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CANADA - College vs. University for Immigrants

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

College vs. University

On the topic of choosing a Canadian College vs. a University, it somewhat boils down to your overall intentions, goals, and priorities. Is your top priority to become a permanent resident in Canada, and therefore, going to school is a means to that end? Or is your top priority to pursue international studies, specialized studies not available in your country, or further your education in an international/”first world” setting? I know of people who have come to Canada, studied, returned home, and pursued Permanent residency after a year or two, or never.

Since you are reading this book, I am assuming the former, moving to Canada is your top priority. This was also my top priority when I started my journey. However, remember that I already had a Bachelor’s degree from my home country. Also, I believe that pursuing studies in Canada can be helpful in your assimilation into the Canadian labour force and that continuing education in Canada is valued in the workplace.

To briefly compare the two:

  1. The tuition fees for an international student at a College tend to be lower than at a University.

  2. You may also find that Colleges have shorter and easier programs than a University. Also, colleges generally have fewer entry requirements and competition and are therefore easier to get accepted into.

  3. Colleges traditionally offer certificate and diploma programs, while Universities offer higher levels of education like bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

  4. Universities will likely have more specialised programs if you want to pursue post-graduate studies.

  5. Colleges tend to focus more on providing technical training, specific employment skills, and trades. On the other hand, Universities traditionally focus on analytical skills and professional programs that may require licensing, registration, or professional designation, like Lawyer, Doctor, Architect etc.

Now that you know the fundamental differences, here are some suggestions:

  • Option 1

If school is a means of migrating to Canada, I recommend attending college. College will likely be cheaper, shorter, and easier to gain acceptance. As mentioned before, remember to select a program that pairs well with your profile and overall goals regardless of where you choose to go.

  • Option 2

If you: want to pursue professional studies, designation, or degree, you want to obtain Permanent Residence, AND you can afford University, go to a University.

  • Option 3

If you want to pursue professional studies, designation, or degree but cannot afford University tuition as an international student, here is an idea. Attend a Canadian College 1-2- year program, obtain a work permit to allow you to work after graduation, earn some money for University and work towards getting Permanent residency. Once you become a permanent resident, you can attend a University at a lower cost than an international student because now you will be considered a domestic student. As a Permanent Resident and will pay half or a third of what an international student typically pays in tuition fees. Also, as a Permanent Resident, you may qualify for Student Loans and grants not available to International Students. Note that this may take several years, so think about your career goals, age, and how much time you want to spend on this pursuit.

For example, when I initially decided to pursue a career in Architecture, I considered attending a Canadian University, but I could not afford it. I could have chosen this path —> enrol in a 2-year Architectural Technician diploma program at a Canadian college —> obtain a 2 or 3-year work permit —> apply for permanent residency after working for 1 year —> continue to work until my application was approved —> then after my PR application is approved then enrol in a 3 or 4-year Architectural Bachelor’s degree program at a university at a lower cost than an international student and taken financial aid. I could also be exempt from some university courses covered in the diploma program.

Note that scholarships and grants are available to international students for some programs and at some institutions. Consider searching for scholarships and applying if you meet the criteria.

After selecting a program and determining whether you will attend college or a university, the next important step is very important. Ensure that you choose an institution on the list of Designated Learning Institutions and an institution that will make you eligible for a post-graduation work permit. Very technical jargon, but this is extremely critical for obtaining a student visa & being able to work in Canada after your studies.

A designated learning institution is deemed so by a Government body as a school that can host foreign/international students. Your acceptance letter must be from a designated learning institution to apply for a study permit. There is a list of these institutions provided by the Government of Canada available at this link —> —> Immigration and citizenship —> Study in Canada as an international student —> Study permit: About the process —> Prepare to study in Canada OR Google search for the words “designated learning institutions list Canada.”

Note that according to the information provided by - Immigration and citizenship, not all designated learning institutions and not all programs make you eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). They make it pretty simple to filter out institutions. On the list provided by the Government of Canada there is a column labelled “Offers PGWP-eligible programs”, this column needs to say YES. The point of this is to enable you to apply for a work permit to work in Canada after you complete your program. This work permit is called a post-graduation work permit, or PGWP for short. Reference image below:

Image: Designated Learning Institutions list (Ontario)

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (2022e, July 27). Designated learning institutions list: Ontario [Table]. Designated Learning Institutions List.

Canadian Colleges

Here are some of the popular Canadian Colleges in Ontario that meet the two essential criteria at the time of writing this book. They are designated learning institutions and offer programs eligible for a post-graduation work permit.

  1. Seneca College

  2. George Brown College

  3. Conestoga College

  4. Humber College

  5. Centennial College

  6. Fanshawe College

  7. Lambton College

Note that this list can be updated and changed anytime, and schools can lose their designation. Always reference the latest information/list from the government of Canada website -

Research how they differ for tuition fees, application fees, health insurance provisions for international students, location, available programs, internship opportunities, if that interests you, etc. Remember this is a short list; there are many other schools and Provinces that you can research and consider.

Do you have more questions about moving to Canada, check out my new book on Amazon.

The book covers:

  • 20 Step-by-step actions on how to become a Canadian Citizen

  • My entire journey from start to finish, all in one place

  • Personal stories, experiences, and tips to help you along the way

  • Reference links to quickly find information on the Canadian Immigration Website.

  • List of Canadian Colleges to consider (as mentioned above) & a popular post-graduate program.

  • Alternative pathways to Canada

Thanks for stopping by & Thank you for reading!

See You In The Book & on YouTube!


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (2022e, July 27). Designated learning institutions list: Ontario [Table]. Designated Learning Institutions List.

K. (2022). From Foreign Student to Canadian Citizen - And Everything in Between: How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen like me. Independently published.

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