How to Apply to Universities and Colleges in North America

With another academic year rolling around, the reality of university is starting to emerge for soon-to-be high school graduates. The anticipation and excitement about making new friends, exploring new academic subjects and training in a different environment with new teammates and coaches, is one like no other. However, deciding what school to go to can be quite an overwhelming process – this is the place you are going to be spending the next four or five years of your life, after all!

Understanding what options and opportunities are out there for you, in the collegiate landscape, can make the decision a lot easier.

Read on to learn about your options for university, both academically and athletically, how to apply to university and important dates to keep in mind during the whole process!


Let’s start with the fundamentals. In the North American collegiate track and field landscape, there are over 1,200 schools to choose from. These schools are distributed between different athletic associations including U SPORTS, the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA and CCAA.

 U SPORTS is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. This association includes the majority of degree-granting universities in Canada. The association is divided into four regional conferences: Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Canada West (CanWest) and the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).

With a specific focus on the OUA, the conference has set out the mission of developing student-athletes through academics and athletics to achieve excellence in life. Here are the fourteen member schools: the Brock Badgers, Lakehead Thunderwolves, Laurentian Voyageurs, McMaster Marauders, Nipissing Lakers, Queens Gaels, Guelph Gryphons, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Toronto Varsity Blues, Waterloo Warriors, Western Mustangs, Windsor Lancers, Laurier Golden Hawks and York Lions.

Why should you consider attending a U SPORTS school? → Click here to learn more

Next, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is an American organization that regulates student-athletes in the USA (except for SFU in Burnaby, BC, Canada). The NCAA is divided into three divisions; D -I, D-II and D-III. Each division has differences in academic and athletic focuses, facilities, funding and scholarship opportunities.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), is a college athletics association for small colleges and universities in North America. The NAIA is said to match that of the NCAA D-II in terms of competition and school size.

Lastly,   The  National  Junior  College  Athletic  Association (NJCAA) is the governing association for community college, state college and junior college in the USA. The equivalent to this in Canada is the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).

Within the CCAA there are five conferences: PACWEST, ACAC, OCAA, RESQ and the ACAA. Notably, the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) is the governing body of all intercollegiate sports in Ontario. The conference offers quality programs in pursuit of athletic excellence, with each school creating an environment that promotes academic success and personal development. Additionally, the OCAA is cross-country specific!

I know what you are thinking, it seems like a lot! But Streamline Athletes has all the information you need to know about any school in any of these associations. All you need to do is head to and start your research.


Time to learn about the next steps.

Now that you are starting to think about what comes after high school there are some important things you should know.

Athletes, once you reach Grade 12 you have a few options:

  • Opt to enter Grade 13 and take a ‘victory lap’
  • Take a gap year
  • Head to university/college

Keep in mind there is no wrong answer here, it all comes down to what is right for you at the time.

Students choose to take a ‘victory lap’ for multiple reasons. They may want to improve their grades, get certain credits they missed so they can apply to a specific program the following year or they may choose to return to high school because they didn’t get the college offers they were looking for and want to take another year to advance their knowledge/skills.

Some students may even choose to take a gap year. This is usually a year-long break before entering university/college, during which a student may take the opportunity to work, volunteer, or travel.

Both of these options can eventually lead to university/college – just think of it as a little detour!

For those looking to enter university/college straight from high school, keep on reading, we will delve into what you need to know.


There are a couple of steps for applying to university in Canada.

1. Choose an Institution
First things first, determine what you would like to study and where. The options are endless, so take your time to do your research. Browse and explore CCAA and USPORTS school program pages on Streamline Athletes.

2. Prepare and submit your application(s)
Once you have identified your preferred universities, find out what their specific admission requirements are and what the application process entails. Keep in mind applications and deadlines vary from school to school. For instance, some universities only require you to submit your grades, others may need you to write a personal essay or statement.

The application process does vary from province to province. In some provinces, you have to apply through a central application service. For example, Ontario requires prospective students to apply through the OUAC portal, while in other provinces you apply directly to the university.

