What Is a Pathway Program in Canada?

If you’re an international student, the gap between graduating high school in your home country and being accepted into a post-secondary institution in Canada can feel daunting—thankfully pathway programs exist to help with that. 

But what is a pathway program in Canada? They’re introductory courses designed to help students ace the secondary to post-secondary school transition. They build on the skills you learned in the former so you can get accepted into the latter. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how a pathway program in Canada works, the benefits of enrolling, the different types, and everything else you need to consider! 

Sometimes known as foundation courses, Canada pathway programs are curated to help international students get accepted into post-secondary institutions. 

Most of these institutions have a pre-determined amount of spots in their programs reserved for international students each year. They require international students to complete an English language proficiency test such as the IELTS, however, pathway programs present an alternative to being accepted without typical completion of this certification. 

Here is how it works: 

  • You enrol in a pathway program in Canada
  • The school issuing the pathway has connections to partner universities and colleges and will help you determine which one makes sense for you
  • You complete the requirements of the pathway program
  • Upon completion, you will be accepted into the university or college program
  • You begin your post-secondary education

How Long Do Pathway Programs Take?

What will a pathway program in Canada involve from a time-commitment perspective? Generally, the length will usually depend on your level of English language proficiency; you will write a written test on the first day of the program to determine where you stand. 

Those who score well on this exam could complete their pathway program in as little as eight weeks. Those who score lower might be looking at 20 to 28 weeks. 

An international student holding a flag of Canada outdoors

Image source: Canva

University Pathway Programs

A university pathway program in Canada is for the international student who has graduated high school and is looking to enrol in an undergraduate program at a university or college to receive a diploma or bachelor’s degree. It will teach them the linguistic skills they need and also assist with the application process. 

Graduate Pathway Programs

Also known as pre-masters, graduate Canada pathway programs are for the international student who wants to pursue a master’s degree. International students who already have an undergraduate degree and want to pursue further education would apply for this type of pathway program. Given the difficult nature of these programs, additional language courses can be beneficial. 

Professional Degree Pathway Programs

Similar to graduate pathway programs, this is for the international student who has an undergraduate degree and wants to pursue a professional degree. These include medical school degrees, as well as those in veterinary medicine, dentistry, and architecture. Acceptance into these institutions is incredibly competitive for all students. 

While helping you get accepted into the post-secondary program of your choosing is the most obvious benefit of a pathway program in Canada, you also stand to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to thrive during your studies. 

During a Canada-based pathway program, you will: 

  • Improve your English skills
  • Hone your critical thinking abilities
  • Develop your research skills
  • Learn tips for writing essays and exams
  • Improve your time management
  • Become a more confident presenter

Pathway programs will also often consult with you to determine which of their partner colleges and universities are a great fit for your career aspirations. They may even offer guided tours of these institutions so you can see them for yourself. 

Another valuable part of a pathway program in Canada is getting help with the application process to ensure everything goes according to plan. This can often be confusing, but a designated advisor will help you stay on track so there are no issues with your acceptance. 

A diploma, graduation cap, and notebook on top of a white table

Image source: Canva

Study Permit

Pathway programs are considered full-time studies by the government, meaning international students will require a Canadian study permit. Tuition deposits should be refundable if your permit is not approved. Furthermore, if you intend to work while studying in Canada, you should apply for a work-study permit. 

College and/or University Admission Requirements

While partner school admission requirements will vary depending on the institution, the following is a general framework: 

  • A high school diploma from your home country (for undergraduate programs)
  • A bachelor’s degree from your home country (for graduate/professional degree pathway programs) 
  • A minimum C average for colleges; a minimum B for universities
  • Certificate of pathway program completion or proof of English language proficiency through the completion of the IELTS, TOEFL, or equivalent

So, what is a pathway program in Canada able to offer you? If you’re an international student, it will help you get accepted into a post-secondary institution aligned with your career aspirations—and prepare you to thrive while you’re there. 

ILAC offers Canada’s most complete university pathway program. Whether you’re looking for an undergraduate, master’s, or professional degree, one of our 100+ partner colleges and universities is sure to be a perfect fit. Our small classroom sizes and inclusive teaching methods can have you on your way in as little as eight weeks

If you’d like additional advice on which pathway program in Canada is the best fit for you, we encourage you to reach out to one of our advisors today!

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