personalized report of the best suited schools and programs.
6. English Language Requirements
The language requirements for most universities in Canada state that if you have not (i) lived in a country where English is the acknowledged primary language, or (ii) studied at a school full-time for a prescribed number of years where the language of instruction was English, then you need to submit English language scores from a standardized English language testing facility.
These English language policies are different across the 100 universities in Canada, however, the acceptable English language test scores can generally be summarized as:
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS): 6 – 6.5 overall on the Academic Module.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): iBT 80 – 88 overall
- Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL): Overall band of 60 – 70
These scores can vary depending on the school or program.
There are many excellent Canadian language programs to help international students with language proficiency and enable them to be accepted into post-secondary studies.
Most universities and colleges have affiliated language schools which will allow students to gain conditional acceptance to university or college programs that can be put on hold until the student meets certain language requirements.
There are also now a number of Canadian universities that offer “bridge” programs that allow students to study English while taking credited courses at the university. The language programs are designed to help students specifically with the language requirements for their area of study.
7. Cost and Financial Assistance
Canada is the most affordable of the leading study abroad destinations. In 2014, HSBC Bank compared tuition fees and the cost of living for foreign students studying in Australia, UK, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada – Canada was less expensive than all five other countries.
There are a number of scholarship and award programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to assist international students. This financial aid is awarded based on criteria such as academic success, community involvement, athletic excellence, references from instructors and employers, or purely financial need. The Canadian Government offers financial assistance as do the individual educational institutions.