Moving Back to Canada
Moving Back to Canada

University and College in Canada

Some thoughts on University and College preparation, application, and admission for Canadian expatriate parents and their teenagers.

Why this page?

university in Canada

I have had many inquiries along the same general theme:

How will our children be accepted for university or college admission in Canada when they are living and educated outside of Canada?

No-one wants their children to be "outside" the Canadian education system without some clear and understandable path back into it, particularly at the higher education end.

This page is for those parents, in particular, who are concerned that living outside Canada during the crucial university preparation years of high school could put their children at a disadvantage.

As a university and college professor, leader, and coach for the last 25 years, I can offer you assurance that Canadian teenagers who are educated and living abroad can study at Canadian universities and colleges without disadvantages. In fact, their life experiences gained living outside Canada can give them significant advantages!

A Scenario:

Joan and Richard left Canada for Indonesia when their two teenage daughters were in grade 6 and 8. Now, with their oldest daughter entering grade 12 at an international high school in Jakarta, Joan is concerned about university and college options in Canada for her. Though Joan has some fears that her daughter won't be allowed to apply due to being foreign-educated, Joan dismisses these and is pretty sure that their family's situation is not that alien to Canadian university admissions departments. She trusts that there must simply be a different process to work through for her daughter's application to Canadian universities than traditionally educated Canadian teenagers, and that everything will be OK.

Joan is absolutely correct!

There is nothing to be afraid of and indeed there are simply different processes to work through for Canadian teenagers who do not live in Canada or study within the Canadian education system in Canada.

Sometimes those processes require a closer scrutiny of transcripts to ensure that special university program requirements are met (high school math courses required for engineering programs, for example).

Sometimes a portfolio or phone interview is required to get a richer sense of the student's abilities.

Sometimes, if English is not clearly indicated as your child's first language, an English proficiency test is required.

Besides these possible smaller hurdles, your Canadian teenager who lives and is educated overseas does not face discrimination, disregard, or rejection.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does my son or daughter apply to a university or college when we are living in another country?

The easiest way to apply is to focus on 2 or 3 universities or colleges and make contact with their admissions staff, letting them know your situation and asking for information on the application process for their school. As university and college application and admission takes some time, starting this research process a full 12-18 months ahead of the desired start date of studies is advised. You are dealing with long lead times to research, prepare an application, submit it, have the university consider it, and then admit you.  Applying 3 months ahead will likely lead to disappointment. Even within Canada the application process takes 6 months or more prior to the start of studies.

2. Will our Canadian teenage son/daughter pay international student fees (very high), or Canadian fees (much lower)?

If your children are Canadian citizens, they pay local, Canadian fees, regardless if they were educated and lived abroad prior to entry into a Canadian university.

3. If we leave Canada when our son/daughter only has 2 years left of high school, will this put their high grades in the known Canadian system at risk and therefore their chances of being accepted at the best schools and in the best programs?

No. Top grades are top grades and getting into great Canadian university and college programs from abroad is very doable.

Our concerns as parents

I want to be very careful to note that I understand how deeply felt a concern it can be for parents who wish only the very best for their teenagers. As a father of two young adults myself, I too felt concern that after 16 or 17 years of putting my heart and soul into raising my children I didn't want there to be any roadblocks to their entry into the final chapter of their education - the chapter of higher education.

Most of the questions from clients moving back to Canada have been considerations of the process of choosing, applying, and setting up life in Canada for the purpose of starting university or college. Sometimes these concerns overshadow crucial parts of the exploration of higher education choices available. Again, as a Canadian professor, I suggest being careful to not worry about the logistics. Getting into a Canadian university or college is very doable for teenage children of Canadian expatriates. Here are a few areas to be careful with:

If you step back from the very understandable fears that drive all of us as parents you will see that a trusting, research-based approach to entry into university or college education will result in logical, doable processes that allows you to stay focused on the highest good for your teenager throughout the transition to their adult lives in a university in Canada.

One final thought...

While I was living overseas, some of my UK counterparts would go to extremes to ensure their children would enter a "good" UK high school boarding school or university to maintain a very strong cultural connection to the UK. And my American counterparts would create a fully detailed and planned American high school experience at an American School abroad, so that their teenager would look exactly like American teenagers living in America. The fear and worry the parents went through to ensure no disadvantage to their teenagers or deviation from cultural norms back home removed from their thinking what was both possible and potentially best for their children.

Living overseas can be about being different. It can be about contrast that allows your children to grow up with their eyes and minds open to new ways of thinking. These are not niceties or extras on top of "good grades that allow entry into a top Canadian university". They can be the crucial advantages! Your children can be different and be very, very acceptable socially and professionally. Being different does not mean they will live a life of vagrancy and bohemian differences that will forever leave them at the cold, dark edges of society. It does not mean they will end up in a Thai prison because their boyfriend's parents didn't like your daughter and had the police charge her with drug trafficking. It does not mean a teenage pregnancy at the hands of a mesmerizing foreigner she met while you were living abroad.

These are all just fears.

Being different can mean that your son or daughter can go to a foreign university, gaining significant professional advantage by doing so.

Being different can mean your son or daughter can return to Canada and be very successful in today's multicultural university and college campuses in Canada.

Being different can mean your son or daughter can find joy, excitement, and fulfillment in the amazing marvels this world has to offer...which is one of the reasons you brought him or her overseas in the first place, no?

Your ideas, considerations, and experiences?

Please share with me your ideas, considerations, and experiences relating to education abroad and entering higher education in Canada. I will post them here as help for others. Along with a credit to you will be a big thank you on behalf of the many people you will be helping!

Thank you!

Paul Kurucz
Victoria, BC

This page up to date as of May 2017

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A happy client:

Hi Paul,

Just to update you - we landed and sailed through customs! So thank you so much for all of your advice...It was a thoroughly pleasant experience...

... this is to say thank you for everything. Your advisory has been so incredibly helpful and saved us considerable time and removed room for error.

With best wishes,


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