Best Colleges in Canada for International Students

Canada is home to some of the most innovative, eco-friendly, and research-intensive universities globally. 

And though the Canadians could keep all of this to themselves, it is because they welcome international learners that they can create an innovative environment of success.

These selected schools are among the most prestigious in Canada, with a significant percentage of the student body coming from international countries. 

No matter where students come from, they will find a community of inclusive learners to share and celebrate their international identities. 

From special on-campus groups to authentic international cuisine, there is something for everyone in Canada.

Whether students want to travel to the country’s far reaches or stay close to the American/Canadian border, they can explore all the beauty and adventure it has to offer. Below, students will find a number of the best colleges in Canada for international students.  

University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

University of Toronto
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Ranked number in a variety of subjects by QS World Rankings, the University of Toronto provides students with an all-around excellent education experience. 

And with 21% of its student body being from somewhere outside Canada, the university undoubtedly draws an international crowd with this record of excellence.    

U of T welcomes international students with open arms and excellent resources for navigating college life in Canada. 

Students can visit the university’s Centre for International Excellence online website and find resources for getting a study permit, which airport to fly to, how to get health insurance, and even how to open a bank account. 

In addition, students will be able to connect with U of T International Student Experience (ISE) Ambassadors. By pairing new students with current international students, the university ensures that students will have someone who has been through what they have and can support them in the transition to a new place. 

Another great feature of the U of T international student experience is the ISE’s Student Advisory Committee. 

This committee is made up of international U of T students who help the university understand the international student experience. As a result, the university can learn directly from students what their needs are. 

The international student experience at U of T is accessible and welcoming, making students from outside Canada feel like they are just as much a part of the university as native Canadians. 

McGill University (Montreal, QC)

McGill University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

McGill University is proud to proclaim that over 30% of its students are international students –the highest of any other Canadian research university.

 And it is no wonder students from all over flock to McGill with the university’s ranking in the top 50 best universities worldwide. 

International students will get a kick out of knowing that when they attend McGill they will be attending the alma mater of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. 

It won’t hurt either to know that McGill has been home at different times to Nobel laureates, Rhodes Scholars, prime ministers, and Olympians. 

McGill’s excellence extends to its services for international students as they make the transition into university life. 

In addition to a buddy program that pairs new students with current ones, students will have access to a wellness advisor who will help them find the resources they need to succeed academically, physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

Welcoming students from all over isn’t complete if a university doesn’t have a relationship with other international universities. 

As a result, McGill makes it a point to be involved in different associations and organizations worldwide. 

Some of the international associations the university is part of include The Association of Commonwealth Universities, Association of American Universities, and the U7+ Alliance.   

Students who are looking to study at McGill will find that its world-renowned excellence and hospitality will make the campus a home away from home. 

University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

University of British Columbia
Xicotencatl, Koerner library ubc, CC BY-SA 4.0

UBC believes in being a global change agent. This vision is reflected in their ranking as 3rd in climate action and 5th in sustainable cities and communities. 

Students who come to UBC from abroad can be sure that their education will be one that will prepare them for the future, no matter where they end up. 

One of the many ways that UBC supports international students is by offering them the chance to receive financial aid to afford their UBC education. 

Two specific options that students have access to are the International Community Achievement Award and the Trek Excellence Scholarships.

Outside of the Vancouver campus is a wide range of international shops and restaurants that can either remind students from abroad of home or give them a taste of something they’ve never tried before. 

The international foods represented in the area shops include Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Korean, Filipino, and more. 

Students will have the chance to be part of UBC’s passion for global impact through projects like the Social Impact Lab

By working in a collaborative community of scholars and peers, students will be exposed to essential skills like grant proposal writing, organizing, and building partnerships locally and globally. 

UBC’s unique focus on sustainability through its global presence will give students a vision for a cleaner and greener international future.

University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

University of Waterloo
Tleydxdy, Dana Porter Library 2, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Waterloo has established itself as a top school for innovation. The university’s vision to provide an education that is experiential and career-focused provides students locally and abroad with an education that prepares them for breaking barriers in the workplace. 

The university knows how to walk the walk when it comes to innovation and breaking barriers, a fact evident in the fact that one of the many highly educated faculty is only the third woman to even receive the Nobel Prize. 

International students will have something in common right away with Donna Strickland in that, though she may be a native Canadian, she is no stranger to what it is like to be an international student studying abroad. 

With 22% of undergraduates and 40% of graduate students being from around the globe, the University of Waterloo is a hub of international talent. 

The university provides many opportunities for students to bring their expertise and unique worldview to their education and career pursuits, one of the most popular being Velocity. 

Velocity is one of the most successful Canadian incubators that has a one-year survival rate of 92% for startups. 

The university allows its student and local entrepreneurs to use this venue to test out and pursue ideas for exciting new business ventures. 

Students who attend the University of Waterloo will transform the meaning of what it means to “meet your Waterloo” for the better. 

Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS)

Dalhousie University
Citobun, Dalhousie University Medjuck Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the prestigious U15 research universities, Dalhousie University has developed a lot since its original founding 200 years ago. Being around that long has taught the university a thing or two about what a quality education should look like. 

Dalhousie prides itself on its collaborative approach to learning, and this approach hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dalhousie has received a great deal of funding that focuses on collaborative learning, including competitive grants like the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. 

