Application Deadlines and Intakes in Canada for Master’s Programs: A Complete Guide

Study in Canada

Source: VisaPlace

Canada ranks among the best five destinations in the world for higher education. Canadian universities are consistently ranked among the top 100 universities globally. According to Statista, 530,540 international students were holding study permits by the end of 2020. Students travel to Canada throughout the year for different sessions, and the universities are particularly packed during the fall. Canada has four main seasons – fall, winter, summer and spring. The undergraduate and postgraduate programs commence as different intakes in Canada, spread across these seasons that constitute the academic year. As an international student preparing to study in Canada, you need to be acquainted with the application process, timeline and deadlines for these intakes and start preparing accordingly.

Let us review the different intakes in Canada, the application period and deadlines and elaborate on the checklist of tasks you need to take care of before you apply.

Application Deadlines & Intakes in Canada for Master's Programs

Canadian universities welcome applications of international students from different corners of the globe. To accommodate students from all genres and encourage diversity, the universities commence their degree programs in specific cycles throughout the academic year, known as intakes in Canada. The Canadian universities have three major intakes – Fall, Winter and Summer. The Fall intake is the main session that offers a wide selection of undergraduate and postgraduate programs and draws the maximum number of applications.

Intakes in Canada, Session Duration, Application Period & Deadlines

Intakes Date of Commencement Semester Duration Application Period/Deadline Courses Offered
Fall/September September September to December December to March All Programs
Winter/January January January to April September to November Selective Programs
Summer/Spring/May May May to August January to February Short-Term & Diploma Programs

1. Fall Intake in Canada (September)

University of Toronto during Fall

Source: University of Toronto

Fall intake, also known as the September intake, is the primary intake in Canada. This popular intake attracts a large number of international students to Canadian universities. A diverse range of undergraduate, postgraduate and other courses are available for the Fall session, offering a wide array of choices for the students to choose from. The universities see a high influx of students enrolling for the Fall intake programs, which commence in September and conclude by December/early January.

Application Deadline for the Fall/September Intake

The universities invite applications for Fall programs from December and accept the applications until March. Few universities allow late applications up until April/May; however, by and large, the application deadline for the Fall intake ends by March.

Pros and Cons of Enrolling for Fall Intake

Pros Cons
A wide range of major full-time courses and flagships programs are offered for the Fall intake. There will be stiff competition for the Fall intake since universities receive a very high number of applications.
Scholarship opportunities are higher. The universities will be crowded, and classes will be full.
Higher part-time/on-campus job opportunities. Challenging to find accommodation within the campus as the hostels get filled quite fast.
More internship opportunities.
As the Fall programs start in September, the weather is still pleasant and helps the international students gradually adapt to the harsh Canadian winter.

Preparing for the Fall Intake: Checklist of Activities

If you are enrolling for the Fall intake, you need to take care of the below checklist of activities in preparation for your application.

Immediate - Apply for a Passport

If you do not have a passport already, apply for one immediately. This is the only government-approved official identity card needed to travel out of the country and is extensively used while living abroad to establish your identity.

June to July - Shortlist Universities/Courses/Programs

Do thorough research on the degree programs and courses offered by the top Canadian universities 4-5 months before the application period. Review the prerequisites and ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements. Narrow down a minimum of 5 to 10 universities that offer the programs of your domain and choice. Note down the study requirements, particulars of application timeline and deadlines and other important dates, and prepare accordingly.

June to October - Take English Proficiency Tests

Prepare for English proficiency tests 2-4 months before the application period, as you have to be ready with the test score while applying. Proving English language proficiency is mandatory for international students coming from non-native English speaking countries. Some of the commonly accepted English language tests by the Canadian universities: CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program), IELTS (English Language Testing System), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language Assessment). The scores of these tests are usually valid for two years from the date of test; hence, you can attempt any one of these tests as early as you can.

June to October - Attempt Entrance Tests (GMAT/GRE)

GMAT/GRE tests are essential requirements for some of the degree programs in Canada. You will need to prepare for GMAT/GRE tests if they are listed as the eligibility criteria for the Master’s programs you have shortlisted. Prepare 3-4 months in advance and complete the exams as soon as you can. You would be required to submit proof of successful completion of these tests along with your application.

October to November - Get your Academic Transcripts

Make arrangements for your marks sheets, degree transcripts and other relevant academic certificates by November. All universities require you to submit your academic documents along with the application. Get these documents after you graduate and keep them ready for application.

October to November - Arrange for Work Experience Letter (If Applicable)

If you have professional work experience, arrange for a work experience letter before you are ready with your application. You can attach the work experience certificate as a supporting document along with other academic certificates.

July to November - Prepare CV, LORs, SOP

Start working on your Curriculum Vitae (CV), Letter of Recommendation (LORs) and Statement of Purpose (SOP) simultaneously while short-listing your universities. Each university has specific requirements according to which you need to prepare these documents. You can follow the standard format for CV as outlined by Canadian universities. LORs are typically given by your academic institutes; however, if the university has a different format, you need to use the same. Also, start working on your SOP early on as you need to gather your thoughts and put together a comprehensive document. An impressive SOP that defines your personality and outlines your motivation for the study program will enhance your chances of an admission offer. Have all these important documents ready by November so you can append them with your application.

