“O Canada”: Five Reasons to Consider Colleges North of the Border
Want to know why international student applications are down at 40% of U.S. schools in the 2016-17 admissions cycle? To quote South Park—Blame Canada…at least in part.
Of course, declining foreign applications are primarily attributable to international fears at the dawn of the Trump era. However, the concurrent blossoming popularity of Canadian universities is another factor that cannot be overlooked, as they may become the primary beneficiaries of American diplomatic turmoil. Canadian institutions of higher education were already gaining momentum as a destination point long before the 2016 U.S. election. The number of foreigners pursuing study in The Great White North has nearly doubled over the last decade and is now over 350,000, yet only 3% of those hail from the United States.
Some expect this number to rise in the coming years, and with good reason. Canadian universities have much to offer American students. You’ll see why as you read our top five reasons that you should consider attending school in Canada:
1) Reasonable Tuition Prices
Let’s start with the purely financial motivation. Tuition for foreign students at Canadian schools averages around $16,000 per year (U.S. dollars), roughly half of the average tuition one pays per year in a private college in the U.S. That’s right—even with foreign students paying higher rates than native Canucks, U.S. students still pay half of what they would back home.
2) Less Competitive Admissions Process
The Canadian application process is more straightforward than the hypercompetitive gauntlet that is elite college admissions in the United States. Soft factors like reference letters and extracurriculars are deemphasized in favor of pure and simple academic performance.
The famous Canadian author, Malcolm Gladwell, recounted that when he applied to college, “The whole process probably took ten minutes.” He jotted down his top three choices on a single-page form, his guidance counselor sent out his grades, and he was accepted at the University of Toronto, which rates as one of Canada’s best schools.
3) Colleges with great international reputations
Many might never consider a Canadian institution simply because of a lack of name recognition. Fortunately, when looking through a more global lens, this is revealed to be a false perception. The aforementioned University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia all crack U.S. News Top 50 Global Universities list. Many other Canadian schools are renown throughout the world for their academic prowess including McMaster, Queen’s University, and University of Waterloo, all located in the large province of Ontario.
4) Canadian Amenities
For many Americans, Canada likely conjures up images of moose, frozen tundra, ice hockey, and singing bearded lumberjacks in plaid shirts (thanks, Monty Python). However, our Canadian stereotypes and biases have little connection to the realities of beautiful cosmopolitan cities like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Quebec. The Economist recently ranked the best places to live based on factors such as crime statistics, cost-of-living, and healthcare affordability. Number one and two in the entire world were Toronto and Montreal, respectively. Even putting semi-arbitrary rankings aside, Canada unquestionably offers a plenitude of campus options in safe, affordable, and vibrant areas.
5) Different Vibe
Canadian schools have a more diverse international student body than American schools. In fact, foreign students make up just 5% of the student population in the U.S. but almost 15% in Canada. At McGill, a school with an even more international flair, the number is over 25%. As a result, the feel on campus is different—Greek life is far more muted compared to the frat and sorority-dominated campuses at many major American universities and you will have countless genuine opportunities to connect with people from around the globe.
The Canadian academic calendar runs shorter, from September to April, leaving more time to pursue internships or paid work during the non-school year. This may be one reason that, according to one study, 87% of Canadian grads end up working a job relevant to their college degree; in the U.S. that number is a meager 27%.
Heading north of the border for college is not something that everyone will give serious consideration to—nor should they. Many U.S. students will elect to take advantage of in-state tuition and spend their collegiate years within a couple-hour car ride of home. In-state rates will typically offer even better value than trekking off to Alberta or Saskatchewan. But more adventurous students, those already open to attending school hundreds or even thousands of miles away, would do well to open their mind to the Canadian option.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).