How to Transfer to a Canadian University From USA

When it comes to the top destinations for international students, Canada is number 3. The country owes it to affordable tuition and fees and living costs, too, and the popularity of many Canadian universities all over the planet.

And speaking of which, are you planning on transferring to a postsecondary institution in Canada?

Then read below about the minimum eligibility requirements for transfer applicants to most Canadian universities and how to go about the transfer application process itself.

Also, learn about some of the top institutions in the county that accept transferees — and which one of them is the friendliest to transfer students.

transfer to canadian university

Basic Admissions Requirements for Transfer Studens

Just like when applying to an American institution of higher education, it’s important to check the minimum requirements for transfer applicants at the Canadian university you like.

Otherwise, failure to meet all of them can make your attempt to move from your current school to your dream university in Canada absolutely unsuccessful.

A year of college or at least 4 courses

Of course, whether you are planning on transferring to a Canadian or an American degree-granting institution, you will need to have some college experience to be considered a transfer applicant.

Most Canadian schools require applicants to have 1 year of full-time college studies.

In the US, there are plenty of colleges and universities that also consider it as a basic eligibility requirement.

Harvard University, as an example, will only consider reviewing applications of transfer students who have completed at least 1 year of college but not more than 2 years of college.

The same is true for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Having completed at least 4 full courses also makes you eligible to apply as a transfer applicant to most Canadian universities. Since full-time college students in the US usually take 4 to 5 courses per semester, this should be easy-peasy.

But, as expected, different Canadian universities have different requirements in terms of previous college experience.

Take the University of Alberta for instance: according to the public institution that’s ranked #136 in Best Global Universities 2023 by US News, you will be considered as a transfer applicant even if you have completed just 1 college course.

If it’s been your dream to take your books to a Canadian University all along, check the basic admissions requirements for transfer students right away.

Having an idea of the minimum number of college courses or semesters needed to complete for you to be considered by your target school as a transfer applicant can help you make the move without delay.

Minimum overall GPA of 2.0

When checking out the minimum GPA requirement for students who are planning on transferring from one American college to the next, it’s not uncommon for most schools to set it anywhere from 2.5 to 3.0.

But it can be lower or higher, depending on the postsecondary institution.

At the University of South Carolina, for instance, transfer applicants must have a cumulative GPA of not less than 2.25 for their applications to be considered. At Illinois State University, on the other hand, the minimum GPA requirement is 2.4.

But those who are interested in transferring to Georgia Tech must make sure that they have a GPA of 3.3 or higher.

Not so happy with your GPA?

Then you will be more than glad to learn that the minimum GPA requirement at Canadian universities — well, at least most of them — for international transfer students is 2.0 only.

Using the Ontario grading scale, that’s equivalent to a grade of C or anywhere from 60% to 69.99%.

But, as expected, because one Canadian university may have different basic admissions requirements from another Canadian university, you may need to have a GPA higher than 2.0 to be eligible to apply as a transfer student.

Or, in some instances, having less than a 2.0 may still be enough to get you into your dream postsecondary institution in Canada.

Thinking about adding the University of Toronto to your college list?

Then make sure that you will apply to this highly-ranked school with a cumulative GPA of not less than 3.0 under your belt. Some programs at the said institution, as a matter of fact, may require transfer applicants to have a higher GPA.

Having a GPA of 2.0, meanwhile, is enough at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo.

At some Canadian institutions, your transfer application may still be considered even if you have a GPA that’s lower than 2.0 provided that some other figures make up for it, such as your SAT or ACT scores.

Transfer credit policy

When transferring colleges or universities, Canadian or otherwise, there’s a very important thing that degree-seeking students must carefully check. And it’s none other than whether or not their earned credits will transfer with them — and if they will, just how many credits the new institution will be willing to accept.

The good news is that, generally speaking, international transfer applicants to Canadian universities can transfer credits, in some instances even up to 50% of all credits necessary toward a bachelor’s degree.

Similar to American colleges, those in Canada have agreements with local institutions of higher education.

Many of them have agreements with international schools, too, which makes it both enticing and easy for students from elsewhere on the planet to continue pursuing their undergraduate studies in Canada.

