Health Insurance and Healthcare in British Columbia

You’ve arrived for studies in Canada.  While you’re focused on doing well in your program, you may at some point need to see a doctor – if you have family (a spouse and/or children), even more reason to know about medical options in Canada.

As many may already know, Canada has universal healthcare coverage for its citizens.  As a student, you may wonder if this healthcare coverage applies to you. Well, if you’re studying in a degree program, such coverage eventually applies to you.  Specifically, if you have a student visa for a program greater than 6 months, then you qualify – as opposed to coming to Canada on a visitor or tourist visa to study a few months of English, for example.

Each province within Canada has its own provincial authority to oversee healthcare.  For BC, we have MSP – Medical Services Plan.  What’s key to know is you need wait for the rest of the month in which you arrived in BC and then 2 more months… and then you can apply to MSP.  For example, if you arrived on August 27 (for September classes), you would include the rest of August, and then September and October… making you eligible for MSP on November 1.

In BC, monthly costs for MSP are $64 for one person, $116 for a family of two, and $128 for a family of three or more.  Other provinces, such as Ontario, charge no fee.

What’s covered in MSP?  MSP covers hospital visits, medically-required services of a doctor or specialist, maternity care, laboratory services, and other medically-required services.  Simply put, most students will need to visit a doctor and/or a hospital at some point, and these visits are covered. 

What’s not covered? Generally, MSP does not cover any non-medically required services, such as a medical examination for a driver’s license, employment, etc.  Other key items not covered by MSP include dental care (unless medically required surgery is necessary in a hospital), prescription drugs, and eye exams or corrective lenses (e.g. glasses or contact lenses).  If you want insurance for these services, most colleges and universities offer extended healthcare coverage – which can cover some of the costs of dental work, prescription drugs, eye care, etc. – for a small fee (typically less than a dollar a day).

All you need to do is present your MSP card when you need medical attention.  To get MSP, you need only fill out the online form and provide other supporting documents, such as a copy of your visa, letter of admissions to the university, etc.  At Royal Roads University, please come the International Study Centre (ISC), and we’d be happy to help you with your application.

Of course, as a student, you’re likely keen to see more than just your university, city, or even province.  If you do leave the province or country for a small period of time, be sure to get extra coverage to make sure you’re fine for anything not covered by MSP when outside of BC.

Canadian University Grading System – Understanding the Numbers

When international students apply to Canadian universities, one item that stands out is GPA – Grade Point Average.  For many international applicants, this is an important issue if they wish to study in Canada.  The student’s GPA is an important part of getting accepted into a Canadian university.

What makes matters a bit more confusing is that the GPA used in Canadian universities is different from the GPA standard of other countries – that is different countries have different numbering systems.  Some countries have a GPA out of 5.0, while others have one out of 20.0.  Most Canadian universities have a GPA out of 4.0 – but some use a GPA out of 9.0.

The tables below show the basic percentage equivalency for the two scales.


Letter Grade % GPA Number
A+ 92-100 4.33
A 88-91 4
A- 85-87 3.67
B+ 82-84 3.33
B 78-81 3
B- 75-77 2.67
C+ 72-74 2.33
C 68-71 2
C- 65-67 1.67
D 55-64 1
F 0-54 0
Letter Grade % GPA Number
A+ 90-100 9.0
A 80-89 8
B+ 75-79 7
B 70-74 6
B- 65-69 5
C+ 60-64 4
C 55-59 3
C- 50-54 2
D 40-49 1
F 0-39 0
What some may see is the difference between these two scales with the percentage for the letter grade (e.g. a “B” requires 78% for the 4.0 scale, but a “B” requires 70% for the 9.0 scale) – the specific percentage depends on each Canadian university.  Again, the 4.0 GPA scale is the more common one in Canada.

The other consideration is the number of credit hours that a course is worth.  For example, usually a course is 4 months or 8 months.  If it’s 4 months, then the course is usually worth 3 credit hours.  If it’s 8 months, then the course is 6 credit hours.

To calculate your GPA when applying to a Canadian university, you must look at your letter grade (e.g. a “B” or 3.0) and the credit hours (e.g. 3 credit hours).  You must then multiply the grade with the credit hours for each course and divide by the total number of credit hours.  Here’s an example of a student who has taken 1 year of university courses:

Course Grade (Number) Length/credit hours GPA Value
Math B (3) 3 9
Physics A (4) 3 12
Biology C+ (2.33) 6 13.98
English C (2) 3 6
Sociology B (3) 6 18
Communications B- (2.67) 3 8.01
Chemistry A (4) 3 12
Statistics A (4) 3 12
Total 30 90.99

The student has taken 30 credit hours over two semesters (8 months), which is the typical course load for a Canadian student.  The overall GPA number is 90.99.  This number must be divided by the number of credit hours to get the current GPA – i.e. 90.99/30 = 3.033.  The student has a GPA of 3.033.  In other words, the Canadian university considers this student to be a “B” student.

One important hint to students wishing to do well and be successful in obtaining a Canadian degree: do not take credit for some of the courses you did well in your home country.  For example, some students have already done well in subjects like Statistics or Biology in their home countries.  These students then sometimes ask to get these courses recognized, so that they don’t have to take Statistics or Biology again… BUT they should take those courses again for two very good reasons:

  1. Doing the courses in English at a Canadian university will help build the student’s English vocabulary in those subjects.
  2. The student will likely do very well in these courses… which will HELP his or her GPA.

I hope the process of applying to a Canadian university is now a little easier and makes more sense.  As well, I hope you can use this information to increase your GPA and get a Canadian university degree!