3. Don’t miss deadlines
Keep an eye on deadlines for the universities you are interested in and apply accordingly. Applications generally open 8-12 months before the year you would begin university/college. These deadlines vary from institution to institution, some have early admission, which could be anywhere between October and December of your senior year in high school, while other universities have rolling admissions, where you can apply as you like before the final deadline. Make it your job to keep on top of key dates!


As we previously mentioned, when applying to a university in Ontario, you must submit an application through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC). The OUAC facilitates the application process for first-year undergraduate programs, while each university reaches its own admissions decisions. Once you submit your OUAC application you will be given an OUAC Reference Number – you must refer to this number whenever you contact the OUAC or an Ontario university.

Here are some key dates and deadlines to look out for:

 January 15, 2021
This is the deadline for Ontario high school students to submit their completed application to the OUAC. This initial application will include final grades from completed grade 11 and 12 courses, as well as a list of courses that are still in progress

May 27, 2021
This is the latest date any high school applicant who submitted their application by the January deadline can expect to hear back from an Ontario University, be it an offer of admission, refusal or deferral.

June 1, 2021
This is the earliest date Ontario high school students may be required to respond to an Ontario university offer of admission

Find out more about specific Ontario university deadlines → Click here to learn more

In terms of applications during the time of the Coronavirus pandemic, the OUAC continues to operate and process applications with staff working remotely. Transcripts must be requested using the ‘Transcript Request’ feature in your application and will be sent electronically. Additionally, the OUAC and Ontario universities are working closely together to monitor the pandemic; universities are working to be as flexible as possible with the application process and deadlines.


Similar to applying to schools in Canada, one of the most important elements of applying to a school in the States is research! There are a great number of universities/colleges in the USA, which means a great deal of options to explore and choose from. Take the time to narrow down your list of schools you are interested in.

Do your research on school location, available courses, campus culture, athletic programs finances, scholarships and campus size, to name a few.This research will also come in handy when you are asked to write your college essays. Like some schools in Canada, which require personal statements, schools in the States may ask applicants to write about why they want to attend their particular university/college.

Remember, each university and college has its own set of admission standards and applications. Students must apply to each school separately. For international students, in particular, consider contacting the admissions offices of the schools you are interested in to ask any important questions you may have.

As for other requirements, grades are an important factor in college applications. US schools look at grades from all four years of secondary school, unlike Canadain schools, which only consider senior level grades. But don’t fret if your grades from the first years of high school aren’t competitive, admissions officers typically look for improvement over time and an upward grade trend. Just make sure to keep on improving!

In addition to high school grades, US colleges require SAT/ACT scores, so make sure to plan and schedule these exams. There are 7 test dates for each of these exams a year, so it’s a good idea to look into what the admission requirements of your top schools are and work back from there.

For context, the ACT (American College Testing) and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) are two standardized tests used for college admissions in the US. These exams are used to test student’s readiness for college and act as a common data point when comparing applicants.

The ACT covers four academic skill areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. An optional writing test is also provided and the exam is scored on a scale of 1-36.

The SAT has four sections as well: Reading, Writing and Language and Math. There is also the option of writing an essay and the exam is scored on a scale of 400-1600.

Students tend to do better on one test over the other, depending on their strengths with different subjects and time. Do a couple of practice tests to see which exam would suit you the best, know how you handle time pressure and decide what types of questions you find most challenging.


  • September 12, 2020
  • October 24, 2020
  • December 12, 2020
  • February 6, 2021
  • April 17, 2021
  • June 12, 2021
  • July 17, 2021


  • September 26, 2020
  • October 3, 2020
  • November 7, 2020
  • December 5, 2020
  • March 13, 2021
  • May 8, 2021
  • June 5, 2021


We understand that taking this next step may be scary for you, but we are here to help every step of the way.

Start your research on schools to see what is available for you and what piques your interest. You can research collegiate track and field/cross-country programs and schools now on Streamline  Athletes.

Feel free to email us with any questions you may have at [email protected]

Premier Supporters

Secondary Partners