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Post-Secondary Planning Guide


There are a number of options to consider and research

  • Civilian workforce / Trades trainingOfficer Training (University) Coast Guard Military 
  • College - focus on direct entry into workforce
  • Private career college 
  • Gap year 
  • Enlist in Military / Coast Guard 
  • University
  • Quebec: Technical and preuniversity programs through CEGEP


Students usually fall into one of two categories:

1.    You feel you have a good idea of what you want to do after high school:

  • Start researching the educational requirements to enter that career using the resources on this site.

2.    You feel you have no idea what you want to do. Here are some steps to get you on your way:

  • Talk to a school counsellor or teachers about completing interest surveys.
  • Research the careers that come up in your results (education, salary, growth options, related careers, etc...).
  • Talk to family and friends to learn about what they do.


You’ve decided not to pursue Post-Secondary Education, at least not right away...

You may decide to enter the workforce. Ways to get yourself informed include:

  • Searching through provincial employment sites
  • Looking into youth employment programs in your community
  • Using a job database (e.g., Find a job -, Indeed, etc...)
  • Considering Trades and Stem (e.g., Skills Canada, Skills Ont (APP), Skills Alberta, Trades Labour Union sites)
  • Talking to family and friends about possible employment opportunities

You may decide to join the Military or Coast Guard. Find out more by:

  • Contacting a Recruiting Officer for information (
  • Viewing options available with the Coast Guard (

You may decide to take a GAP year (this is a break from school)

 It’s important to HAVE a PLAN. Students choose a year away from school for a variety of reasons. You may want to:

  • Work – a chance to try out a career pathway or as an opportunity to make money to pay for your future schooling
  • Participate in a GAP year program (see MFS resources)
  • Upgrade high school courses to access a specific program in College or University

You’ve decided to pursue post-secondary education next year

You should know the jargon:

  • Certificate - 1 year program in College (often provides access to a Diploma)
  • Diploma - 2 year program in College
  • Advanced Diploma - 3 year program in College
  • Degree - 4 year program in College or University
  • Joint Degree -  4 year degree offered jointly by a College and University
  •  Articulation - Entering into University using College experience (transfer credits)
  • Concurrent - Multiple degrees simultaneously
  • Consecutive - Completing degrees one after the other
  • Quebec: There are a variety of Diploma pathways available through English and French schools in Quebec. These include Vocational and Professional diplomas. As secondary school ends at the end of grade 11 in Quebec, there are several different entry points into these programs. A good place to start your research on these options is at THIS ministry page.

You may want to consider both civilian and non-civilian options

If you are interested in Officer Training:    

  • Military Colleges (ROTP):
    • Officer training with University degree
    • Program offerings vary based on need (limited options)
    • Find information on programs / admissions requirements:
  • Coast Guard
    • Officer training with limited degree offerings (Engineering focus)
    • Find information at:

If you are interested in a civilian College or University, consider these elements as you make your choice:

  • Big city or small city - what kind of community do you prefer?
    • Would you prefer the buzz and activity of a big city? If the answer is yes then you might want to consider schools in places like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary.
    • Would you prefer to live in a city, but one that isn’t too big? If the answer is yes then you might want to consider schools in Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Kitchener, Kingston, Fredericton, Halifax, etc...
    • Would you prefer to be in a smaller town with access to outdoor activities and/or unique environments? If the answer is yes then you might want to consider schools in Whitehorse, Kamloops, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Northbay, Wolfville, Antigonish, Sydney, St. John’s 
  • Small school or big school – what learning environment suits you?
    • Some schools have tens of thousands of undergrad students which means bigger classes but often more program options, whereas smaller schools might only have 6,000 which means fewer options but often a more personal feel. Which type of school would you feel more comfortable in?
    • In some provinces, like Ontario, Colleges can offer degree programs (the type of program available in university) and Colleges tend to be smaller than most Universities.
  • Climate – is a particular type of seasonal weather important to you or not?
    • Do you want to be near the Ocean? Do you like winter activities? Do you want to be where it’s warmer? Do you want to live in a climate that is different from what you are used to?
  • Language and bilingual options – are you interested in learning in a specific language?
    • It’s important to remember that most Canadian Universities and Colleges deliver their programs in English. Youmay be able to study French in most of these schools, but they typically deliver their programs in English. 
    • There are however francophone and bilingual schools that you can apply to. These are mostly in Eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick)
  • Proximity to your home, your family, and/or extended family - 
    • Some students are lucky to live in a community that has access to one or more Colleges/Universities. It isn’t unusual in these case for students to attend school in their hometown. Living at home can save significant amounts of money and it can be a more gradual transition to independent living.
    • For many other students, living at home and going to post-secondary isn’t an option. Being close to your family or extended family may be important however and could help you decide to which schools you might apply. 
    • Things to consider:
      • Is the community easily accessible by train or plane, or is it a comfortable drive from your home
        • If it’s far away and/or expensive to get to, it’s unlikely that you’ll be returning home (or have family visit) more than a couple of times a year. This is fine for many students, but some will find not having access to their family during this transition much more difficult, especially in the first few months.
      • If your family is still OUTCAN, you may choose to go to a school in a community that has easy access to international flights and/or close to extended family so that you have easier access to a family support network.
  • Cost – home vs. away
    • There is a significant difference in the cost between living at home and going to school, or moving to a new city to go to school
    • Living at home: Anticipate $10,000 - $15,000/year depending on school and program
    • Living away from home: It would be reasonable to anticipate $20,000 to $25,000/year depending on the school, program of choice, and how often you want to travel home.

