Considering Canadian Universities?
by Luke Lorefice

Thinking about pursuing a college experience with our friendly neighbors to the north? Canadian universities have a lot to offer the right type of student: students who are not afraid of colder weather, feel comfortable being part of a larger student body, and have a clear idea of what they want to study. At Canadian universities, students' social lives will be more based on the surrounding city than on the campus; therefore, it is a slightly less traditional college experience.

For many people, one of the greatest benefits is cost: even for US citizens, Canadian schools are oftentimes far more affordable than US schools. If an applicant has Canadian citizenship (whether sole or dual), they will be eligible for Canadian tuition, which is only a fraction of the cost. More on that shortly!

First, here are a few things you should know about Canadian universities, the admissions process, and how they differ from US schools:

University vs. College
“Universities” are public four-year institutions that have large student bodies that vary in size from 20,000-63,000.

“Colleges” are like US community colleges and are two-year schools. Students can gain a skill set and/or choose to transfer to a university.

NOTE: There are some private universities in Canada, but most have a religious affiliation, smaller student populations, and are liberal arts based.

Co-Op Experience
Universities in Canada are big on co-op/internship experience. Like at Northeastern University, students will have the opportunity to complete paid work for a semester anywhere they would like (opportunities are not limited by proximity to the university). Tuition is also cheaper when students complete a co-op. During the application process, students will often be asked to indicate whether they are interested in pursuing one. Because almost all Canadian students partake in a co-op experience, there are typically fewer general education requirements.

Application requirements for US students typically include high school transcripts, test scores, and sometimes an interview and/or letters of recommendation. The application process is far less intense than at US colleges: many do not even require an essay. Extracurriculars are also not a key component of the applications.

NOTE: The Canadian Universities mentioned in this article are not on the Common or Coalition Application, so their applications must be submitted on the respective school’s website.

The average cost of attendance for a US student is $32,000 but varies from institution to institution and depends on which program a student is studying. Students can typically take out loans, but not Pell Grants, through the FAFSA.

Here is some general information on four of the most popular Canadian universities: the University of British Columbia, Toronto, McGill, and Waterloo.

University of British Columbia
Admissions: Accepts both SAT and ACT scores: average SAT is 1270-1450, ACT is 28-31.

According to their website, “The grades you’ll need to be considered for an offer of admission from UBC differ by degree and vary from year to year. In past years, a B average (a combination of mainly A and B grades) on your country’s grading scale was required.” UBC considers your grades in all Grade 11 (junior level) and Grade 12 (senior level) classes, paying special attention to courses that relate to the degree you’re applying to. It is important to understand that when you are applying for a specific program, certain classes in high school will be required.

Regular decision deadline: January 15th. No early decision, early action, or rolling admissions.

Foreign Students: $29,713 - $38,052
Canadian Students: $5,399 - $7,185

Strongest Programs: Forestry, transportation science & technology, sport sciences, telecommunications, international relations, evolutionary biology, computer science

Campus Life: Very diverse student body, as students come from all over the world to attend. Since it’s in Vancouver, there is easy access to the city and its offerings from great restaurants, museums, concerts, and other nightlife. If students choose to stay on or near campus, there is plenty to do, as there are hiking trails, a museum, and a (nude) beach on campus.

University of Toronto
Admissions: Most successful applicants present:

  • A grade point average of B+ or higher, and
  • Scores of at least 630 on each section of the Redesigned SAT and scores of at least 6 in each section of the Essay, OR, an ACT Composite score of least 28 and ACT Writing Score of at least 8, and
  • Score of at least 3 on each AP exam

Regular decision deadline: January 15th. No early decision, early action, or rolling admissions.

Foreign Students: $35, 890 - $55,100
Canadian Students: $6,100 - $11,420

Strongest Programs: Nursing, anatomy & physiology, geography, computer science, education, medicine, anthropology and religious studies. Known for strong research

Campus Life: Students have very diverse backgrounds in race, religion, sexual orientation, academic focus, postgraduate aspirations, socioeconomic background, disability, nationality, athleticism, and community involvement. There's always something happening in Toronto: the Toronto International Film Festival, skating in Nathan Phillips Square, etc. Students benefit from the fact that the Royal Ontario Museum is on campus, a ton of pubs and art galleries are within walking distance, and a nightlife to suit just about any type of person can be found in Toronto.

McGill University
Admissions: Accepts both SAT and ACT scores: average SAT is 1290-1460, ACT is 29-32.

Academic achievement in grades 10, 11, and 12 will be considered, particularly prerequisites for the program to which you applied. All results are taken into consideration, including those for failed or repeated courses.

Regular decision deadline: January 15th. No early decision, early action, or rolling admissions.

Foreign Students: $17,421 - $20,229
Canadian Students: $2,544 - $7,940

Strongest Programs: Medicine, engineering, English, international development studies, political science, economics

Campus Life: First-year students often party in their residences or go to local bars, while upperclassmen more often go to clubs. Montreal has plenty of options for students to explore restaurants, cutting-edge art galleries, and world class culture. This city has something for everyone, no matter your interests. Students here are very serious and do spend a lot of time studying.

University of Waterloo
Admissions: Depending on what program you are applying to, the requirements can vary, but know that the STEM programs are the most competitive.

41% of all students at the University of Waterloo achieved an average equal to or greater than 90% (A-) in secondary school. We asked an admissions officer what the average test scores are, and they replied, “We do not have an average or minimum score for the ACT/SAT. They are only required for American students who are applying to the Faculty of Engineering. Our decisions are based on the competitiveness of the applicant pool each year. While many students in other programs submit them, they are added to their file as supplemental information only. Decisions are based mainly on school grades/AP scores.”

Engineering application is due January 31st, while all other applications are due March 27th. No early decision, early action, or rolling admissions.

Foreign Students: $28,744 - $35,251
Canadian Students: $6,128 - $7,611

Strongest Programs: Civil and environmental engineering, software engineering, English language and literature, biomedical engineering, economics. It’s worth noting that Waterloo’s Engineering school is Canada’s largest and is ranked in the world’s Top 50. Also, Waterloo has the world’s largest co-op program: 7,000+ employers from around the world actively recruit UWaterloo co-op students.

Campus Life: Located about an hour west of Toronto in the burgeoning Canadian tech hub of Kitchener-Waterloo, it has established itself as one of Canada’s reigning STEM schools. As one student says, “I won’t deny it, we are a studious bunch. And we’re ambitious, too.” Nightlife in Waterloo operates on a calendar, with a student deal at a different club or bar almost every night of the week. Everything is centred around uptown Waterloo, which is within easy walking distance from most student neighborhoods. Waterloo puts on great events like Winterloo and Open Streets. Kitchener—which is right next door—hosts the biggest Oktoberfest celebration in Canada, as well as music festivals such as the Kitchener Blues Fest, KOI Music Festival and Ever After EDM festival.