There are only 10 publicly-funded universities in Nova Scotia that are a reflection of the province’s cultural and educational history. These schools include liberal arts colleges, fine arts institutions, a theology school and some of the oldest universities in Canada. The application process for applying to universities in Nova Scotia is not streamlined like in Ontario, which uses the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) to accept all undergraduate applications. You have to do your research and read up on each university’s particular admissions process, and admission requirements since you typically apply directly to the school. This blog will lead you through the various universities in Nova Scotia and give you detailed application instructions, and also give you tips on how to get in. 

Disclaimer: Please note: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.

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Article Contents
11 min read

Universities in Nova Scotia Acadia University Cape Breton University Dalhousie University St. Francis Xavier University Saint Mary’s University NSCAD University How to Apply to Universities in Nova Scotia Why Study at Universities in Nova Scotia How to Get into Universities in Nova Scotia FAQs

Universities in Nova Scotia

  1. Acadia University
  2. Cape Breton University
  3. Dalhousie University
  4. St. Francis Xavier University
  5. Saint Mary’s University
  6. NSCAD University
  7. Université Sainte-Anne
  8. Mount Saint Vincent University
  9. University of King’s College

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1. Acadia University

Acceptance Rate: 60-70%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: 86% (3.3 GPA)

Minimum GPA to Apply: 70%

First Year Tuition: $11,631

Set in an idyll that blends the natural beauty of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Ocean, Acadia University is located one hour outside of Halifax, in Wolfville, so if you want to study in a quiet, peaceful environment in a small, quaint university town, Acadia is a good option. Acadia is not only one of the oldest universities in Nova Scotia, but all of Canada, and it has a long tradition of offering high-quality undergraduate and graduate education.

The small size of the town and university are reflected in the school’s academic profile, as it boasts a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which is one of the (many) things that current Acadia students appreciate about the school. There are over 200+ degree options to choose from and you can browse within each of the school’s four distinct disciplines:

  • Arts
  • Professional Studies
  • Pure and Applied Science
  • Theology

Getting into Acadia is competitive and the school requires that all Canadian and international applicants have a minimum grade average of 70%. There are other admission requirements that are mostly meeting a series of prerequisites, such as having completed at least five senior Grade 12 courses, an English course and other Grade 12 courses. Some programs, such as the Bachelor of Education, have separate admissions requirements and require you to perform separate assessments and submit college essays or college recommendation letters.

If you want to apply to Acadia, you have to set up your account with the school’s online application form, and then apply through one of the pathways available; if you are a Canadian high school student you use the appropriate form; if you are an international student you have to submit the international student application, etc.

2. Cape Breton University

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: N/A

Minimum GPA to Apply: 65-75% (program-dependent)

First Year Tuition: $8,836 (in-province); $10,119 (out-of-province); $19,474 – $20,137 (international students)

Located at the eastern-most edge of the province, Cape Breton University is another draw if you are a nature-lover and want to see the ocean on your way to class, although it has urban locations as well. Cape Breton University is in Sydney, Nova Scotia and its campus is home to over 7000 undergraduate students taking classes in everything from Mi’kmaq Studies and economics to petroleum engineering and Celtic Culture.

CBU is proud of the fact that it has some of the lowest tuition rates in Canada, for both Halifax and Canadian, as international students usually have to pay more. It is also one of the leaders in teaching Indigenous culture and history, but also one of the universities in Nova Scotia with the highest number of Indigenous-identifying students (over 1000). The academic offerings are split between the school’s five schools, including a business school and a nursing program.

CBU uses an in-house application system, and you have to setup your account with them to be able to apply to any of its undergraduate programs. You have the option to apply and not choose a major yet, and use your first year to explore the school’s offerings to find a program suited for you. If you are applying as a Canadian high school student, you need only:

  • High school diploma
  • Transcripts
  • One Grade 12 English course
  • Four additional Grade 12 courses
  • 65% Grade Average (program-dependent)

3. Dalhousie University

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: 87%

Minimum GPA to Apply: 65-75% (program-dependent)

First Year Tuition: $10,431

The largest public university on the peninsula, Dalhousie University comprises two campuses in Halifax and Truro, the latter being the home of the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, while the former hosts the only medical school in Nova Scotia. The school also operates smaller locations in Saint John, New Brunswick as well as Yarmouth. The Faculty of Medicine is not the only centerpiece in the school’s academic offerings, as its almost 200 programs have brought the student population to well over 20,000 students from Canada and around the world.

There are 13 separate faculties at the school, and you’ll have to review all of them to find the program-specific requirements the school asks you to meet. The more general requirements are:

  • Completed high school
  • Minimum 65% grade average (could be higher depending on your program)
  • Higher than 60% for your secondary or Grade 11 courses

There are a lot of programs to choose from, but if you have specific interests or career plans, Dalhousie could be an excellent option for you if you are interested in being a veterinarian, doctor, architect, or an even fine-dining restaurant manager. As we mentioned the school’s second campus hosts its Faculty of Agriculture, which offers a diverse set of programs from pre-veterinary medicine, and animal science to international food business, and environmental science.

