University versus college: When can your child's enrollment to university be a big mistake, and when can it be the start of a brilliant career?

Over 53% of Canadians have higher education. If you are also planning to study in Canada, one of the first questions that may arise is the difference between colleges and universities. These are completely different concepts than those you are used to know. And here is the reason.


Unlike the United States, where the term "college" refers to local or community schools offering bachelor's degrees, Canada's college system was developed to provide technical education and diplomas meeting the current labor trends and needs of changing economy.

Canadian colleges have changed to a great extent in recent years. Many are equipped with the latest equipment and provide excellent on-the-job training opportunities. In particular, such polytechs as River College Red in Manitoba, Sheridan, Seneca and Humber College (Ontario), NAIT and SAIT (Alberta), and BCIT (British Columbia) are world leaders in development of practical and applied programs.

Colleges and polytechnics have close ties with regional labor market and carefully select the graduates.
Some colleges are more difficult to get into than some university programs.

Canadian colleges respond to the needs and opportunities faced by people looking for a new job, so they offer many programs to start a career in another field. No wonder that university graduates quite often transfer to college or polytechnic just upon graduation - this is one of the features of the mismatch between academic education and modern labor market.

The main distinguishing features of colleges:

  • Canadian colleges offer diplomas, certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees.
  • Study period: 1 year for certificate programs, 2 or 3 years for diploma programs.
  • Average cost - $ 15,000-26,000 per year, depending on the number of credits selected.
  • More structured programs. Small number or absence of elected subjects.
  • More communication with teachers, most of them know students by name. This is useful for those who learn better when interacting with teachers.
  • Less colorful student life. Less extracurricular and student activities.
  • Learning opportunities are typically general for everyone. For example, lectures + textbook. There are some web applications.
  • Small number of scholarships and grants.
  • Cooperative programs (studies + on-the-job training).
  • Transfer opportunities (joint programs with universities).
  • Simpler English language requirements. IELTS for diploma programs is 6.0 with a minimum of 6.0 in each module, however, students with low IELTS score can also apply.

Many international students appreciate shorter and cheaper college programs, which may be also used to make a degree conferred abroad complete.


University education has also much to offer. First of all, universities can award academic degrees. All universities have bachelor's degrees, and many have also master's and PhD programs.

Canadian universities are centers for pioneering research and innovation ensuring solution of global challenges such as climate change. Moreover, Canadian universities are host for over 60 business incubators (entrepreneurship centers) supporting entrepreneurial initiatives of graduates.

Canadian universities are governed by provincial law but remain autonomous in academic matters such as program quality, teacher training, admission requirements and more.

Studies at the university imply more independence than at college. This requires strong time management and motivation. The number of independent studies will increase in the following years of study under Master's or PhD program.

Many Canadian universities let students combine subject areas into a dual specialty, such as Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology.

University graduates represent 27% of Canada's labor force, but they still represent over 40% of the tax base. This proves the fact that the number of university graduates is low, but they earn more. For example, a university graduate in Ontario earns 35% more than a college graduate, but also pays more taxes.

Distinctive features of universities:

  • They focus on analytical skills (the ability to understand and use information).
  • A lot of theoretical training, little scope of practical experience.
  • May offer degrees in specific professions such as dentistry, but more often than not they offer degrees in general subjects such as English, biology, physics, etc.
  • It takes longer to study: 3 or 4 years for a bachelor's degree and from 1 to 3 years for a master's degree.
  • University is more expensive. $ 25,000- $ 55,000 per year.
  • More structured student life. Many extracurricular activities and special interest clubs.
  • Learning opportunities are rather rich. Research, practical training, internships, exchange programs, online modules, web applications, elective courses, etc.
  • Lots of scholarships and grants.
  • Joint programs with other universities.
  • IELTS requirements for admission are higher, in general - 6.5 with at least 6.0 in any module.

Who is the designation of the university?

Canadian universities are the best choice for students willing to get a Bachelor's degree, prepare for professional programs such as medicine, longing to work among researchers or to teach.

Due to a long study period universities are usually less attractive for international students or professionals interested in getting a diploma in a short time.

Nowadays an international student has various opportunities to get higher education in Canada, and many choose studies at college first with further employment and applying for residence, and only then continue studies as a local student that is three times cheaper than for international students.

Bachelor's degree programs at colleges with a lot of practice and less theory are becoming more and more popular. You are the one to choose!!!

Canadian educational institutions

You can choose your own option for study
Kitchener (Ontario province) in 80 km from Toronto
Toronto, Ontario province
Vancouver, British Columbia province
London, Ontario province
Toronto, Ontario province
Ontario province
Vancouver, British Columbia province
Winnipeg, Manitoba province
Toronto, Ontario province
Toronto, Ontario province
Welland, Ontario province
Burnaby, British Columbia province
Brampton, Oakville and Mississauga
Barrie, Ontario province
Winnipeg, Manitoba province
Winnipeg, Manitoba province
Toronto, Ontario province
Toronto, Ontario province
Lennoxville, Québec province


  • Vladimir
    I've been living in Canada for the last 10 years and I have helped more then 700 students to come and study in Canada, USA, UK and Europe. I live in Toronto area and I have family with two children. My older son completed his studies in the Canadian college and the younger son is in the Canadian school now. That's why I know firsthand what concerns students and families have when looking for studies abroad. As a college counselor with more then 20 years of experience, I know in-depth the foreign education systems, good universities and colleges in terms of career perspective and all the nuances of application process and obtaining visas. My goal is to help you find the right university and program and to make the application process as easy as possible using my experience. If you are looking for reliable and experienced guide to studies abroad, contact me and I will help you.

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  • Julia
    I am a college counselor with more than 8 years of work experience. I have helped to more than 500 students to successfully come and study in USA, UK and Canada. My students received offers from world's top universities like Stanford, Harvard, University College London, London School of Economics, University of Toronto and many more. I enjoy working with ambitious students and their parents, who I can guide to the world's top elite universities. Besides, I love to motivate students to dream big and achieve the highest possible goals, and adore watching how they transform their lives and personalities through studies abroad. My consultations are very detailed. I usually dig deep, build successful strategies for my students, help with answers to every question. If you want to speak to me about your future studies abroad, feel free to contact me.

    +1 226 888 4959 (WhatsApp)

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