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Articles / Applying to College / College in Canada?

College in Canada?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Jan. 24, 2017

For you high school juniors looking for a good college match, have you considered a Canadian school? Our neighbors to the north have a lot to offer.

Depending on where you live in the United States, going to school in Canada may not require traveling as far as you might have to do if you went to a distant American college. For those of you in the Northeast, especially the far northern Northeast, it may be a case of “just across the border.”

I came across an interesting article that discusses the Canadian option. What surprises me is that the article begins by making a political reference about why some U.S. students may want to consider a Canadian college:

“This year’s surge in the number of Americans applying to Canadian universities is not a clear sign that today’s students are dodging Donald Trump the way their grandparents dodged Vietnam, university admission experts say.”


I find it odd that The Globe and Mail‘s education reporter would start an article entitled Canadian universities see rise in U.S. applicants by positing that it’s possible that more Americans are surging north because of our new president. This may fall into the category of blaming every change in the status quo on the supposed global hatred for one politician. However, that’s another story for another day. The focus here is on the search for possible colleges.

If American students are not applying to Canadian colleges because they fear American’s new president, then what’s the deal? Why this sudden increase in interest? Here are some excerpts from the article that might stimulate your search criteria:

At many Canadian universities, applications from U.S. students for the 2017-18 academic year are up between 20 per cent and 80 per cent compared to last year, an informal survey conducted by The Globe and Mail shows. Even smaller schools such as Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., say they have seen applications from the United States increase by more than 60 per cent.

The interest comes after several years of renewed recruiting efforts in the United States. While the results of the U.S election may have stoked this year’s numbers, those recruitment campaigns combined with the drop in the Canadian dollar are likely to have played a large role, universities say.


Seeing increases from 20 to 80 (!) percent tells me that that, as Mad Man‘s Don Draper notes, marketing (which is the parent of recruiting) is a two-edged sword. It can turn a prospect on or off, depending on how it’s delivered. Apparently, Canadian schools, even smaller, less well known institutions, have increased the art of reaching their candidates to the south.

Canadian schools are not unique in seeing increases in interest … Applications to American colleges are up over all. Prestigious universities such as Yale, Columbia, Cornell and Princeton saw increases of between 9 per cent and 18 per cent.

Increasingly, students in the United States are also applying earlier, hoping to improve their chances of getting into their first-choice universities. For example, Harvard’s average acceptance rate is 5 per cent but rises to 14 per cent for those students who apply by November …

Well, we’ve frequently discussed here the advantages, disadvantages, and dream-crushing potentials of applying early to the Ivy League and other so-called elite schools. It has become something of a frantic scramble by many seniors to acquire a “successful” future by hanging a “prestigious” college degree on their office wall. I wish that somehow they could know that happiness and success are nor synonymous with Harvard and Stanford.

The article continues:

[However] High application numbers don’t automatically translate into more students enrolling … In fact, universities in the United States have invested heavily in a variety of strategies – including data-analytics programs – to ensure that they offer admission only to students who are likely to accept. Otherwise, institutions waste time and money pursuing students who have already committed to going elsewhere.

But while Canadian schools are increasingly recruiting globally, they do not appear to be as far along in developing enrolment strategies. As a result, it won’t be clear until the spring whether this year’s surge brings more Americans to our campuses. …

… Still, Canada’s reputation as diverse, accepting and egalitarian appears to be a draw for students this year …

Fair enough. These are good, attractive reasons for potential applicants to consider. However, I might add one caution to the Canadian schools’ hopes for increased enrollment: Don’t forget about the drawing power of financial aid.

In working with my clients over many decades, I have found that in an overwhelming number of cases, the ability to pay and how college costs impact family finances rises to the top of enrollment considerations. Accordingly, once the numbers are in for this year’s admissions cycle, it would be helpful to see an analysis that compares Canadian enrollments (or declinations) with their associated financial aid packages. Logic would dictate that better financial aid leads to more enrollments, not in all cases, naturally, but there is a positive correlation.


To illustrate my point about paying for a Canadian college education, here are some words of wisdom from Heidi Schmaltz, an American student at a Canadian university:

Studying in Canada may be somewhat cheaper, but financial aid resources for American students in Canada are limited. While we can get U.S. federal student loans to study in Canada, many U.S. scholarship programs cannot give awards to students outside the country.

The good news is that at some schools American students can work for a few hours a week on campus. In my experience, jobs are easy to find. Canadian students who work during the summer have enough money to support themselves through the rest of the year. In British Columbia the minimum wage is a little over $5 an hour, but while you are earning Canadian you are also buying things at Canadian prices. So the $5 an hour goes a lot further. It’s when you go home to the States that you feel poor.

At this moment, one U.S. Dollar equals 1.33 Canadian Dollars. So, the exchange rate is in favor of Americans going to school in Canada. But, as Schmaltz notes, working a job to support your college expenses in Canada and then bringing that money back home can be a bit of a downer, economically. So, then, both general and specific financial considerations loom large in making a decision to go to school in Canada.

Weather is another consideration. Canada is farther north than most U.S. colleges. If you’re a skier, then that’s probably good news. If you’re a surfer, maybe not so much good news. So, consider climate issues. You’ll also have to figure out those different (from the U.S.’s) Celsius temperature readings and get used to the metric system. (Hint: “kilometers” are known colloquially as “klicks,” if you want to sound local in Toronto.)

Best wishes for your college search. Canada may be for you. Check it out.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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