January/Winter Intake at Canadian Universities: The What, When and Why
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January/Winter Intake at Canadian Universities: The What, When and Why

Written by Taru Medha

Canada hosts more than 313,000 international students every year and welcomes them through two main intakes: the January and September intakes. Sometimes universities offer a third intake known as the May or summer intake. These are for specific short-term courses such as Diploma courses or vocational programmes.

If you decide to study in the January intake (also called winter intake ), we’ve put together an application timeline with some important dates and deadlines for you.

If you’d rather apply for the September intake, we have another guide for you.


Key features of January intake in Canada
Application start time June
Application end time September to November
Acceptance letters October
Term dates January start

The January intake

Even though the January intake is the less popular of the two main intakes, the quality of teaching, scholarship and career opportunities are no different than the September intake. Applications usually open in June (the year before your course begins) and end around September. Universities sometimes extend deadlines to mid-November depending on whether there are places still available on the course.

It is important to keep in mind that most Canadian universities are likely to close applications as soon as spaces are filled, so we recommend applying early in the cycle.

The choice of courses available is limited during this time of the year so check with your university about the likelihood of your subject being available before deciding to apply for the January intake.

The January intake timeline

Applying to a Canadian university is pretty straightforward and we’d recommend getting your application in as early as possible. We’ve put together a rough application timeline to help you get started. You may choose to apply earlier (or later!) in which case you’d want to change when you go through each step according to your requirements.

Step #1 – March/April (the year before your course starts) – Start shortlisting courses

It is never too early to start exploring what’s on offer, especially if you’re aiming to be the first through the door when applications open. Start by shortlisting courses you’re interested in and make a note of entry requirements and deadlines.

Step#2 – May/June – Start preparing for standardised tests

Canadian universities commonly require the GRE or GMAT time in the year, and you’ll usually get your score withing two weeks. However, we’d recommend starting early which allows you time to retake the test if required.

This is also a good time to take your English or French language test (depending on your university) which is often an entry requirement if they are is not your native language s.

Step #3 – June/July – Get your supporting documents ready

Once you have your basics ready, you can start pulling together the documents you need to make your application. Canadian universities commonly require you to submit a personal statement, references, a CV and transcripts from previous degree(s) along with the scores from the tests you took earlier.

Step #4 – July/August – Explore your funding options

Even though postgraduate fees in Canada are cheaper than countries like the UK and US, it’s always a good idea to have some funding options ready. These could be in the form of scholarships from governments, universities or even independent funding providers.

Depending on your funding option, you can either apply at this stage or you might have to wait until you have your place confirmed at a university.

Step #5 – August/September – Apply to your chosen university

Even though you have plenty of time to apply, it is a good idea to get your application in as soon as possible! Around October/November (the year before your course starts) is a good time to apply.

You’re likely to hear back with a decision on your application around October.

Step #6 – October/November – Apply for your student visa and accommodation

Canadian student permit processing times vary depending on where you’re applying from. If you’re applying from outside Canada, wait times can be as long as seven weeks – so it is a good idea to apply as soon as possible after accepting your offer.

This is also a good time to start looking at where you want to live. You can either go for university dormitories or privately rented accommodation. University halls are usually high in demand, so it is a good idea to get your application in as soon as possible.

Step #7 – December/January – Get ready to fly!

Classes usually start in January, but it is a good idea to arrive a few days/weeks early so you can get settled in!

Why students choose the January intake

Even though January is the less popular intake, many students continue to opt for it. Here are some reasons it might be the right choice for you:

  • Smaller class sizes mean you’ll get more opportunity to interact with your professors.
  • You have more time to prepare your applications, work on your personal statements and get all your documents together.
  • You might find it easier starting your course at the beginning of a calendar year especially if your home country follows a different academic calendar or you’re a professional returning to studies.
  • If you’re still looking for funding, it might be easier to defer your application by a few months to give yourself more time.

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Last Updated: 13 November 2023