Is College Free in Canada
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Is College Free in Canada?

Moving to Canada to attend college is an interesting option for sure. Canada is overall cheaper, and with comparable quality of life to the United States.

But is college free in Canada?

The short answer is no.

There are, however, some caveats to consider. Even if it isn’t entirely free, you can expect to pay a lot less compared to the US for similar training.

Is it a viable option to study in Canada? Absolutely. Does it make sense for your situation? Perhaps.

In this article, we are going to analyze in-depth the costs of college in Canada, and if you should consider going there.

College in Canada isn’t the Same as in the United States

Before getting into the monetary stuff, it is important to make a distinction, especially if you are going to ask questions to a Canadian person.

While college and university are pretty much synonyms in the United States, they are different schools in Canada. The Canadian equivalent is simply called university. College is a completely different type of school. They are more like vocational schools, and they are more focused on teaching a job.  Think trade schools / college juniors.

Editor’s note: For the sake of the article, when you read college, assume we’re talking about universities. We are going with the general accepted US meaning.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend College in Canada?

College in Canada isn’t free. But it’s way more affordable than in the United States. For comparison, the average yearly tuition in the US is about $32.000, while the average yearly tuition in Canada is about $5.000.

Naturally, there are many factors influencing the prices, as these are the averages.

There are colleges in the US where you can pay up to $80.000-90.000 per year. But there are also colleges that are way more affordable. Still, even the cheapest US universities can’t compare to average Canadian ones when it comes to affordability.

But there’s a catch.

The average tuition fee we reported only applies to residents. If you are an international student, don’t expect to pay less than $20.000/year as a tuition.

It’s still cheaper than the US by a wide margin, and living in Canada is cheaper too. But the option might lose some of its appeal. Still, studying abroad is a great way to open your mind and get in touch with different cultures.

There Is a Way to Attend College for Free in Canada

It is, in fact, way easier to attend college for free in Canada thanks to the many scholarships available to both local and international students.

Let’s take a quick look at the two most interesting scholarships for international students in Canada.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

  • What: a full scholarship for doctoral studies in any field
  • Who: both local and international students
  • How: you have to inform the faculty you want to apply for the program, or get nominated by it. You can’t apply directly for this scholarship.

Ontario Trillium Scholarship (OTS)

  • What: a full scholarship for doctoral studies in any field
  • Who: this scholarship is exclusively for international students
  • How: students get selected by the faculty. You can’t directly apply to the program. You can only notify the institution you are interested in the scholarship. They will evaluate your situation by themselves.

Warning: this program is currently suspended. We expect it to come back once the COVID situation has been sorted out.

There are many other scholarship programs available for international students who wish to study in Canada. But generally, they only offer some economic benefits, without covering the entire tuition fee. This means you’ll still have to pay some money to attend these schools.

Still, they could be enough for you to decide to study abroad. If you want to look deeper into these programs, look for the Nelson Mandela Award by the University of Toronto, and the F.A. Davis Scholarship for nursing.

How to Get a Scholarship

Scholarships are awarded to outstanding students. So, the obvious answer would be: “become an outstanding student!”.


A student is considered outstanding because of its academic and life achievements. It’s not enough to be a model student with high grades. Scholarships are competitive, you need to prove that investing on you is worth it to the institution.

Start with your grades. If your GPA is lower than 3.0 don’t even bother. The closer to 4.0, the better. Then, consider your extracurricular activities. Which ones are the most likely to impress the administration?

If you, like me, are a beer pong champion, you probably don’t want to put it in your resume. But if you do volunteering, or excel at a sport, then by all means add these relevant facts about yourself in your application.

Also, prepare a killer essay. There are many guides on the Internet on how to do it, but the general gist of it is that you want to demonstrate your dedication to the school. This is the best way to prove you’ll be an investment for the institution granting your scholarship, so craft a great essay. It’s your ticket to the money.

Why Study in Canada?

Canada is an interesting place to study in. It’s overall cheaper than the US, with a comparable quality of living.

The country has two official languages, so if you’re enamored with how French sounds, you can kill two birds with one stone and learn the ropes of the language. Just don’t expect everyone to actually know French.

Canada is also way more peaceful than the US as a country. It’s probably because fewer people live there, but it’s not just that. Canadians in general are more peaceful than US residents, so if you’re looking to get away from a noisy environment, Canada might be an excellent choice.

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience, since you get the opportunity to get in contact with different cultures. It’s a great way to open up your mind to the blessings of this world. You’ll learn so much about yourself and get a different perspective on life.

The Downsides of Studying in Canada

There are, of course, downsides to studying in Canada as well.

The biggest one is that employers might not take a college degree from Canada as seriously as one from the United States. While these types of employers have their reasons, I think they’re a bit too overzealous in their judgments. They are a dying breed for sure.

You probably don’t want to work for these people anyway. If they judge your worth because of where you got your degree, they aren’t very bright.

Still, it’s absolutely a factor to consider. If employment is your number 1 priority, nothing will beat a US college.

Another potential issue is housing. Yes, Canada is cheaper than the US, but you still need to find housing, and living is expensive no matter where you go. At least, in first world countries.

Last, the paperwork might put off lazier people. Bureaucracy is a huge turn off for many, because it feels like you are doing a lot of irrelevant stuff just because someone decided so. I understand you. Been there, done that.


Studying in Canada isn’t free, but it’s way cheaper than in the US. There are upsides and downsides to studying abroad, so my suggestion is to weigh them and understand which ones would impact you the most.

The prospect of studying abroad is super cool, and more people should do it. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to afford it. Scholarships help with that.

If you’re looking to pursue higher education, Canada is easily one of the best countries to do so.

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