Considerations for Writing Approvable Study Plans

A white paper by

A study plan to be used in an application for a study permit is something that seems simple.  After all, the ‘plan’ is simply a matter of answering a few questions that should be simple enough, or so it seems.  In fact, it is not as simple as it looks and this is why, in 2019, study visa applications were rejected at a rate of over 40% for college, university and bachelor applications (Source: IRCC, Polestar study).   What makes the situation so much worse is that if an applicant is rejected, it is very difficult to apply again within the next year.

There are several websites online that offer tips on study plans, but beware of claims of how easy it is. If it were so easy why aren’t the rejection rates much lower?

 In our firm’s over 10 years of experience in helping business immigrants and study permit applicants, we have come to learn that the Canadian government asks for certain information, but what they ask for is really a way to look for hints about other things that matter to them.  They do this because if they ask what they are looking for outright, they know that many people will try to give the answers they want to see.

Our team spent time speaking to immigration professionals and analyzing court cases to get a much better understanding of what information is most important for approval.  Think of a matrix, like in the diagram below, where each point in the diagram is a key point that must be addressed in the plan.  Depending on an individual’s unique circumstances, the relative importance of each point may look different for each applicant.  In the diagram, an evaluation matrix for the applicant represented by the blue lines would look very different from that of the applicant represented by the red lines.  This is meant to be a broad representation: what the ‘points of importance’ are can vary.

Matrix with title v2.jpg

The following provides an outline of some of the less obvious details worth considering in writing a study plan, however, it cannot be considered as comprehensive, because every individual needs to consider their own situation, preferably with the help of an immigration professional.

Where Are You Coming From?

Like it or not, some countries have a higher incidence of people trying to get into Canada by dishonest means.  This is a reality that may affect how officers scrutinize an application.  It is our contention, therefore, that applicants from different countries need to approach the study plan differently, if they want to successfully get their study visa.  If writing a study plan on your own, be sure to find out about any potential biases relating to how different countries are perceived.

Where Are You Living Now?

If you are a resident of a country other than the one where you have citizenship, it may have an impact on what you write in your study plan.  Officers may question what may appear to be a ‘transient’ applicant because of weak ties to any one ‘home’ country and this can be perceived unfavourably.

Personal Work History

Some student applicants have never held down a job, and this is not necessarily a problem when writing a study plan for a study permit.  However, when it comes to mature students in the workforce, the story changes.  The plan of study should have a nexus to the career path and this should be substantiated with research, or other types of evidence.  Depending on the circumstances, the best research to present may be industry research, career trajectory research or professional opinions, to name a few.  This is an important area where working with a professional, experienced writer can help.  Other useful information can include a course analysis, as it pertains to the career trajectory.

Other Personal Factors

One may be inclined to think that a study plan is about making a passionate plea for one’s hopes and dreams.  This thought may have some relevance to a good study plan, but it is not the most important detail.  On the other hand, personal factors do come in to play.  How one represents their family, home and other local commitments and obligations can be important as well.  The trick is to understand what might be the most important for one’s own particular case, and more importantly, how to represent these factors.


There is no harm in not being a great speaker of English (or French), and there is nothing to say that one cannot succeed in studying in Canada if that is the case.  When it comes to a study plan, however, making use of linguistic subtleties and phrasing things eloquently in a study plan can give adjudicating  officers more assurance that the student is legitimately looking to study in Canada.  Presenting a command of English can be very important, particularly for those seeking study visas for post-secondary studies.

Summing It Up

By the time an applicant has gathered all the information they feel is important, they may have far too much information to fit in to a single page, as per the guidelines.  In the end this may be one of the most difficult parts of the process, and this is where the right words matter.  Summing up important details into a clear and concise form can sometimes take as much time as the rest of the process put together.  In order to move forward, one should be prepared to rely on their writing skills to subtly persuade officers that the applicant’s intentions are legitimate and in line with the Canada’s own goals and policies.


1-888-834-5565 ext. 1

©2020 by Strategic Element Inc.