Americans are applying to Canadian colleges in greater numbers than in the past, with some Canadian schools recently reporting an uptick of 33 percent or more in applications from international students. If you're one of the Americans considering moving north for college, it's a good idea to keep a few considerations in mind.
College Confidential checked in with Whitney Laughlin, EdD, an American college admission consultant who has lived in Canada for over a decade, and has worked with scores of American students who are considering attending college in Canada. Read on to find out what tips Laughlin had to share.
College Confidential: What draws American students to Canadian schools?
Whitney Laughlin: It can be a variety of factors, but what many students say is that the cost of the education in Canada can be even lower than in-state tuition costs for a comparable education. So the price is an important factor. In addition, many Canadian schools don't require SATs/ACTs or recommendation letters. That's possible because the high school education is more standardized in Canada than in the US, so it's easier for Canadian admission officials to compare students using their grades.
In addition, many Canadian schools are ranked quite high, and students who want an international college experience but don't want to travel too far often look at Canada because it's within North America.
CC: In addition to cost and admissions preferences, what are some of the other advantages to going to college in Canada?
WL: First and foremost, the majority of students at Canadian university graduate in four years. Plus, if you want to immigrate and be a permanent Canadian resident, going to college in Canada is one of the fastest ways to do that. In addition, many majors offer a “co-op" program, which is a paid internship, and a lot of students are able to get jobs at that company after graduation.
The Canadian health care program, which is very appealing to a lot of Americans, is part of your student fees as a Canadian college student. Most universities also give bus passes as part of their fees as well. And everyone is nice! So even though the schools may be bigger, everyone is friendly.
CC: Are there any potential downsides that American students should consider when looking at Canadian schools?
WL: Whether something would be considered a drawback would depend on the student's preference, but what I've seen as the biggest drawback is, with a few exceptions, the Canadian schools are quite large, so it may not be a fit for those who want a small campus. Quest is the one small, private, non-religious school in Canada, but it's not for everyone because it's very small, with fewer than 20 students in a class, and a lot of times the students lead the discussion.
In addition, not all Canadian schools have as many dorm rooms available as US schools do. For instance, at the University of British Columbia, a very small percentage of students live on campus, and there's a lottery system to get a dorm room.
CC: What should prospective students do if they're interested in Canadian colleges?
WL: Most Canadian schools indicate right on their websites exactly what they're seeking in applicants. For instance, McGill University shares a printable sheet on its website indicating exactly what grades it wants applicants to have in each high school class. Checking out the stats on the different websites will allow US students a better way of predicting where they'll get in.
You can find out which documents and requirements you'll need to meet to study in Canada on the Canadian government's website. And always remember to factor in the cost of traveling home and back, since that might add quite a bit to the cost, depending on where you live.