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Preparing for Canadian universities: experts show you the way

The Canadian University Application Centre, or CUAC, has more than a decade of experience helping international students from around the world to apply for and attend Canadian universities.
CUAC staff from four countries share some of their experiences when it comes to international students and Canadian universities.

Amrita Mangat
Ludhiana India

Suggested timeline for Canadian university and visa applications in India: Usually we keep in mind the time frame of 45 days minimum to 60 days maximum, especially for the main intake, September, as there is always a great rush of applications. Punjab, India, in particular is a place where many cases of malpractices such as arranging fake papers, forged documents, etc., are reported, so we do understand that consulates need time to verify such things.

Best advice for international students: It is most important for a student and a parent to be vigilant about any agency they are selecting to guide them through the admissions and visa process. Students should realize that there is no need to shell out thousands of rupees to get admission or put together a visa file. The only thing that is required from them is performance in their studies, so they should not give money to any agency.

Student success story: I have not one but many students from Punjab who had their visas rejected, though we knew those were good students and had good intentions to study. With CUAC’s help about a dozen of these student visa decisions were reviewed and reversed, and now they are all studying in various Canadian universities. One girl in particular was rejected thrice before she came to our office. She was a very good candidate with excellent marks but was previously not guided properly. With our help she was admitted to the Masters of International Accounting/Finance at the University of Windsor, and I still remember how she jumped with joy when she saw the visa stamp on her passport. Now she has finished her program, got a job, and recently got married – all in Canada.

Shafkat Ahmed Chowdhury
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Favourite thing about your job? Working for the CUAC is like working for a social cause. It pained me to see innocent people (students, parents) being fleeced by unscrupulous immigration agencies. CUAC gives me a platform to help hundreds of students go to top Canadian universities in a legal way.

Top student picks: The majority of our students (from Bangladesh) opt for Engineering and Business programs. For Engineering, most students prefer Windsor and the University of Victoria; and for Business, we get a good number of students (both transfer and freshman) for Saint Mary’s University, University of Windsor and University of Guelph.

Best advice for international students: Firstly, don’t look for rankings. The education system is very unique in Canada, where all universities are public and maintain high standards of education. Secondly, be sure to budget for your tuition, accommodation and other expenses in Canada. You will not be able to work and fund your education. Nor should you bank on scholarships to finance your education. Receiving good scholarships will help, but cannot balance the expense budget, especially if the base tuition fee is higher than you can afford.

Your favourite thing about Canadian universities? In one word – Quality! The fact that students get world-class quality education in Canadian universities makes our job to promote education in Canada so much easier!

Hiba Fazl
CUAC offices in Pakistan

Suggested timeline for university and visa applications from Pakistan: To ensure top university choices, students need to adhere to the deadlines provided which normally fall around January 15 to February 15 of a year for the following September intake. For CUAC member universities, the flexibility is great, but students still need to allow four to six weeks for application processing and about three to four months for visa processing – just to be safe.
Favourite thing about Canadian universities? The dynamic learning environment and support structure provided to students, and above all the excellence in standards.

Jenny Yu
Toronto, Ontario

Fun fact: Jenny was an international student herself! Originally from China, she earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Windsor in 2007.

What should potential students/ families be sure to ask any universities they’re considering? I think there are a lot of generic questions that everyone may ask such as tuition fees and accommodation – information students can easily find on institutions’ websites. They should also consider the following:
What are the various class sizes?
What are the most popular majors?
How would you describe the campus atmosphere?
What are the advantages of this school’s location?
Is it near a city?
How good are the extracurricular programs and social life of the university?
What kind of academic, social and financial support is provided to international students?
What, if any, are common student complaints?
And finally, what makes this school distinctive from others I am considering?

Top three things that Canadian universities look for in international student applicants: Academic achievements, English proficiency and cultural adaptability.

Favourite thing about Canadian universities (especially having been an international student yourself): I like the multi-cultural aspect of Canada. You can basically be living here and meet people from every corner of the globe

To find out more about applying for Canadian universities as an international student, visit www.canada123.org.

• ARWEN KIDD currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photo journalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in Liberia.

Posted: Jun 2, 2011

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