The higher education system in Canada includes public and private colleges, universities, and polytechnic institutes. All Canadian universities offer bachelor’s degree programs, while colleges and polytechnic institutes provide shorter, career-focused programs and may not include a bachelor’s degree program.
Most colleges and universities in Canada follow a two-semester system, with the first semester starting in September and ending in December. The second semester generally starts 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.
Following is an overview of the university application process in Canada and the role College Board programs like the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP can play in the admissions process. Scroll down to the Resources section for useful links to help you search for and apply to study in Canada.
Canadian University Application Process
When you apply to university in Canada, you usually apply to a specific program or course of study at that university. This differs from the application process in the U.S., where you decide on your course of study, or academic major, after you enroll. You can apply to more than one program within the same university.
Each academic program at the same university often has different admissions requirements. Read the university’s website carefully or contact someone in the admissions office to make sure you understand the application requirements for the program you’re applying to.
In general, universities evaluate applicants based on the following criteria:
- Secondary school exams/grades/GPA and scores on standardized tests like the SAT and AP
- Personal statement or essay
- Letters of reference
- Standardized English or French language proficiency tests (if applicable)
You’ll find links to information about how to send SAT and AP scores to universities in the Resources section of this page.
How to Submit Your Application
Some Canadian provinces, like Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, each have a centralized online application portal that usually gives you the option to apply directly to a specific university. A small number of Canadian universities also accept the Common App, an admissions application platform used by more than 800 institutions worldwide.
Visit individual university websites to get the most accurate information on how to submit your application for admission.
Canadian Application Deadlines
Application deadlines vary widely among Canadian universities, and even among different programs at the same university. The deadlines to submit your application for admission generally range from January to April when applying to study the following fall.
Universities often have earlier deadlines for scholarship applications than for admission applications, so it’s be sure to check the website of each university to find out the deadlines that matter to you.
Important: Universities in Canada often accept applications from international students after the official deadline. If you anticipate needing 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, SAT Subject Test, and/or AP Exam scores as a way for applicants to meet the requirements for undergraduate programs, and some may require them. Always check a university’s website or contact the admissions office directly to make sure you know the current policies regarding College Board test scores.
Even if a program doesn’t require them, College Board test scores can be a great addition to your application—and they can help you qualify for merit-based scholarships at some universities. Universities understand that SAT, SAT Subject Test, and AP Exam scores can help them evaluate a student’s academic achievement. If you do well on the tests, we recommend sending your scores to universities.
AP Exam Scores and College Credit
Many universities in Canada grant credit, advanced course placement, or both, to students who get qualifying AP Exam scores in certain subjects. Earning credit before you go to university can save you time and money as you earn your degree.
Use the "Higher Education Recognition" spreadsheet in the Resources section below to see Canadian universities that award credit or placement for qualifying AP scores.