All post-secondary institutions have an admissions process whereby they select those students to attend their school. Competition varies, both in types of schools, types of programs, and types of students being admitted. All schools with an on-line presence will have an admissions web page where all the admission criteria for the various options are laid out.
College vs. university
Students looking for post-secondary education have usually already decided whether they want to pursue college education or university education. Typically, college education prepares the student for an applied career, whereas a university education prepares the student for an academic career.
University requirements are fairly straightforward. In all cases, admission is based almost entirely on academic marks gained in high school, generally grade 12, although some schools also consider grade 11 marks as well. In most cases, an overall average of at least 70% in high school will suffice. (There are many exceptions however, depending on the applicant’s status and the program being applied for; best to check with the schools’ websites directly.) Students applying for admission to an in-province school typically have much less stringent grade requirements than out-of-province applicants.
College admission requirements vary more significantly than university requirements, though none have entrance requirements above 85%. In general though, more well-respected colleges (such as George Brown College, Mohawk College and Capilano College) accept many students with averages above 70%, although they may place no limiting minimum for acceptance, and consequently take students with averages below 60%.
Undergraduate admission criteria
As post-secondary schools have limited space, there is competition for admission. For most undergraduate schools, the greatest competition comes from high school students. In this case, the two most basic criteria are the successful completion of high school and competency in one of the two official languages (English in most of Canada, and either English or French in Quebec and New Brunswick).
Students can apply for various programs, depending on their interests. Generally, students can choose amongst Arts, Science, and Business, although there are many variations on these themes and numerous subcategories and majors. Students can apply without having to declare their specialization at the outset, and be considered “undeclared” for a time.
Graduate admission criteria
Generally, a previous undergraduate degree is required for admission to graduate programs, although there are exceptions. Since graduate degrees involve (in most cases) independent research and little course work, students must have the fundamental theoretical knowledge to carry out their independent studies. In order to determine a candidate’s suitability for graduate school, students must generally have a supervisor “vouch” for them. Usually this is via an interview between the prospective graduate student and various supervisors, where the student attempts to match their study program with an appropriate supervisor interested in a similar field.
If the graduate student has the ability to financially support themselves during their graduate tenure (either through the holding of a scholarship or fellowship, or by the supervisor offering financial support from their own grant monies) they have a greater chance of gaining admission to a graduate program. In fact, most graduate schools won’t admit students unless they have their finances already in order.
Special cases and professional programs
For almost all international students applying for either undergraduate or graduate admission, an essay, statement of intent or personal statement of experience must be submitted directly to the program being applied for. Additionally, letters of reference, examples of extracurricular involvement, community service, athletic participation, and scholarships won may all be required for acceptance to some programs.
Mature students (those older than 25, and out of school for at least 2 years) can also apply for post-secondary schooling. The normal entry requirements applied to younger students are generally not applied to mature applicants. If they do not meet the usual admission requirements already, but demonstrate intellectual maturity through the pursuit of interests, employment, or have overcome a significant hardship, then they are usually admitted.
Professional programs such as Medicine also have special requirements, usually similar to graduate school requirements. A previous degree, or partial completion (2-3 years of a 4 year degree) is usually required before admission to these programs will be granted. Other admission criteria include writing a personal statement, previous academic records, scores on various professional school tests, and interviews. Other professional programs such as Law or Engineering will have entry requirements similar to those of basic undergraduate admissions (although further education or accreditation is usually required after graduation in order to practice professionally).
”Traditional” continuing education is usually open to anyone, and is intended for people who want to pursue higher education. This can either be through credit courses (applicable towards a degree) or non-credit courses (usually for personal enjoyment). Generally the only obstacle to admission is the ability to pay for the individual courses and programs.
Professional continuing education is generally characterized by the issuing of a certificate to students who already hold a previous degree in the professional field. Licensing bodies (such as the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers or Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada) impose continuing education requirements on members who hold licenses to practice within a particular profession. These requirements are intended to encourage professionals to expand their knowledge base and stay up-to-date on new developments. Depending on the field, these requirements may be satisfied through college or university coursework, extension courses, or conference and seminar attendance.