How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

White_Summer
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Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:51 pm

How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby White_Summer » Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:49 pm

International student here. I want to apply to a particular Canadian school (because of good research fit) which has a deadline but coming up but I feel less informed about my chances than I would for a US school. The application fee is quite steep too.

So coming to the original question that I had: In what ways is admissions at Canadian Physics graduate programs different from US Physics graduate programs?

I am not looking for those obvious differences such as the general GRE not being required etc. The impression I get from the admissions website of this school I am considering is that they are relatively more grades focused (as opposed to say, the SOP or research experience ) than most US schools seem to be. Also the minimum Physics GRE requirement for international students at this university is 800 and that makes me nervous too because my score is in the mid-800s range and I see no reason why they wouldn't pass my application over for an international applicant with better grades and PGRE.

Thanks.

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby TakeruK » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:15 pm

I think the biggest difference between most Canadian schools and US schools is that you apply to Masters programs first, then get a PhD afterwards in Canada vs. direct-to-PhD programs in the US. I don't know where you are in your studies. If you already have a Masters or are applying to PhD programs, another big difference is that Canadian schools tend to admit you to work with a specific professor, while US schools just admit you to the department and allow you to spend the first year or so figuring out which prof to work with (in Canada, this happens at the Masters stage). So, I would recommend that you contact the prof(s) that you would like to work with at the Canadian school and discuss options with them.

What is your nationality? That is, would you also be an international student applying to US schools? If so, there could be another difference. In Canada, the difference in cost (to the department) for an international student vs. Canadian student is smaller than the difference in cost for an international student vs. American student in the United States. So, this could make the competition for international student spots lower. However, there are fewer Canadian schools and overall fewer students and therefore fewer spots for international students, so that could work in the opposite effect. My guess is that on balance, the net effect when applying to a big Canadian school with lots of students is that it's slightly easier for an international student to get accepted than at a big popular US school like UC Berkeley.

White_Summer
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:51 pm

Re: How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby White_Summer » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:14 pm

Thank you for the input, TakerUK.

I am from India, so yes, I would be considered an international student for US universities too. And yes, I will have my master's degree. I have already contacted a potential supervisor at this university, with whom I feel like I have a pretty good research fit and he seems to think likewise. I'm not really applying to schools as competitive as UC Berkeley partly because my profile isn't that strong and partly because I am quite content with the research opportunities that mid- and lower ranked schools in the US have to offer.

My main concern with applying to the university in question has got to do with the fact that I do not really know where I stand with my GPA (which looks poor without context, with Indian universities having varying degrees of harshness in grading) and PGRE score. I clear their hard cutoffs on both counts but yeah, I feel a little hesitant with the application potentially being a nearly $200 investment, despite being quite enthusiastic about the prof's work.

Do potential advisors have a significant (or any) say in the admissions decision if they do not happen to be on the graduate admissions committee?

TakeruK
Posts: 893
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby TakeruK » Sat Jan 14, 2017 10:01 am

White_Summer wrote:My main concern with applying to the university in question has got to do with the fact that I do not really know where I stand with my GPA (which looks poor without context, with Indian universities having varying degrees of harshness in grading) and PGRE score. I clear their hard cutoffs on both counts but yeah, I feel a little hesitant with the application potentially being a nearly $200 investment, despite being quite enthusiastic about the prof's work.

Do potential advisors have a significant (or any) say in the admissions decision if they do not happen to be on the graduate admissions committee?


Canadian schools have plenty of applicants from Indian universities so the profs will be familiar with the different grading scheme. People know to not compare GPAs directly when considering international students since almost every country will have a different system.

At the Canadian Physics departments I have experience with, there isn't really an admissions committee like the United States. The committee may do some work to vet applicants and ensure they meet minimums to succeed in the department. But my experience has been that it's up to each professor to decide if they want a particular applicant in their group. One system is for the committee to clear all qualified candidates and then these candidates are forwarded to all professors. Then profs choose who they want, similar to hiring an employee, and then the admissions committee sends you a letter saying you are accepted to work with Profs X, Y, or Z etc. So it's more similar to the European system.

It's slightly more complicated with international student since usually the extra tuition cost for you is paid by the department, not the advisor. So, there may be discussion/debate amongst a committee on how to best allocate the funds set aside for the extra international student cost. Some factors that could be important are the number of profs who want an international student vs. the number of spots available. In addition, at one school I've been at, the international student tuition fund is contributed to by all professors, so the department would want to ensure international students are allocated fairly/evenly to all profs. That is, if the prof you're interested in recently got some extra money for an international student, it might be harder for that prof to convince the department that they should get you as well, especially if there is competition between profs to get an international student.

This is just based on my experience though and it's a few years old. I'm not sure if the schools I've been at (still) work in the same way as the school you are interested in. If you are not sure about spending $200, I think more conversation with this prof could be a good idea. You can judge their excitement/interest in you. You can also let them know the truth: you are very interested in this program but you are unsure about spending $200 on an application since you know how competitive it is for international students. If the conversation goes well, you might be able to ask whether they think an international student is likely to be accepted into their group this year. You may wish to send them your application materials if you haven't already.

White_Summer
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:51 pm

Re: How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby White_Summer » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:16 am

At the Canadian Physics departments I have experience with, there isn't really an admissions committee like the United States. The committee may do some work to vet applicants and ensure they meet minimums to succeed in the department. But my experience has been that it's up to each professor to decide if they want a particular applicant in their group. One system is for the committee to clear all qualified candidates and then these candidates are forwarded to all professors. Then profs choose who they want, similar to hiring an employee, and then the admissions committee sends you a letter saying you are accepted to work with Profs X, Y, or Z etc. So it's more similar to the European system.



This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks! I have come to a decision about the matter and your advice helped.

TakeruK
Posts: 893
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: How is the Canadian application process different from the US process?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:18 pm

Glad it was helpful! :)




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