Why Americans Attend Canadian Universities


Attending university is an important decision, as it takes into account a huge array of factors, from expenses, living accommodations, program requirements, and potential for job placement. Finding the right fit for you is important, as the time, money, and energy put into your university education needs to be well spent. In light of all this, considering international universities is always an option. One such example is the relationship between Canada and the United States, in which approximately 10,000 American students head up north to Canadian universities every year. This article will look at a number of possible reasons why Americans attend Canadian universities and the factors that should be considered before you decide to make a similar move.

A Quick Overview of Why Americans Attend Canadian Universities

International students account for a meaningful percentage of Canadian university students. McGill University, University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto, some of the best universities in the country, have the highest number of international students in Canada. Their programs and services cater to both international and domestic students and provide programs that are attractive to students from other countries, the United States included. For the most part, Americans consider Canadian universities as viable options because of a combination of a number of incentive programs combined with affordability, fair application requirements, and world-class programs.

Understanding Why Americans Attend Canadian Universities

You might be wondering why American students would consider Canadian universities as a potential choice for their post-secondary education. There are a number of factors that might be influencing their decision, from cost to quality to atmosphere. We will outline a few of the most common reasons here:


Many American schools have very high tuition rates, often more than most students can afford without taking out hefty student loans. One of the reasons why Americans attend Canadian universities is because they provide similar qualifications and quality of education for a comparable overall cost.

Canadian universities are almost exclusively public institutions, meaning they get the funding and quality standards that go along with being public. As a result, the quality of Canadian university education is very high, in many cases higher than many American institutions, meaning that Canadian schools offer good quality programs for less cost than their American equivalents.

One factor that contributes to the low cost, aside from government support, is that Americans attending Canadian universities can take advantage of the exchange rate between American and Canadian currency and stretch their finances even further. For those students interested in working to finance their education, some Canadian schools allow international students to obtain a work permit after a certain amount of time has passed. This gives American students the opportunity to work part-time in order to fund their education. Additionally, students studying abroad may be eligible for financial aid from the American government. Some provincial student financial aid is available for provincial residents as well as citizens and landed immigrants, but this varies by region.

Attending Canadian universities can sometimes come at the expense of “branding” from universities like Stanford and Harvard, which can allow their graduates easier access to employment through the recognition of the prestige of their alma mater. If you are willing to look past this minor quality, Canadian universities can help you save money without having to sacrifice quality.


On a related note, many international students, Americans included, can be eligible for scholarships at Canadian universities reserved exclusively for international students. These scholarships are offered to entice foreign students to acquire Canadian degrees and potentially develop a fondness for Canada through personal experience. They are also meant to incentivize students to look into Canadian universities as legitimate options and to generally reduce potential education costs for students.

Other Variables

Aside from the financial angle, there are a multitude of other reasons why Americans attend Canadian universities. Some Canadian universities offer specialized courses suitable for specific industries that students may be interested in if they want a job in a similar industry back home. For example, a student from Maine may go to a university in Nova Scotia to study fisheries and natural resource management because that is a major industry back home.

Employers may find degrees from Canadian universities more appealing in the United States because it implies that someone is versatile and potentially has access to contacts across the border. Even better, most employers consider Canadian degrees to be “just as good” as American degrees, so students can get the benefits of Canadian education without having to worry about having a degree that isn’t recognized once they get home.

Generally speaking, registration and application processes are less headache inducing than American schools; most Canadian universities don’t require essays or recommendation letters, or even extracurricular activities, but this varies by school and program. Furthermore, many schools don’t consider SAT scores, since there is no universal equivalent in Canada. Again, this varies by institution; for the most part Canadian universities can be slightly more forgiving when it comes to credentials and academic track records than many of the major American schools.

Subjective Reasons

On a more personal level, there are a few characteristics of Canada and Canadian universities that can help determine why Americans attend Canadian universities.

For one, the option of citizenship is available after a particular amount of time has been spent as a resident of Canada (usually six months), which your schooling would count towards. Canadian universities may be great entry points for anyone looking to immigrate.

The drinking age across Canada is also lower than every single U.S. state, with most provinces setting their legal drinking age at 19, and others as low as 18. Student interested in the social side of university and college life may find this appealing, but likely won’t be the only reason students consider.

On a more personal level, Canadian society is generally more tolerant. Students who may not feel comfortable going to school in the U.S., for one reason or another, may feel more accommodated in Canada merely because they won’t be judged as openly or readily.

Determining the Reasons Why Americans Attend Canadian Universities

Overall, there are a number of reasons why Americans attend Canadian universities. Whether it’s the reduced costs, the quality of the programs, the application requirements, or the potential for citizenship, choosing to study abroad in Canada can be an exciting and meaningful experience for students all over the world. Before committing to anything, however, you should take note of your reasons for applying and evaluate the pros and cons. While the experience will undoubtedly be worthwhile, choosing the right school for your needs is important, regardless of where you decide to attend or the program you wish to study.