Even outside of academia, students will find ample opportunity to collaborate with students from all backgrounds. For example, international students have the option to join the Dalhousie International Students Association (DISA). This student group provides students access to helpful resources, community, and leadership opportunities at Dalhousie. 

Another unique collaborative feature of the university is its Agricultural Campus. In addition to being an education center, the Agricultural Campus works in partnership with locals, government officials, and international communities to promote a more sustainable Canada, and a more sustainable world. 

Students who come to Dalhousie will be in a community that is passionate about learning through collaboration. 

University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Ranked among the top 125 universities in the world, the University of Alberta has plenty of unique offerings for international students. 

Something out of the box that the University of Alberta offers students is The World’s Challenge Challenge. This competition invites students to collaborate and come up with innovative solutions to a global issue. 

Projects have included everything from creating biodegradable materials in the cosmetic industry to providing aid for diabetic refugees. 

Closer to home, the university provides an opportunity for international students to come together with the English Reading Group. This book club-like setup gives international students a chance to build community, strengthen their English skills, and learn more about Canadian culture. 

If students enjoy connecting through reading, the university offers another exceptional resource in the form of a bi-weekly newsletter. Students can get the inside scoop on the international student culture inside and outside the university when they check out the Global Beat

Attending the University of Alberta offers students a unique educational experience at the intersection of Canadian culture and the international community. 

McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)

McMaster University
Mcmasterp123, McMaster Museum of Art, CC BY-SA 4.0

McMaster University is known internationally for its excellence in teaching, research, and ranking in the top 100 universities. 

The university even developed its own problem-based learning style that universities have now adopted. 

This problem-solving mentality can be found in many unique ways at McMaster. One great option for students who want to immerse themselves in the city of Hamilton is the university’s CityLAB

This unique residential summer program allows students to learn in the community by creating innovative solutions to real-world problems. 

In addition to creating solutions to help the city become a better place for locals and visitors alike, students will have the opportunity for fun in the city. 

Many international students have probably heard of Niagara Falls, but many have no idea that Hamilton is known as the city of waterfalls. 

With over 100 waterfalls nearby to explore, students can contribute and simply enjoy the preservation of Canada’s natural beauty. 

Students are going to want to visit this natural beauty often to recharge as they attend one of the most research-intensive programs in Canada. 

With faculty that have won the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellows, students can be confident in the mentorship and direction they will receive as they learn to be expert researchers. 

McMaster shows that when teaching is done right, it produces students who have a passion for problem-solving and applying what they’ve learned to fundamental issues of the world. 

York University (Toronto, ON)

Compared to some of the other universities on this list, York’s founding in 1959 puts it on the younger side of Canadian universities. 

Even so, what this university lacks in years, it makes up for in its active role in the world, as indicated by its 2021 ranking internationally by Times Higher Education as 67th in global impact. 

A huge way that YU has contributed to global impact is through its dedication to sustainability. 

YU is considered one of the greenest employers in Canada and works to ensure that its campuses at home and abroad are eco-friendly. 

From community gardens to green construction methods, YU is a place where students from abroad can feel good about participating in an institution that contributes toward global sustainability. 

Not only is YU practicing sustainability, but it is researching and learning how to share this with international partners. The university is number one in Ontario for global collaborative research publications, showing its commitment to producing knowledge that benefits the world. 

YU’s close partnership with local and global partners allows international students ample opportunity to gain career experience while they learn. 

With programs like the YU Experience Hub, community partners and students can work on real-world problems while offering students a great chance to develop their CVs. 

Attending York University allows students to be part of a growing international community of educators and changemakers. 

Western University (London, ON)

University of Western Ontario
R.schneider101, UWO Physics and Astronomy building, CC BY-SA 4.0

It doesn’t get more global than space, and Western University is home to some exciting projects that take the idea of ‘international’ to a whole new level. International students that attend Western will see the world in ways they never thought possible. 

With faculty like Gordon Osinki, who has trained NASA and CSA astronauts, students will have access to some of the leading researchers on our planet. 

Considering Western has upcoming projects that are taking scientists into space, students will have direct experience with what it takes to study and care for our planet. 

Down on earth, the university offers plenty of opportunities for international students to make an impact. 

Through student groups like the Canadian Asian International Student Association and Model United Nations Society, students can practice what it takes to work collaboratively with fellow students to create a better global world. 

With an environment that strives to celebrate students from all walks of life, and the resources to back up this support, Western University provides international students with an education that is truly out of this world. 

University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

University of Calgary
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Calgary is one of the top research universities in Canada and resides in one of the most livable cities in North America; if that wasn’t enough, the university’s mascot is a dinosaur. Local or international, being a Dino comes with perks and prestige. 

In the area of sports, the university has won 15 Olympic and Paralympic medals. Not only does the school excel on the field, but their sports education is among the best. 

International students who are looking to study sports medicine will be pleased to know that the university has the number one Kinesiology program in North America. 

Students who need more convincing on what it would look like to be a Dino can take advantage of the university’s resources that explain what it is like to live in Alberta. 

Students should check out the university’s three-day trip guide, which will help them plan a trip able to explore beautiful Canadian mountains, lakes, and even the badlands where dinosaur bones have been discovered.   

To learn more about the University of Calgary experience on campus, students can check out various resources, including the International Student Services newsletter, the campus podcast, and the university YouTube channel.