If you are undecided or are more interested in liberal arts, professional, and traditional STEM programs, the Halifax campus would be ideal. In the capital, you can choose from typical bachelor of arts, science, fine arts, and engineering degree programs taught by experts in their fields, as over 93% of all faculty have a PhD. The student to faculty ratio (18:1) also gives you a more personalized education, although some programs do hold lectures in large lecture halls, and it is not as small Acadia.

Dalhousie uses an in-house application system, Dal Online, to accept and review all applications, so you need to create an account to apply, whether you are a Canadian or international student.

4. St. Francis Xavier University

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: n/a

Minimum GPA to Apply: 65-75% (program-dependent)

First Year Tuition: $10,430 (in-province); $11,713 (out-of-province); $22,631 (international students)

Another school located in a picturesque setting in coastal Nova Scotia, St. Francis Xavier University envelopes you in the tradition and formality of its history through its scenic residential campus. The school is one of the oldest in Canada and has risen to become of one best universities in Canada for engineering as well as having schools dedicated to the study of leadership and government.

If you want to be a part of an active alumni society after graduation, the hallowed X-Ring alumni network will help you keep in touch with your fellow graduates, as well as future and past alumni. The admission requirements are more program-based so you need to review all the relevant requirements for the programs you’re interested in, and make sure you meet them before applying.

StFX also uses a proprietary application system, so you need to create an account and submit all your required documents through its platform. The school has six different faculties, but, as we mentioned, its unique offerings are the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, which are research institutes that specialize in leadership and governance research and training, if you’re interested in a role in government or corporate leadership, after graduation.

5. Saint Mary’s University

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: n/a

Minimum GPA to Apply: 70-72% (program-dependent)

First Year Tuition: $8,247 (in-province); $9,530 (out-of-province)

If you want to live and study in downtown Halifax, Saint Mary’s University might be the school for you. The school has been around a long time so it is interwoven into the city’s architecture. For example, there is a network of underground pathways you can take to get around campus, which are especially useful during the winter months. But aside from the charming location, SMU is often ranked in the top three in Canadian universities rankings in several categories from student satisfaction to student-faculty ratio.

It is also well-known as a center of athletic excellence but also equality and accessibility for students with disabilities. If you are applying as a Canadian high school student, you only need the general admission prerequisites required by most other Canadian universities, such as a having graduated with at least a 65% (although meeting the minimum does not usually guarantee admission, so you need to know how to get into college with a low GPA if you only meet the basic requirements).

SMU has undergraduate faculties in the arts, environmental studies, science as well as a business school. If you have interests in becoming a teacher, you can enroll in a pathway program through the Faculty or Education to prepare you for a master’s in Education. There is also an engineering program that has partnerships with both Dalhousie and the University of Windsor. You'll also have a lot of opportunities to join professional ventures though co-op working experiences that the university offers all undergraduates. 

6. NSCAD University

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Average GPA of Admitted Students: n/a

Minimum GPA to Apply: 70-72% (program-dependent)

First Year Tuition: $5,969 (in-province); $6,610 (out-of-province); $14,072 (international students)

The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design has as long and distinguished history as any of the other universities in Nova Scotia and it has earned its reputation as an incubator for many important advances in Canadian, and international art and design. You’ll also be in an urban environment at NSCAD, as it has three campuses spread throughout downtown Halifax. The school has five different faculty and offers three specific undergraduate Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Design; Bachelor of Fine Arts in fields as varied as filmmaking and ceramics to photography and art history.

As it is an art school, NSCAD has specific entry requirements, but it also gives you a pathway to apply if you don’t have any previous art school experience and are applying as a Canadian or international high school graduate. The Foundations pathway is the most common way for all high school students without any previous training, as your first year will let you explore various disciplines and art forms so you can commit to something in your sophomore year. To be eligible for the Foundations pathway as a Canadian or Nova Scotian applicant, you must have:

  • Completed Grade 12 with a 70% average or higher
  • Completed one Grade 12 English course with 70% or higher
  • Completed four additional Grade 12 courses with 70% or higher

There are other requirements specific to the school that you need to prepare for; requirements such as writing a “why this college?” essay, and:

  • Transcripts
  • Portfolio
  • List of work
  • Letters of reference (optional)

The other pathways apply only if you have completed the Foundation year and have decided on what degree and program you want to apply to, which is the Advanced Standing pathways. If you want a preview of what being a student at NSCAD would be like, you can take a campus tour, of course, but you can also apply take a first-year course during the summer before your last year of high school.

How to Apply to Universities in Nova Scotia

As we mentioned throughout, many, if not all, universities in Nova Scotia use their own application platforms for you to apply. There is no one centralized application service, such as the Ontario Universities Application Centre, or ApplyAlberta, so you have to send all your necessary documents and pay your application fees through the school’s proprietary system. As such, the exact application requirements and materials you have to submit are determined by the school you are applying to.

NSCAD and a few other schools usually require transcripts and other supplemental information, such has a college letter of interest. But some programs may ask you to complete online questionnaires and assessments so you should be aware of that as well.