So much so that, in 2022, the country welcomed a record-breaking 550,000 international students who came from 184 countries according to Canadim, a Canadian Immigration Law Firm!

The amount of credit you are eligible to transfer will be determined by the admissions office based on a number of factors, ranging from the type of Canadian institution of your choosing to the degree program of your liking.

When you will learn about how much credit will transfer is on a case-to-case basis, too.

For instance, at some Canadian universities, you may obtain an idea of whether or not your previously earned credits will transfer as soon as your application is reviewed by the admissions officers.

But there are also institutions where you will learn about transfer credits only after receiving an offer to enroll and you actually accepting it.

McGil University
McGil University

How to Apply to a Canadian University as a Transfer Student

Done checking out the minimum eligibility requirements for students who wish to transfer to Canadian universities and learned that you meet all of them?

Then it’s time to take the necessary steps to tell the institution of your choosing that you are someone from outside of Canada who wishes to continue your pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in the country.

Below, you will come across the steps to take on how to transfer to a university in Canada — knowing them is the key to a hassle-free application to a Canadian university and, hopefully, receipt of an offer to enroll.

Fill out the application form

It goes without saying that the first step to take when applying to a Canadian university is completing the application form. The form you will have to fill out will depend on which institution you are applying to.

Applying to a university in Ontario?

Then it’s the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) that you will have to file.

You can think of it as the Canadian counterpart of the Common App and Coalition App used when applying to many institutions in the US, except that OUAC is limited to applying to Ontario schools.

But if your target university is outside of Ontario, you will have to apply directly to the school itself.

In most instances, the application form for transfer applicants is different from the application form for freshmen students. Make sure that you complete the right one to avoid unnecessary problems.

Submit transcripts

Similar to when applying as a transfer student to an American college or university, you will have to submit to the school not only your college transcript but also your high school transcript.

And if you attended more than a single college, the Canadian university will require all transcripts from them.

Fortunately, more often than not, you can submit unofficial copies of your transcript.

But it’s only for the time being — if you get accepted and you intend to attend, it’s a must for your high school and previous college/s to furnish your official transcripts, addressed directly to the office of admissions at the university you wish to enroll in.

Provide a detailed course outline

Earlier, I talked about the fact that each Canadian university has a different transfer credit policy.

And for the school, you are eyeing to know which credits can transfer with you, you will have to provide a detailed course outline, which is something that identifies all the courses you took and completed at your previous institution as well as a detailed description and syllabi of each one.

Especially if your target program is similar to your previous one in the US, chances are that there will be overlap courses — a course outline will help the Canadian university determine them and grant you credit as applicable.

After submitting a detailed course outline, wait for the transfer credit statement to be sent to you.

Simply put, the transfer credit statement specifies the number of credits from your previous college that are transferable to the academic program at the Canadian university you are applying to.

But keep in mind that the evaluation will be contingent on the school receiving your official college transcripts.

So, in other words, things may eventually change.

Got your hands on new information that could help you transfer more credit?

In most instances, you can request a credit reevaluation. As the name suggests, it’s a process wherein details that weren’t available during the initial credit assessment are used to determine once again how many credits you can transfer.

Hand in other necessary documents

For most universities located in Canada, transfer applicants are evaluated mainly on their GPAs.

It’s because of this that it’s not unlikely for the Canadian university of your choice to not ask you to submit things such as supplemental essays and recommendation letters, which many American postsecondary institutions ask from transfer applicants.

Needless to say, chances are that it’s enough that you fill out the OUAC, hand in your high school and college transcripts and provide a detailed course outline when applying to a Canadian institution.

Top 8 Canadian Universities That Accept Transfer Students from US

In this part of the post, I will briefly talk about some Canadian universities that welcome international transfer students.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to aim for a transfer-friendly school to make the switch go as trouble-free as possible. In many instances, the easiest Canadian universities to transfer to are those with lots and lots of international students.

Without further ado, below are some universities in Canada that you might want to consider adding to your college list. I will also present them in a table before I wrap up this post so that you may compare them with one another better.

McGill University Student Statue
McGill University Student Statue

McGill University

It’s plain to see that McGill University, which is ranked #54 in Best Global Universities by US News, is international student-friendly — around 30% of its attendees come from outside of Canada, from more than 150 countries.

Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institution offers admission to 6,600 plus undergraduate courses to international students.

Transfer students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or sometimes higher, depending on the program. And for them to be eligible to apply as such, they must have completed at least 2 semesters of college.

McMaster University
McMaster University

McMaster University

A public research university located in Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster University requires transfer applicants to have a grade of at least 3.0 in relevant courses to get credit. They must also have completed at least 1 year of college.

Most international students who transfer to McMaster University are interested in research-intensive courses and programs. It’s known worldwide for its medical school and engineering and business degree programs.

Around 16% of its undergraduate students are international ones — there are more international graduate students going to it (25%).

University of Alberta

University of Alberta

Located in Edmonton, Alberta, the University of Alberta is home to over 40,000 degree-seeking individuals, around 20% of which are international students.

It has a high 58% acceptance rate, although fewer students are admitted each time to some of its competitive programs, such as business, engineering and nursing.

Transfer applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 for them to be eligible to apply to the University of Alberta.

Good news: even if you have completed just 1 college course, you are eligible to apply as a transfer student.

University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia

To be eligible to transfer to the University of British Columbia, you must have completed 24 transferable credits — that’s usually 2 years of being a full-time college student. It’s also important for your GPA to be 2.0 at least.

Ranked #35 in Best Global Universities by US News, the University of British Columbia has an acceptance rate ranging from 44% to 71%, depending on which of its 2 campuses is concerned.

Collectively, the percentage of international students at both campuses of the public institution is around 36%.

University of Ottawa
University of Ottawa

University of Ottawa

To be eligible to apply as a transfer student to the University of Ottawa, you must have completed at least 24 credits from your current institution, which is equivalent to about 1 year of college. It’s also important for you to have a minimum cumulative GPA of not less than 2.0 to be considered for transfer admissions.

Being very selective, only around 24% of all applicants end up getting into the University of Ottawa. About 25% of its entire population consists of international students coming from approximately 150 countries.

University of Toronto gates
Gates at University of Toronto

University of Toronto

Ranked #18 in Best Global Universities by US News, the University of Toronto is home to 77,468 students. Of those, 20,050 are international students, making up around 26% of the institution’s entire population.

For the vast majority of the University of Toronto’s academic programs, transfer applicants who have completed up to 2 years of college can receive maximum transfer credits equivalent to 10 courses.

However, the Canadian university will require you to have a minimum GPA of 3.3 — some competitive programs require a higher GPA.

University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo

Many programs at the University of Waterloo require transfer applicants to have a GPA of at least 3.3 to get in.

It’s also important to note that the institution accepts only a limited number of transferees, so make sure that your application can impress. According to the school, transferees who are close to completing a bachelor’s degree are not eligible to apply.

Up to 22% of the school’s undergraduate population consists of international students. On the other hand, around 40% of its graduate students are from outside of Canada.

University of Western Ontario

Practically anyone who has some college experience may apply to the University of Ontario as transfer students. As a matter of fact, even those with a certificate or an associate degree may do so, too.

But it’s important for transfer applicants to have a minimum GPA of 2.7 in order to be eligible, which is slightly higher than the minimum requirement at many Canadian universities.

Around 12% of the University of Ontario’s undergraduate population consists of international students. But make sure that your previous academic performance is above average as only about 31% of applicants get in.

Which Canadian University is Best For Transfer Students

Let’s compare them using some points important for any American college student wishing to transfer to any of them must consider:

NameInt’l StudentsMin. GPAMin. RequirementMax. Credit
McGill University30%31 year30
McMaster University16%31 year30
University of Alberta20%21 course60
University of British Columbia36%22 years60
University of Ottawa25%21 year80
University of Toronto26%3.32 years30
University of Waterloo22%3.32 years60
University of Western Ontario12%2.72 years30
Canadian Universities to Transfer from USA

Based solely on the table above, it’s apparent that the University of Alberta is the most transfer-friendly to international students, given that you can apply to it as a transferee even with just 1 college course taken.

And if you happen to have completed a few semesters, the public research university can accept up to a maximum of 60 credits.

However, it’s also amazing to see that the University of Ottawa can accept up to a whopping 80 transfer credits!

But the courses must be comparable to those that it offers and they must be completed at an accredited institution.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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