You can use these tools to find out more about post-secondary schools and programs

To find out more about schools and their programs, you can use these research tools. In many cases you;ll be able to learn about many schools and their programs all in one place. You may also be able to compare schools and programs right on the site: 

If you can’t find the school you are interested in on one of these sites, then you’ll want to go directly to the Admissions page for the school to access information about their programs and requirements.


Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Are there aspects of the programs you are interested in that distinguish it from other similar programs?
  • Are there options to travel and/or study abroad as part of the program?
  • Is there an experiential learning (COOP) component to the program? You will also want to consider when the COOP occurs.
  • Do you have a good comfort level with the community into which you would be moving? One of the best ways to know this is to visit the school and community in person. If this is not possible, take virtual tours, take advantage of opportunities to connect with current students, etc...
  • Can you access sports, art, theatre, music, etc... activities you are interested in?

Remember, you are not deciding what school you are going to attend. You are just deciding which schools to which you’d like to apply. The decision on where to go comes later so you have time to get more information.

If you have questions, reach out to Admissions at the school, your school guidance counsellor, or the guidance staff at MFS Education.


  • If you are applying from INCAN, follow the guidance provided by your school-based Guidance Counsellor.
  • If you are applying from OUTCAN, explore our college and university guides. 
  • If you are applying to a CEGEP or a Private College in Quebec, please review the admissions requirements carefully. You may be required to obtain a Comparative Evaluation of Education from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI). In order to prevent any delays in your acceptance into a program, it is recommended that you look into the process early in the admissions cycle (mid fall) 

Good planning and realistic expectations will improve your chances for acceptance:

  • Be sure you are applying to programs that meet your profile. Be realistic. Make sure you are applying to programs for which you have the prerequisite courses and grades.
  • If life circumstances are having, or have had, a negative impact on some of your grades, and you don’t think your marks reflect your true ability, then you may want to see if the school you’re interested in allows the submission of a Personal Statement of Experience of some kind. These allow students to highlight some of their strengths that aren’t necessarily represented in their grades. Not all schools offer this opportunity.


Pay close attention to the following:

  • Check your spam/junk folder
    • You don’t want to miss any communication from the school. They will confirm receipt of your application and communicate anything you need to know through email or your student portal. All this information will come in emails shortly after you apply.
  • Read the documentation you receive very carefully
  • Note timelines and additional requirements such as:
    • SAT/ACT
    • Supplementary application
    • Audition or Portfolio

Make sure you know when your marks are due - this could be multiple times in the year. Coordinate with your school...don't leave it until the last minute!

Keep working hard as marks are submitted throughout the year.  Offers of Admissions come at different times of the year depending on the school and programs.


Congratulations! There are important considerations before the process is completed:

  • Offers are conditional. Final offers only come with final marks (July)
    • You can lose your offer if the conditions are not met
    • Entrance scholarship amounts can change
  • You may need to complete supplemental application requirements.
  • You need to ensure that mark submission timelines are met.
  • If you have multiple offers, you need to decide on one.
    • You must ACCEPT an offer (follow instructions in the offer - deadline could be as early as mid-May).
    • If you aren't accepting an offer, it's good form to DECLINE it so it can be offered to someone else before June. You may not be required to do this though as offers that aren’t accepted are withdrawn at the acceptance deadline.
  • Review AP/IB policies and procedure for school you choose to attend if this applies to you.


Yes, there is! Some things to consider looking into are:

  • Alternate offers:
    • Schools/Programs often offer alternate offers. For example, if you are applying to a Biotechnology program and you aren’t accepted, the school might give you an alternative offer in a Biology program for which you do meet the requirements.
    • Check what these might be when you are applying.
  • Contact Admissions to ask about other options:
    • Waitlists – are you on a waitlist for the program you want? How far down the waitlist are you? What is the historical data on how many people usually get into the program from the waitlist? Etc.
    • Ask about programs that still have openings for which you can still apply.
  • Consider a Bridging Program. These allow you to experience University or College part-time while taking seminars or tutorials to assist you with learning skills. You can then consider applying for full-time status upon completion of the program.
    • An example would be the Enriched Support Program (ESP) at Carleton University
    • Check with the schools you are interested in to see if they have similar options
  • Consider a college/cegep program first if you don't get into university:
    • Look for open enrollment programs and articulation agreements
  • You may need to reconsider your plans and find something more suitable for you and/or you could consider upgrading:
    • Another semester or full year redoing certain courses or new courses to upgrade marks. If you are doing this, then you will want to check the admissions policies on repeated courses for the programs you are thinking you would apply to again. They tend to be pretty flexible (ie. Most schools take the highest or most recent marks) but in some cases the school will only accept a mark from the first attempt at a course. 


Check out the Scholarships and Grants page for information on how to fund your education.