The Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) is a one-stop, unified application system for all the universities in Ontario. Whether you’re applying for your undergraduate degree, or dreaming of attending law school, medical school or even dental school in Canada, you’ll apply through the OUAC. In this blog, we’ll look at how competitive Ontario universities are, what the OUAC system is and how students can apply through it, and how you can strengthen your application.

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8 min read

How hard is it to get into Ontario Universities? What is the Ontario Universities Application Centre? How OUAC works When do I start applying to Ontario Universities? Components in an OUAC application How to strengthen your OUAC application FAQs

How hard is it to get into Ontario Universities?

Ontario is home to some of the most well-regarded schools in Canada and can have very competitive acceptance rates, depending on the program you’re applying for. While the level of difficulty in getting into a specific program or school in Ontario varies, it can definitely be a challenge to gain admittance. Ontario has some of the most competitive university programs in Canada, such as the University of Toronto, which has an acceptance rate of 43%, and the University of Waterloo, with an acceptance rate of 53%.

University of Toronto acceptance rate:

University of Waterloo acceptance rate:

Ontario university application process can vary depending on your situation, though domestic, including Canadian permanent residents and citizens who live outside of Ontario, and international students are welcome to apply. Acceptance rates will vary on the program, but can be very competitive with the amount of international students who apply each year to Ontario universities.

If you are interested in applying to a university in Ontario, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Ontario Universities Application Centre and its process.

What is the Ontario Universities Application Centre?

The Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) is a not-for-profit service which helps students to simplify and streamline the process of applying to post-secondary schools in Ontario. It strives to make the process fair and equal for all applicants, regardless of where they are applying from or what their status is. All public universities in Ontario use the OUAC system for their applications to save time and resources.

The OUAC processes applications for Ontario universities from domestic and international students. High school students in Ontario applying to post-secondary, international or mature students who are applying to Ontario universities or Canadian students not currently attending high school in Ontario can apply through the service. Applications can be submitted for undergraduate programs, as well law school, medical school, rehabilitation sciences and teacher education programs in Ontario through application subsystems, which we will cover in more detail below.

Students must submit their single application through the OUAC system, even if they are applying for more than one school. OUAC charges a base fee for their service, which allows students to apply to up to three different university or program combinations—either three different universities or three separate programs at the same institution. Students can apply to more selections for additional fees. It should be noted that some universities charge separate application fees on top of the OUAC fee. The base OUAC application fee is $150 CDN, with a $50 charge for any additional program choices. A service fee of $10 applies for international applicants.

Whether you are looking at applying for multiple schools in the province or just one, the OUAC will organize and submit your completed application directly to the schools of your choice. Students are only permitted to submit one application per academic year, which is then sent out to the schools and programs of a student’s choice.

OUAC also provides a guide on everything you’ll need for your application, depending on your choice of program. While OUAC isn’t an academic advisor for students in Ontario, they do provide an inside look into the Ontario university application process and what specific schools require.

Do you need to write a college essay and are looking for advice? Check out this video:

How OUAC works

To apply through the OUAC, students must first select the type of application they will be submitting and fill out their personal and contact information. Applications also include a student’s high school information and grades, academic background, program choices for post-secondary and necessary documents required for the chosen schools’ applications.

Students may submit one application per school year, for a fee, for any Ontario university program of their choice. But they cannot apply for more than three programs at any one school. Deadlines vary by the program students are applying. We’ll look at each of the programs that students can apply for through OUAC below.

When do I start applying to Ontario Universities?

Our advice is to always start as early as possible. If you are a Grade 12 student in Ontario, or elsewhere in Canada, get the ball rolling at the start of your senior year. Most students begin their online application through OUAC in October or November of their senior year. This also applies for students who are homeschooled or in online learning.

If you are an international student or need to apply through Undergrad 105, it’s also best to start early and give yourself the most amount of time to work on your application. Although you’ll only be filling out one application instead of multiple, it’s still a good idea to make it as strong as possible.

Students begin the application process by making an online account through the OUAC website’s service. From there, students can upload the necessary transcripts, documents and important information for their application. They can also see information on the schools and programs they might want to apply for and read up on any application requirements they might need. Most importantly, they’ll be able to see the current deadlines for applications, so they can manage their time in preparing their applications.

After applying, students will hear back from the universities themselves, not the OUAC, about admissions decisions. Decisions are generally made in the spring, between March and June. If a student has been waitlisted, they may not hear news until June or later. The OUAC does keep track of which university programs still have open spots, though, and students can check this list on the OUAC website in June. It is still possible to be accepted for one of these open spots up until the start of the school year.

Although OUAC will not inform students of admission decisions, students can use the service to request information on student residence, student loans, financial aid, and some scholarships. Information about these will again come directly from the university after the request has been submitted. The OUAC will automatically consider students for some scholarships in Ontario as part of their application. For some scholarships, however, students will need to research and apply to them separately, outside the OUAC service.

Components in an OUAC application

Once you’ve completed your research on the programs you want to apply to, you can start by creating an OUAC account. From here, you’ll be able to choose which programs and universities you want to send your application to through the system.

