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What are courses that are considered “rigorous” at Canadian uni admissions

I’ve heard numerous times that showing that you have done rigorous classes is also important for admission at Canadian universities compared to getting easy grades from relatively easier courses, and have to show that I am challenging myself. Something that I just wanted to know is what is the definition of choosing “rigorous” courses? How many of the “rigorous” courses do you recommend for getting admitted at top Canadian universities? Also I’ve heard that taking grade 12 courses in grade 11 is also helpful for uni. How many do you recommend and what courses do you recommend. I am in grade 11 and aiming for cs at uoft

3 Answers

  1. At most Canadian universities you apply for admission directly into a specific program or at the very least faculty. Each program/faculty will have specific requirements for senior level courses (for Canadians that usually means grade 12) that must be completed for admission. As an example it is quite common for STEM type programs to require students to present grades in grade 12 English, Pre-Calculus, Calculus and 2 Sciences (usually from Biology, Chemistry, Physics but sometimes Computer Science or Earth & Space Science). For Humanities or Social Sciences programs often the only requirement is grade 12 English though some may have some form of math requirement (e.g. data science/statistics or pre-calculus). Schools will require students to present with either 5 or 6 senior level courses (depends on the province in question) for admission with the mandatory prerequisites included. Any of the 5-6 courses in excess of the specifically required courses will be chosen starting with the highest graded senior level course. Requirements for international students however can be more stringent depending on the educational system the student is applying from. Having said that, the only school that I am familiar with that specifically takes overall course rigour into consideration above and beyond required prerequisite courses, is UBC. On their admissions page they state:

    UBC also looks closely at which courses you chose to take in high school.

    Did you pursue all of your academic interests by taking a range of different subjects?
    Did you challenge yourself by taking academic courses, advanced courses, or first-year university courses?
    Did you demonstrate knowledge in your chosen area of study by taking courses related to the degree you applied to at UBC?

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  2. For the vast majority of programs, universities don’t care nor will they differentiate rigorous from non-rigorous courses as long as it’s a 4U/M course (assuming you’re in ON) and that you meet the necessary course prerequisites. This is because they aren’t selecting people individually. Most acceptances just go by your collective average and if it meets a certain threshold, they will send out an offer. You can look up individual program requirements on the university website. It can vary depending on what/where you apply so the direct source would be your best bet. Canadian university admission isn’t like in America where they look at your entire high school transcript and force you to complete standardized testing, it’s much more lax.

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  3. While taking grade 12 courses in grade 11 can be helpful with regards to WHEN you get an offer it makes no difference with regards to IF you get an offer. In other words if you take grade 12 courses in grade 11 and 1) you do well in them and 2) the program you are applying to makes early offers, you could get a conditional offer of admission before May of your grade 12 year but it doesn’t increase your chances of actually getting an offer. Also you should be aware that the more competitive a program is for admissions the less likely it is that it makes early offers. CS tends to be a highly competitive admit so regardless of whether or not you’ve completed some of your grade 12 courses in grade 11 you are unlikely to get an early offer of admission unless you have completed all of your required grade 12 courses by the end of 1st semester. You should check the admissions details for U of T CS and any other programs you’re hoping to apply to to see if they make early admissions offers. Otherwise it makes no difference and can actually be a detriment if you don’t do well in them.

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