Call of the North

As of last Friday, the United States officially ceded control of all three branches of government to the G.O.P. As a result, many politically-aware U.S. high school students are looking at international options for their 2017-2018 university studies. Canada’s reputation for multiculturalism and civil political discourse, as well as its relative proximity to the U.S., makes study here an attractive option. Indeed, Canada is an excellent choice for those U.S. students looking for an elite international education that’s not too far from home. Study at one of Canada’s top universities can also be an incredible launchpad for further travel and global citizenship.

However, there are an enormous number of things to consider before applying anywhere as an international student, and applying to study in Canada is no exception. International students must navigate immigration policy, cultural differences, academic expectations, and urban/rural campus life. If you are thinking about applying to any of Canada’s universities, this article provides a good starting point as you consider whether or not Canada would be a good fit for you personally and academically, and perhaps, later on, professionally.

Canadaland is, in many important ways, very different from the U.S. and, depending on who you are, those differences may greatly influence your academic success in the “the 51st state.” An undergraduate or graduate degree from a Canadian university can create lots of opportunity for you in a country with a different set of political and cultural priorities than the U.S. And, yes, studying in Canada is a great way to get started on the road to permanent residency or dual-citizenship.


The Undergraduate Experience:

Decidedly less political. Decidedly more polite.

  • Shorter semesters.

– 13-week rather than 16-week semesters.

  • Ivy League professors accessible at public universities.

 A look at any departmental website will show a huge number of professors who earned their Ph.D.’s at elite schools in the U.S. and then came to Canada to teach.

  • No Greek system except at UBC.

-­ This doesn’t mean campus life is boring! It just means that the social life of most universities tends to be focused in social and academic clubs, and sports.

  • No federal oversight of public universities. 

– Provincial governments have oversight over these universities and so policy administration varies from province to province. In practical terms, this means that there are no Title IX protections based on gender, and funding for public universities varies significantly.

  • Currently, immigration to Canada is still relatively easy.

– The U.S. and Canada are great economic allies and because of this student visas are relatively easy to obtain. This may change depending on how the relationship develops between Prime Minister Trudeau and the new U.S. President.

  • Political protests on Canadian universities tend to focus on global issues rather than issues commonly found in U.S. politics.

 Black Lives Matter and activism around sexual assault on campus were definitely issues at many Canadian universities in 2016. In addition to protests over domestic politics, because of the number of international students, many of the politics found on Canadian university campuses represent students’ intimate understanding of global issues.

The Graduate School Experience: “Don’t get isolated up there.”

-My undergrad mentor, on hearing that I had been accepted to an M.A. program at U.B.C.

  • Great funding and elite mentorship but at less well-known universities.

– This is a major consideration for students working toward a professorship or some kind of tenured academic position after completing their graduate work.

  • Graduate study provides major opportunities for international travel.

– About a half dozen of Canada’s universities are on the list of the world’s top 200 universities. This means that completed graduate work at one of these universities can open the doors to work and further study in some European Union states, which are notoriously difficult to emigrate to.

  • U.S. Stafford and GradPlus loans are still available for study at Canadian universities.

– Often, study at a Canadian university will come with a decent-sized funding package, but depending on where your university is, it may or may not cover the cost of living expenses, especially Vancouver or Toronto.

  • Your Canadian tuition may be less than your domestic U.S. tuition.

 – Canadian public universities offer really democratic tuition rates, and the conversion rate of the U.S. Dollar to Canadian Dollar might mean that you pay significantly less for your graduate degree.