Canadian vs. US Universities – Advantages and Disadvantages

by Whitney Laughlin, Director of University Counselling

This past Monday, I was interviewed on CBC’s “On the Island” on why, especially with a comparatively weak US Dollar, Americans would want to come to Canadian universities. As a huge fan of Canadian universities, I have been, along with my colleagues from various Canadian post-secondaries, presenting at conferences throughout the US and Canada on this very topic.

In 2001, 2500 US students came to university in Canada; in 2011, it was about 10,000.

Cost is a major factor; for US students, the total cost (tuition, room, board and all expenses) to attend a Canadian university would be $26,000 to $35,0000, depending on the university (King’s and other Nova Scotia schools would be at the low end and UBC at the high end). The cost of tuition alone for students attending a selective out-of-state university in the States would be somewhere in that range – and some even higher.

My list would be too long for a brief blog, but some features/advantages that Canadian universities offer would be:

  • Canadian post-secondary education is uniformly strong and much more standardized than that of the USA. Canada’s education system ranks among the best in the world.
  • The United Nations ranked Canada as one of the best places in the world to live.
  • Co-op programs are much more developed here.
  • The possibility to work on campus and off and also work in Canada for three years after graduation.
  • Medical insurance is inexpensive.
  • Less emphasis on reference letters, essays, extra-curricular, and test scores for admission – a much more straightforward system of evaluation.
  • Canadian schools are not as “rah-rah” as most of those in the U.S. Not nearly as many caps and sweatshirts with the school’s logo.
  • Canadians public universities, even the large ones, are usually very user-friendly.
  • Canada is very tolerant of differences – a very multicultural country.

There is, however, no “one size fits all” when students are considering higher education. US schools – especially those small liberal arts gems – can offer a unique undergraduate experience. And the UK, for the right, very self-directed, student, can be a very good option. What it really comes down to is the right fit for each student.


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