When to Apply for Study in Canada: A Quick Guide

When to Apply for Study in Canada: A Quick Guide

Parents and students often ask me, “When is a good time to apply to Canada if I want to study there?” My first response is always, “That depends on what level  you are studying.”

Canada offers a diverse range of education opportunities for international students, but timing is key when it comes to the application process. Understanding the optimal times to apply for different levels can streamline your journey and increase your chance of being allowed to enter the Great White North as a student.

Short Term Summer Programs

Short-term programs only require a visitor visa to Canada, and the schools do not issue credits, so acceptance into the program is almost guaranteed and can easily and quickly be processed. However, that does not mean you should wait until a month before applying. Since many individual students end up applying to a group program and must leave together on the same flight, students need to apply 4-6 months ahead of time to ensure a seat on the group flight. There are often early bird discounts to be had as well.

High School Applications

Canadian high schools will accept applications as long as they have space in the program, and you have enough time to get a visa. Unfortunately, both of these are moving metrics. Some years, a school can be full by November of the previous year (i.e., full by November 2023 for a September 2024 intake), while other schools can have space available as late as May or even June. So, when you have made the decision to study in a Canadian high school, I would suggest you apply right away.  Even if the school has not yet opened its application portal for your desired start date, start preparing your application right away so that you can be one of the first to apply on opening day, thus ensuring there are spaces in your desired program. Some high school districts, like West Vancouver, will be full within 1-2 weeks of opening up the application process (ie. full be the end of November 2023 for the September 2024 start date).

ESL – English as a Second Language .

This program is the fastest one to get into, meaning you can wait the longest before you apply.  And that is because of two reasons:

  1. You can start at a language school any month of year, from January to November (usually not December).
  2. You do not need a study permit if your study program is less than six months. You would only need a visitor visa, which is currently taking 17 days to get approval. Therefore, you have more time to decide and can wait longer to apply.

If applying with a visitor visa, you could apply as little as two months before your desired start case, if you do not mind rushing to get your documents ready for both your school and visa application. However, we do not recommend this. Why suffer the consequences of waiting until the last minute to apply when this could have been avoided?

Also, if you intend to continue on to college after you complete your English program, or if you are uncertain of what you would like to do afterward, it is suggested that you apply for a study permit before leaving for Canada, as this will give you more flexibility once you complete your language program, and getting an extension of an approved study permit is usually more likely than applying for a study permit with a visitor visa in hand, even if you are already in Canada.


Canadian colleges have three in-takes for international students: September, January and May. Many colleges have rolling admissions, which means you can apply as long as there is a seat in the classroom. As always, we suggest you apply as soon as you have made the decision to study in Canada, but with the visa process currently taking eight weeks, we suggest you apply no later than six months ahead of time and no sooner than 12 months (the application portals will not be open any sooner).


Canadian universities, for the most part, only have one in-take for international students, which is September. The university’s application portals will not open before October 1 and will close as late as February 28. We suggest applying as soon as possible after October 1 and preferably no later than December 15. We strongly suggest you check each institution you plan to apply to, as all institutions have different application deadlines and admission requirements.

The Importance of Timeliness

Regardless of the educational level you’re aiming for in Canada, staying ahead of deadlines is crucial. Keep in mind that the application process may vary from institution to institution, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements and timelines of the schools you’re interested in.

Also, it can take up to 4 weeks (or longer) to get all of your documents ready to apply for a visa. For students over 18 years of age, you will need a police check from every country you live in more than six months after turning 18. Let’s say you are 20 years old and spent your 19th year studying in another country; you will need two police checks: one from your home country and one from the country you studied in.   

Preparation is Key

In addition to meeting deadlines, thorough preparation significantly boosts your chances of a successful application. Ensure your academic transcripts are complete and accurate, gather required standardized test scores, craft impressive personal statements or essays, secure strong letters of recommendation, and fulfill any additional prerequisites specified by the institutions.

Be sure to allocate ample time for visa processing. Add 2-4 weeks over the current visa processing time indicated by the Immigration, Refugee & Citizenship Canada. You will need time to properly prepare your visa application and time to get your visa label in your passport once you have been approved.

If you do all of the above in a timely manner, you greatly increase your chance of getting a visa to study in Canada.

If you are still uncertain about your specific program, we will happily answer all your questions and guide you step-by-step through the process.  Our service for this is free, so why not get us to help?

We make it easy!

Rene is a Canadian education consulting, student recruiter, and founder of New World Education Company (dba. GoStudyCanada) based out of Bangkok with over 20 years of experience in the S.E. Asian market.

He can be reached at info@gostudycanada.net and followed at GoStudyCanada (FB & IG)