Every year, thousands of Americans head north to study at Canadian Universities, and since the 2016 election, that number has only continued to rise. So it’s a very normal thing to do! There are two ways of looking at going to college in Canada. Either you look through the lens of astonishment, thinking wow that’s crazy, moving away from home for the first time, to a new country, how overwhelming that process must be. Or you just think hey, I’m doing this, and I will figure it out one step at a time. I chose to take the latter mindset, and everything worked out quite well.
Personally, going to college in Canada was something that just happened, on a whim. I didn’t spend months researching it. The night of application deadlines, my friend Helene was at my house and wouldn’t shut up about McGill, a Canadian University she was dying to go to. She kept going on and on about it, and eventually I decided right there and then that I would apply. So I went on McGill’s website, opened up their application, and within 30 minutes had submitted everything. When I walked back into my guidance counselor’s office the next day and asked her to send my information to a 21st school she almost laughed me out of the room. Eventually I convinced her to submit my information, and was accepted into McGill a few months later.
After my video about going to College in Canada went viral on Tiktok, I realized how little most people know about attending University in Canada. So I pulled together these things based on the 6k+ comments and questions on my video.
1. You can get financial aid through FAFSA
This was by far the most asked question on my video. Yes, you can get financial aid to attend foreign universities, and these apply to Canada. Not every school or program qualifies, so if you need financial aid, it’s important to do more research to make sure your plan will work. I found this helpful link with more info if you want to read more on this. You cannot get aid through the Canadian government, so going this route will be your best bet.
2. Applications are way easier than American college apps
I spent literal months working on my American college applications. Writing essays, gathering recommendations, not to mention the years spent on extra curriculars. To be honest, I thought it was these extra things that would get me into a top school, not grades. However, that’s not the case in Canada at all. When you apply to most Canadian schools they require no essays, don’t care about extracurriculars, and the applications take under 30 minutes to fill out from start to finish. You will still need test scores and grades submitted, but overall it is a much simpler process.
3. There are tons of great schools across the country, so there’s a fit for everyone
- University of Toronto (29th in World, 1st in Canada)
- McGill University (35th in World, 2nd in Canada)
- University of British Columbia (51st in World, 3rd in Canada)
- University of Waterloo (173rd in World, 7th in Canada)
- Western University (211th in World, 8th in Canada)
- University of Calgary (233rd in World, 9th in Canada)
- Queen’s University (239th in World, 10th in Canada)
- Dalhousie University (280th in World, 11th in Canada)
- University of Victoria (364th in World, 14th in Canada)
- University of Guelph (571st in World, 20th in Canada)
These are just the schools I’m familiar with, there are tons more out there! Here’s a good website to find a school by program. Every one of these schools caters to international students, so they all have valuable information on their website about the process for becoming a student there.
4. AP Classes count as credits, and can help lower your credits required + tuition
I cannot stress this enough, but if you are still in high school, make sure you put effort into your AP classes, and especially studying for your AP tests because many of these schools will accept your AP scores of 3, 4 or 5 as college credits. This will allow you to skip prerequisites, gain additional credits, take less credits per semester, or even graduate early! Most importantly, all of this will save you in tuition because tuition is calculated based on how many credits you’re taking.
Personally, because I entered McGill with almost a full year of credits thanks to AP classes, I had the option to either graduate a year early, or take less classes per semester for all 4 years. I chose to do less per semester, but honestly both are great options! This saved me a lot on tuition in the long run, and I wish I had taken even more of my AP tests seriously.
5. Housing is generally quite affordable, but depends on location
It’s hard to generalize across the entire country, especially since some universities are in major cities, and some are in smaller college towns. However, in general, I found that for myself and speaking with friends who went to different schools across the country, housing in Canada is very affordable.
At McGill we lived on campus in dorms for 1 year, and housing cost about $700-900 a month for dorms. After the first year, all students move off campus, and we were able to find housing in downtown Montreal for anywhere from $350-$800 a month. This is without sharing rooms with roommates too, which I know is more commonplace at American universities.
6. Tuition is significantly less than most American universities
It varies heavily from school to school (UBC and U of T are particularly expensive for international students) but international tuition starts around $8,000 CAD.
7. PLUS, The exchange rate is fantastic
The exchange rate has consistently stayed strong for the past 5 years, making Canada even more affordable. To put it in perspective, that starting tuition of $8,000 CAD is actually $6,000 USD. If you have financial aid from the US, your dollars will go further than you’d expect.
8. The drinking age is 18-19
This really isn’t the biggest factor in the world, but it will have some impact on your social life in university. Because of this, social life at universities in Canada take place more often in bars, rather than house parties in the states. Among other things, the main benefits are that you’ll never need a fake ID to get into bars, and never need to worry about getting in trouble for underage drinking on campus.
9. Sororities and fraternities do exist, but don’t control the social scene like they do in the States
I believe that this has to do with the drinking age being lower, and social life revolving more around going out to bars and clubs as opposed to frat parties. I was a member of greek life at McGill, and personally I think this is a healthier way for them to exist, as an extra community for you to have, but not a must have for your social life.
10. Health insurance for international students is very affordable
Each university has their own program which you enroll for through that school, and they typically cost around $80-90 a month. I used mine many times while I was in school, and always received excellent and fast medical service.
11. Your degree still transfers back to the US
This seemed to be something many people had questions about, but yes, your degree will be 100% transferable if you want to move to the US or even to Europe to get a job.
12. Yes, you can work while you’re in school
All schools offer part-time student work permits while you’re in school, and they’re fairly easy to obtain. I had an internship one year and went through the process to get the paperwork done very quickly!
13. You don’t have to speak french, but it’s great if you do 🙂
While French is an official language of Canada and most Canadians are taught french in primary school, many unfortunately don’t continue to speak it later in life. So technically, to study in Canada, you really don’t need to speak french as Quebec is the only province where it is spoken heavily.
One of the main motivators for me choosing to study at McGill is that Montreal is predominantly a french speaking city in Quebec. I quickly came to find that McGill happens to really be an English bubble within that city, however when I made an effort to leave that bubble and practice my french, I was always met with open arms.
14. Most schools offer a 3-year work permit after you graduate
Most colleges and universities in Canada offer a 3-year post-graduate work permit. This will essentially allow you as a foreigner to stay and work in Canada when you complete your education. You can check this link to see all of the schools that offer this program in every province. Eventually, you can use your job + work permit to apply for permanent residency, and one day citizenship.
Ok I think that’s everything I can think of for Americans attending University in Canada for now 🙂 Let me know in the comments if you have more questions!