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Life as a student in Canada. Are you ready?

1 Find information about which schools offer the disciplines or programs of study you plan to pursue. The CICIC offers a complete list of educational institutions in Canada. Both the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges provide a searchable database of programs of study. Start narrowing down your options at least one year before you begin sending applications to those universities or colleges on your final list.
2 Send an email, letter or fax to each institution, to ask for an application form, general information about the campus as well as specific information on your planned program of study; admission requirements; the availability of second-language courses, scholarships and teaching/research assistantships; residences; and application fees. Also request information about any special services available on campus for international students.
3 Review the information kits from all the institutions contacted and decide which one (or ones) hold the most appeal. Your application should include all required documentation, such as your official academic transcripts. If that material is unavailable, inform the college or university admissions office that you will send it as soon as you receive it. You should also apply for any scholarships or teaching/research assistant positions that interest you and for which you may be eligible.
4 Confirm your acceptance or rejection when you have received your offer of admission. Accept only one offer.
5 Apply for campus housing, if available, as soon as possible since space at campus dormitories, commonly called residences, is always at a premium and is reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.
6 Once your letter of acceptance has been forwarded to the institution, contact the nearest Canadian diplomatic mission and request information on how to apply for a study permit, which should be filed at least three months before school begins. You can download some of this information and forms from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada web site.
7 Find out if you will require a visitor visa and need to undergo a medical examination (a list appears at: www.cic.gc.ca). A personal interview with a visa officer may be required, therefore any documentation that illustrates your background, such as letters of reference from teachers, previous employers or someone of profile from your home country, can be of assistance to you.
8 Should you be attending a Québec university or college, follow the instructions sent along with your letter of admission to obtain a “certificat d’acceptation du Québec.”
9 To obtain a study permit, which carries a fee, you will need a valid passport and be required to show evidence that you have the financial means to cover tuition and living expenses for you and any dependents, including return transportation.
10 Give yourself plenty of time when getting ready to move to Canada. Determine the most cost-effective means of transporting your belongings; sending luggage by air is generally the most expensive route to take. Check with the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate, or visit the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency Web site. Canada has restrictions on the importation of certain items.
11 You should plan to arrive in Canada at least two to three weeks before classes commence. That extra time will enable you to find accommodation, if required, purchase health insurance (which is required), open a bank account, and get used to a place you will call home for a while.
12 The Canadian Bureau for International Education runs an International Student Reception Service from mid-August to mid-September at the international airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal and Halifax. The service assists students in making connections for onward travel to other Canadian cities and helps them in their initial contact with the institutions at which they will be studying. For more information, click here.
13 Familiarize yourself as much as you can with the country, region and community you will be living in during the course of your studies. A host of information is available about Canada on the Web, including the Government of Canada’s main site.
14 Read the International Student Handbook, which provides an overview of life in Canada along with a wealth of practical information on Canada’s social and political history, legal and educational systems, geography, climate, transportation and immigration and employment regulations as they apply to international students. To obtain more information about the handbook, click here.
15 Find out from your institution who the International Student Advisor (ISA) is and where you can get help if you need it.
16 Decide if you want to participate in orientation activities if any are offered; participation is highly recommended to ensure a good start to your studies and Canadian experience generally.