After your choices have been submitted, you’ll be able to fill out the OUAC application, review it and complete it. The OUAC application has several different components. Aside from your personal and contact information, it includes your academic history, high school transcripts and documents related to the programs you’ve selected. These documents are not mandatory for the OUAC, but may be required by the chosen programs, such as personal statements, supplemental college essays or the common app activities section, which can flesh out the non-academic sections of your application. The common app activities highlight your extracurriculars, hobbies and interests outside of school, while your college essays and personal statements give you a chance to show the admissions committee your writing chops and share personal details about yourself.

How to strengthen your OUAC application

Since the OUAC system only allows one application per year per student, it’s more important than ever to make your application stand out. You’re certainly saving yourself time in not having to complete and submit multiple applications tailored for a specific program, but you want to avoid making your OUAC application too general, too. You want your application to appeal to all the schools or programs you’re applying for, but you want to make an impression, which is a difficult balance to strike.

To make the most of your unified OUAC application, we’ve highlighted some tips to help guide you as you prepare your application.

Want to see a summary of the points covered below? Take a look at this infographic:

Research your chosen programs

Researching your university or universities of choice is key here. Knowing what their admission requirements and preferences are can help you in putting together your OUAC application. Many of the universities will share this information on their websites or through the OUAC, too, so the information is freely available. You can find out if the University of Waterloo looks harder at a student’s transcripts or college essays, or what the average grades of accepted applicants are at the University of Toronto.

Having these kinds of insights ahead of time will tell you if you need to bump up your GPA or start sketching out a fantastic personal statement. It’s best to have a strong application overall, but through knowing what aspects your choice of school is looking for, you can customize a unified application to stand out a bit more.

Ask for guidance

If you’re a current high school student, your guidance counselor can be an important resource. For any part of the application package, they can be a second set of eyes to provide feedback or proofread your work to help you avoid common pitfalls. They might also be a good sounding board if you need to brainstorm what extracurriculars to highlight or what topic to write your personal statement on.

Or you may want to consider college admissions counseling for international students, as this kind of expertise can provide you with support and advice in your unique application situation. Either way, using some extra help in putting together your application can mean submitting a more polished and stronger candidacy for admission.

Include the extras

Some universities may stipulate some parts of the application are optional, but highly recommend students complete them. Or they may state that the admissions board looks positively on students including their extracurriculars, work and volunteer experience. Whatever instructions are given, follow them!

Include those extra elements that can make you a more attractive candidate. Even if they aren’t directly related to the major you’re considering, add your work experience, volunteerism and extracurriculars to your OUAC application. Even if you’re applying for a science program, include your interest in the arts. If you’re looking at an undergrad in political science, mention your time as a volunteer coach for minor hockey. Every little bit counts, and admissions committees will definitely look for experiences like these to tell them more about you and your background. Your experiences should inform them that you will be a good fit at the school because of your leadership, teamwork, communication skills and other stellar qualities.

Ace the language requirements

If you’re an international student, or English isn’t your first language, there is a likelihood you’ll need to submit a passing grade for an English test to prove strong English language proficiency. The OUAC lists the IELTS, PTE, TOEFL, CAEL, Cambridge Assessment English and Duolingo English Test as acceptable documents, though the specific requirements may vary depending on the school.

If you’ve chosen to apply to a French-language university, you may be asked to submit a French language proficiency test or placement test as well.

As with the other sections of your application, it’s best to take the required test early on and prepare your results for submission after confirming which test is accepted by your chosen school.


1. Is it hard to get into Ontario universities?

Ontario has some of the best universities in Canada and also some of the highest competition among applicants. While the admission rates vary by school, some of the schools are well-known for high admissions standards.

2. What is the OUAC?

The Ontario Universities Application Centre is a not-for-profit, unified application system for all public universities in Ontario, Canada.

3. Can I submit more than one application through OUAC?

Students are permitted only one application per academic year through the OUAC. The application is then sent to all programs or schools of the students’ choosing.

4. When should I start applying to university in Ontario?

As early as possible. It’s always a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to put together your application, even if you’re only submitting one through the OUAC system. We would recommend giving yourself at least 2 months.

5. How can I strengthen my OUAC application?

The best way to strengthen your OUAC application is to start early, research the schools you want to apply to, fill your application with any and all details that contribute to your candidacy and ask a guidance counselor or admissions counselor to give your application a review before you submit.

6. What programs can I apply for through OUAC?

Some of the programs you can apply for through the OUAC include all public undergraduate programs, Ontario law school programs (OLSAS), Ontario medical school programs (OMSAS), Ontario faculties of education (TEAS) and Ontario rehabilitative sciences (ORPAS).

7. Is it hard to get into the University of Toronto?

The University of Toronto is one of the most prestigious schools in Canada and has an extremely competitive admissions rate. Students can apply to the university through the OUAC system.

8. Is Ontario a good choice for international students?

Ontario universities remain a very popular choice for international students. The province hosts over 140,000 international students every year at its top universities.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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