College undergraduates considering continuing with their education should prepare for graduate school before their senior year. A late start will not keep you out of graduate school, but it can impede your effort by forcing you to rush your preparation. Besides, many universities have highly competitive programs and the students that are sufficiently prepared may have an edge over those that are not. Whether you are a Canadian citizen or an international student, there are some steps for you to take as you apply for one of Canada’s many top graduate programs.
1. Explore your options. There are a wide variety of degree programs and department specializations at the top graduate schools in Canada. This means that you will want to explore what the various universities have to offer for your field of study. If there is particular expert in your field, you may want to find out where he or she teaches and apply to that program. You may discover that you will be working side by side with some of the brightest and most admired minds in academia while you are in graduate school. These individuals can shape you professionally and help your career get off to an auspicious start.
2. Strengthen your academic portfolio. Graduate school programs are discriminating in the caliber of students they will choose. Universities prize a diverse student population and those individuals are expected to reflect positively on the school academically as well as personally. Complete the required courses in your undergraduate studies and achieve at least the minimum grade point average to apply to a graduate school in Canada. The required GPA can vary from program to program. Some programs may accept your graduate level assessment test scores or place added weight on your academic references.
3. Apply to graduate schools. Graduate schools in Canada require student to demonstrate proficiency in either English or French for admittance. Some universities will require international students to pass the Canadian Academic English Language Assessment or a similar test. Schools that are taught in French do not have a specific national testing requirement, but may expect you to demonstrate your French language skills and might require you to take a school-prepared test. Include the required academic references — approach professors that know your capabilities quite well and ask for a recommendation.
4. Respond to your acceptance. If you are accepted into a Canadian graduate school, you will need to apply for funding. When making application for a scholarship, you will need personal references. These references may be different from the academic references you obtained and sent off with your college application. For international students, you may need to obtain a study permit or a temporary resident visa once you have been accepted for graduate school, and demonstrate your financial capabilities. The government of Canada website outlines what is currently required, therefore you will want to move this process along as quickly as possibly to ensure that you can start graduate school on time. You will need to show sufficient health insurance coverage as well.
5. Prepare for graduate school. Finish up your undergraduate studies with an eye toward maintaining or improving your GPA. If your current college or university offers college seniors to gain research experience, take advantage of this option. Entering graduate school with research experience under your belt is not required, but that experience can benefit your graduate-level research.
Graduate School Notes
Carefully make note of various graduate school deadlines to ensure that your application and related paperwork are received on time. If you have questions about the process or need help once you are accepted by a program, contact the graduate school directly for guidance. Use a planner to track your deadlines and plan to be present for your university’s graduate school orientation event.