December to February - Start Applying for Universities

Duly fill in your applications, cross-verify and organise all your supporting documents and start applying for the universities as per the deadlines. Apply immediately when the application portals open up to avoid last-minute delays. An early application garners more attention and hence higher the chances of getting an admission offer. The “first come, first serve” rule does make a difference for college applications.

March to July/August - Review University Responses

The universities will start sending in their responses from March onwards. Collect all the responses, carefully review the admission offer letters and finalise the university/program you wish to pursue. Send an acknowledgement/acceptance of the offer via email to the university.

April to August - Take Care of Post-Admission Requirements

After you have accepted the admission offer, many vital matters need to be taken care of: Apply for a student visa, arrange for funds (student loan), apply for scholarships, accommodation arrangements, health insurance, international travel card, flight booking, packing, etc. Plan diligently and complete these tasks just in time to fly out!

For more details, please read: Application Process for a Master’s program in Canada.

2. Winter Intake in Canada (January)

University of Northern British Columbia during Winter

Source: University of Northern British Columbia

The Winter (January) intake is the secondary intake in Canada which commences in January and concludes by April. Majority of the popular courses offered in the Fall intake are available for the Winter intake, but the program list will not be as comprehensive as the Fall intake. The number of universities that offer Winter intake programs are lesser in comparison to the Fall intake, and only selective or specialized programs will be open for applications. Usually, the students who miss their deadlines for the Fall intake apply for the Winter intake so as to not miss an entire academic year. Hence, this intake is considered as the secondary intake in Canada.

Application Deadline for the Winter/January Intake

The application deadline for Winter intake programs fall between September through November, which differs from one university to another. Primarily, the majority of the Canadian universities have set their Winter deadlines in September and October, with a few of them having extended deadlines until November.

Preparing for the Winter Intake: Checklist of Activities

The list of activities you need to complete for the Winter intake is similar to the Fall intake. The process of application, eligibility criteria and pre-requisites to be met remain the same for Winter intake. We need to modify the timeline for the ”checklist of activities” as per the university/program deadline.

Pros and Cons of Enrolling for Winter Intake

Pros Cons
Students who have missed their deadline for Fall intake get a chance to apply for Winter intake without having to forgo an entire academic year. The full-time program list for Winter is not as comprehensive as the Fall intake.
You will have a headstart with your preparation for the applications and meeting the requirements for your application. Though the majority of the top Canadian universities offer Winter programs, they are fewer in number compared to the Fall intake.
You can apply on time and get a faster response from universities, giving you adequate time to apply for student visa, scholarships, student loan, etc. The weather is not amicable during the Winter session as it gets extremely chilly, and students can find it quite hard to adapt to the harsh weather conditions.
Universities are less crowded for Winter intake, more flexibility to find student accommodations. Scholarship, internships and on-campus job opportunities are relatively lesser compared to the Fall intake.

Spring/Summer Intake (May)

University of Waterloo in Summer

Source: University of Waterloo

Spring intake or the Summer intake, also known as the May intake, starts in May and ends by August. Very few universities offer Summer programs which are mostly short-term courses and Diploma programs. This intake is least preferred by international students as only a few full-time programs are available for May intake. The Summer intake programs begin in May and conclude by August.

Application Deadline for the Summer/May Intake

Universities start accepting applications for May intake by late December/early January and close their portals by February.

Preparing for the Summer Intake: Checklist of Activities

Here again, the checklist of activities for Summer intake is similar to Fall and Winter intake. However, you must carefully go through the prerequisites of summer programs, as the requirements could be different from full-time programs. Ideally, students must be ready with their applications for summer programs by December, as the deadlines fall between January to February.

Pros and Cons of Enrolling for Summer Intake

Pros Cons
If you are looking at improving your language skills, quite a few universities offer language programs for non-English speakers for Summer intake. Least preferred intake as full-time programs are not available for Summer intake.
Competition is less intense for Summer programs as not many students apply for this intake. Only short-term courses and programs are offered for this semester.
High probability of getting an admission offer. Only a handful of universities offer Summer programs.
Students will miss out on their summer break if they opt for this session, as summer is best utilized for travel and recreation in Canada.

Top 10 Universities that Offer Fall, Winter & Summer Intakes in Canada

Royal Roads University

The following is a list of top 10 Canadian universities and their QS World Rankings for 2021.

University Canada Rank Global Rank
University of Toronto 1 25
McGill University 2 31
University of British Columbia 3 45
Université de Montréal 4 118
University of Alberta 5 119
McMaster University 6 144
University of Waterloo 7 166
Western University 8 203
Queen's University 9 246
University of Calgary 9 246

Source: Top Universities


There are three intakes in Canada – Fall, Winter & Summer, which start in September, January and May respectively. We have provided complete details of all the intakes including the session duration, application period, deadlines, timeline of activities and other relevant information. Canada maintains a worldwide reputation for being a student-friendly nation providing outstanding quality of education, high standard of living and wonderful career opportunities. As an international student aiming to study in Canada, you need to be aware of fundamental information related to program intakes, deadlines and timeline, which we have provided in this article.

Find out why Canada is a great choice for your higher education.

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