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MS in Canada – Shortlist Universities

 In order to apply for MS in Canada  the ideal time is to start about two years before admissions.  Yes this sounds like a LONG time in advance but that is only so that you can make an informed decision and not rush before the deadlines like most people do. Utilise one year to sort out your GRE and TOEFL/IELTS exams and one year for your actual application process. GRE is optional and not required for most universities there, but you can always submit it if you want to since it will add value to your evaluation. I would advise you to finish your toefl/gre exams before the third year of undergrad, or at least by October of the year before your admission. By September of your final year, you need to start filling out and sending applications.


The predominant (but, by no means the only) factors that influence the choices made by prospective Graduate students from India are – Job prospects, fees, location (density of Indian population), possible immigration after studying.
Though in reality, the driving forces should be – Validity and relevance of the course, reputation of the University of that subject, current work scenario of alumni, racial assimilation of that country and the time you can spend on your masters.
The first thing you should check out are the universities that have the biggest grants for the subjects you are interested in working in. Let’s look at an example. University of Ottawa became the largest center for photonics/optics in the world and has received significant funding. This means that it will have a lot of scholarships available in the field. So even though University of Ottawa is not in the top 3 or 4 universities in Canada, it is the best for photonics research.
The University has approved 3 different sources of funding; $47 million from the university’s board of Governers, $10 million from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and possibly another $70 million during the duration of the project.

Decision Time

Here’s what is recommended when it comes to actually deciding what course you can pick in Canada –
  • Look at WHAT you want to study. Check out the research in those fields. See what interests you.
  • Then look at thesis and non-thesis based options. One has more research and the other has more course-work, and they are both equally good when it comes to future opportunities.
  • Try to check where their alumni are working now. That will tell you what impact the university is making in General.
  • Consider finances too. Check out the fees and the availability of financial aid.
  • Ask them to provide you with a statistic of number of applicants and number of admits. That will also give you better insight.
  • Talk to more people and ask them about their opinions and reasons for those opinions as well.
  • Discuss with professors in your college. They should have a general idea about who is doing what in which part of the globe


An pragmatic timeline would be –
Let’s assume you are looking for 2018 Fall intake. You should ideally plan and finish your exams by now. By May of this year you should already have started short-listing universities. The rule of thumb is to choose universities in three categories –
  1. Safe options – These are universities where you have a very good chance of getting into. Look at the average admission profiles of previous students and use various forums to figure out where you stand. Again, these are not “definite” chances but those with high probability.
  2. Moderate options – These are universities that you might get into or might not. The admission standards might depend on your course and other factors. You should definitely try for them though. To improve your chances, try to take different programs rather than the crow favourites such as EE, CS, Mech etc.
  3. Ambitious – As the name suggests, you will find it tough to get into these. Not impossible, but tough. Getting into these universities is tricky because their application pool is big, and their profiles are pretty good.

List of Universities

By September to October of this year, have your list of universities ready. Maybe 2 to 3 in each category, But that is your wish.
On an average, the top 15 universities (in no particular order) for Masters (engineering stream) in Canada are –
  • University of Toronto
  • McGill University, Montreal
  • University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  • University of Alberta, Edmonton
  • University of Waterloo
  • Queens University, Kingston
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Montreal
  • McMaster University, Edmonton
  • Western University, London, Ontario
  • Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
  • University of Montreal, Montreal
  • University of Calgary
  • Dalhousie University
  • University of Victoria
The above are not in any particular ranking. These will vary on many factors and will also vary from course to course. For instance, UWaterloo is the best for Computer Science and is highly ranked in North America for CS.

Shortlist of Universities

To help you shortlist –
  • Look at groups and forums online to talk to existing students. Get their profiles and form an idea.
  • Talk to professors in those universities in case you want to work with them.
  • Get your LORs and SOPs evaluated by many people. Get their feedback and include those in your edits. A good SOP and strong LORs can make a big difference.
  • More projects and/or publications = better chances of an admit even if your GPA is low.
  • Find the Facebook groups for these universities and meet other prospective students like yourself. Information flows best when it is two-ways.
  • The best and most effective way is to talk to students who are already in Canada. They will form your base-line and help you place yourself on their scale.
It is a multitude of factors that decide where you will get in.
For example a student with a 8.7 GPA and 2 summer internships might get into Alberta. Someone with a 7.9 GPA might not be able to,  but if he/she has good extracurriculars and perhaps 2 publications, then Alberta would be a strong contender.
Author, Akshay Kanth
Edited by Abhishek Kumar
Akshay Kanth is a graduate of the MS in Electrical Engineering program at University of Ottawa. He is a consultant at Profession Gurus, and owns a Quora blog regarding studying and living in Canada.

Edited by Abhishek Kumar

Author, Scholarships for Indian Citizens