Why Study at Universities in Nova Scotia

Many out-of-province students say they were convinced they wanted to study at one of the universities in Nova Scotia after visiting the campus. Whether it’s in downtown Halifax or far-flung Antigonish, universities in Nova Scotia have a unique quality that appeals to student’s sense of home and comfort. You’ll feel a part of a community at a university campus in Nova Scotia, since they are small cities onto themselves and are where many people study, work and live.

Another advantage of going to any one of the universities in Nova Scotia is the diversity of programs that are specific to the region, such as maritime science, oceanography, as well as agricultural studies that are focused solely on the climate of the Atlantic Provinces. Universities in Nova Scotia have also integrated Indigenous scholarship and programs into their curricula to increase the visibility of the province’s Indigenous roots and population.

How to Get into Universities in Nova Scotia

1. Find out the Requirements Early, Before Grade 11, and Do Better

If you’re applying as a Canadian or in-province applicant, it always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the general and program-specific requirements at each university, because they will all be different. But what’s most important is doing better than what your school requires. Take extra credit courses during the summer before or after you graduate to increase your average to demonstrate how committed you are to getting in. You also want to know the requirements so you can choose your courses for Grade 11 and Grade 12 accordingly. If you need college application help, you can always try your guidance counselor, or student advisors at the school you want to apply to.

2. Participate in Diverse Extracurriculars

Having good extracurriculars for college is par for the course, but you should also try as many student engagement activities as possible to make you a more attractive candidate. This not only makes you an interesting applicant, but it's also beneficial for you so you can get an idea of what fields or disciplines appeal to you. You don’t have to pick a major in your first year, and if you want to have as much as time as possible to decide, you can apply to a school such as Dalhousie, which will let you do that. But wherever you apply you want to have as many experiences as possible in various fields to help make your decision.

3. Grades, Grades, Grades

We talked about how hitting the bare minimum is not enough to get you into most universities in Nova Scotia, let alone most universities in Canada. It’s important that you get high marks for university applications because most admissions officers look first at your grades, although they are not always the deciding factor. But if a program has a minimum to apply, it’s important you get your grade point average as high as possible, especially if you want to apply to a competitive program.

4. Include Supplemental Application Materials (if applicable)

Since there is no centralized application service for universities in Nova Scotia, you may, or not, be able to include supplemental applications materials, such as a personal statement or college letters of recommendation. Dalhousie has its own application service, but it, and many other schools, will let you mail supplemental materials directly to the school. You should first check if you can send them, and if you can, make sure you write multiple drafts of your statement and get teachers who know you well to write your reference letters, preferably those teachers who teach the subject you are going into.

5. Find out All About the School’s Mission/Values

Universities in Nova Scotia have a much longer history than those in other provinces because it is the oldest province in Canada. With that said, you should read up on these schools (even just for fun, as their histories are very interesting) to see if there is something unique about them that appeals to you. For example, St. Francis Xavier was started by Jesuits, so its values reflect those of Jesuits, even though it is now a public school and non-denominational. You should do this for every school, since it is these qualities and features that could help make up your mind if their academic and extracurricular programs are similar.


1. How many universities are in Nova Scotia?

There are 11 publicly and privately-funded universities in Nova Scotia. 

2. What can you study at universities in Nova Scotia?

The diverse history and natural setting of Nova Scotia have been incorporated into the programs offered at universities in Nova Scotia, meaning you can explore more about the province’s Celtic, Acadia, Black and Mi'kmaq history, or explore more about marine biology and science as it sits next to the Atlantic Ocean. 

3. What are the best universities in Nova Scotia?

A lot of the appeal of going to any of the universities in Nova Scotia is being near and in stunning natural landscapes, which almost every university in Nova Scotia can claim. But, in terms of academics, popularity and history, Dalhousie and St. Francis Xavier are the schools that are most associated with the province in the minds of Canadian and international students alike. 

4. What is the best university in Nova Scotia for international students?

The best universities in Nova Scotia for international students would be those schools that have programs and facilities that help international students acclimate to their new surroundings, which, in the case of Nova Scotia, would again be Dalhousie and St. Francis Xavier. 

5. What GPA do you need to get into universities in Nova Scotia?

You need at least a 60% grade average for at least five of your Grade 12 courses to apply, but each program and university will have their own minimum GPA requirements. 

6. How do I get into universities in Nova Scotia as an international student?

If you are an international student and you want to study in Nova Scotia, you will need to submit an official copy of your high school transcripts (translated into English if applicable) meet the English language proficiency requirement (TOEFL scores), having a student visa or other permission to live and work in Canada and meeting the requirements of your specific program. 

7. How do I apply to universities in Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia does not have a centralized application system so you have to apply to each school directly through its in-house application system. 

8. Is it hard to get into universities in Nova Scotia?

No, it is not that hard to get into universities in Nova Scotia. The schools there have the same types of admissions requirements (GPA, completion of specific courses) that most all other schools in Canada use. But meeting the requirements is not enough, and you have to distinguish yourself in other ways from choosing the right extracurriculars or writing superb supplemental essays. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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