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Canadian admission decoded – Checklist and process

Tumul Buch

Most countries have dissimilar admission processes and while Universities may have different cycles/calendar dates, the admission process within a country will be more of less similar. The Canadian admission process is different from other countries in a few ways which I explain in detail here. Most of the questions that the students pose will be addressed in this section.

Types of Admits

Generally, there are three types of admits the universities offer:

  1. Thesis Admission
  2. Non-Thesis (Coursework) – with/without Co-Op
  3. Non-Thesis (Project-based)

The number of courses you must opt for differs from one university to another. I would recommend visiting the university’s websites than asking the seniors out here.

Begin here!

1.1. Start by listing down what universities you want to apply to

Filter down the universities as per your expectations in terms of specific subjects/courses you want to take up. The top Canadian Universities in your list should be around 7-8.

1.2. Visit the respective department websites

This is the best source of info available to you. They are up-to-date and carry a lot of important information. The following are some of the details to look out for in the department websites:

Admission Requirements / Entry Criteria

Important Dates

  • Application Deadline
  • Scholarship Deadline

Faculty /People Page

  • Research labs / Research interest of the Professors
  • Publications list of the Professors (Use Google Scholar for recently published papers)
  • Call for prospective students - Announcement of vacant positions in the respective labs

Course Structure

  • Mandatory (core) courses
  • Elective courses

1.3. Contacting Professors through e-mail (if need be)

Typically, it would be the Thesis students who will be insisted on contacting the Professors. You must spend a lot of time in this section.


Select 6 to 8 Professors from different universities working on an area where you are most interested in. Carefully study the most recent and active projects that the Professors are working on. Check if the Professors have an active grant and are willing to hire new grad students. Without a call for prospective students enlisted in the website, it is recommended not to e-mail a Professor.

Reading research papers is an art. You must know what information to look out for and where to find it. Try to find few tutorials online on how to prepare a research summary by listing down the strong and weak/improvement points of a research paper. Sending this will increase your chances and will give some assurance to the Professors that you are interested and willing to commit yourself to take up the stage. If the Professor doesn’t get back to you, wait for a couple of weeks and then send him/her a gentle reminder! A word of caution, “Do not spam their mailbox!”

1.4. Prepare the documents simultaneously (SoP, CV and LoRs)

It is quite understandable that this is one of the boring sections of the entire application process. However, this is one of the most important of them as well. A good SoP can fetch you

dream admits and a bad one can force rejections upon you despite having a decent profile. Write a rough draft and make revisions.

  • Try to get inputs from a lot of seniors / friends and fine tune them to get the best version of it. Do customize it from one university to another.
  • Do not have one generic SoP to be sent to universities.
  • SoPs must not be explaining your CVs. They must be focusing on stuffs that cannot be captured in CVs. More like the characteristics/traits you possess with some real-time examples justifying your claims.
  • Stick to the number of words that are expected by the admission committee. Typically, an SoP is 700 to 800 words long.

1.5. Apply well ahead of the deadline

Generally, the application period ranges from mid-October to late-January. If you are planning on securing an admission, you will have to apply as early as possible. The Professors will be on a Winter break from the last week of December to the first week of January.

Few universities evaluate applications as and when they arrive and throw in rolling-admits. Few universities wait for the deadline to get over & then start evaluating the applications. Each application is handled on a case-by-case basis.

The recommendation to apply early is to ensure that if you have missed some document, they are going to reach out to you and you can submit that on time as well. If you apply late & miss out an important document, your application will be treated as ‘incomplete’ and you are welcoming a reject!

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