Advice to Incoming American (and Other International) Students

I posted this thread a couple years ago but that thread is now closed.

A complaint from Canadian students at McGill is that many American students, even dual citizens, know very little about Canada. I would suggest that you do some reading, even if it is just Wikipedia articles, to get up to speed.

Learn about the parliamentary system and other aspects of Canadian government. For example a province can choose not to abide by a Supreme Court decision; several provinces have public Catholic schools; most private schools, secular and religious, are subsidized by the government. That all sounds very “un-American”.

Also read up on the unique history of Quebec and Montreal . Learn why there are two major English universities in a French speaking city. You will hear about Bill 101. You will be a part of Montreal’s 400,000 strong Anglophone minority, which has a long and turbulent history. Learning a few words and phrases of French would be helpful. If you studied French in high school Montreal would give you an opportunity to expand that knowlwdge.

Bonne Chance!

1 Like

Hi @TomSrOfBoston or anyone,

With the corona virus outbreak, the likelihood of visiting McGill campus prior to a decision day is near zero, I’d appreciate any insight about the school from an American perspective.

  1. Is there an American university that has a similar campus setting / feel like McGill? Brown? Columbia?

  2. Academically, what American universities would be considered as McGill’s peers? My kid would be in either faculty of arts or faculty of agri/environmental science. If McGill were put on the US News ranking, would it be placed among top 25-50, 50-70, or ?

Thank you.

@belmontVA 1) McGill’s location is unique in North America in that the campus is literally in the middle of downtown Montreal yet it is not a concrete campus. Everything you can imagine is no more than a few blocks away. Also after first year students live off campus mostly in the adjacent “McGilll Ghetto”/Plateau neighborhood. Montreal is a very safe city, even by Canadian standards.

Note that Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is on the Macdonald campus about 25 miles west of downtown and is a totally different environment.

  1. In the USNews ranking McGill would likely fall around 25-30 for undergraduates. Their large first year classes would prevent McGill from ranking higher. In the worldwide rankings (THE, QS etc.) that are primarily based on graduate study and research McGill ranks in the 25-50 range worldwide.

McGill is not the “traditional college experience”. Athletics and Greek life exist but are a small part of the experience. Students are treated as adults. Support is available but a student would have to seek it out on their own. One example is that the drinking age in Quebec is 18 yet you do not have the massive frat parties and tailgaters that exist at many US universities.

Feel free to ask me any specifics.

Thank you much @TomSrOfBoston ! Your insight is helpful. I am sure that I will have follow up questions later. Appreciate your offer.

I somehow recalled a thread that might be created by you on the basics for American parents/students to know about attending a Canadian university, like bank, mobile phone, etc. But I can not find it. If you know what I am talking about, appreciate the link. Thanks again!

@BelmontVA I sort of remember that thread but it wasn’t mine. Here is one from 2018:
@ShrimpBurrito and @SwimmingDad are parents of current students and may be able to help.

Hi @BelmontVA
I PMed you.

@BelmontVA I will add my two cents as well.

I agree that the McGill setting is completely unique and I struggle to say “this school is comparable”. When you are on the main part of the campus, there is a big green space but literally on the other side of the street are the high rises of downtown Montreal. And the campus is built into Mont Royal, which is one of the prettiest urban parks/nature areas imaginable.

As others have said, students live on campus (if they choose…and most US students do) for their first year and then they will move off campus for your remaining years. In spite of that set up, there is a real sense of community. As a parent, it has been interesting to watch it from afar.

Montreal is an unbelievably wonderful city. Cultural, safe, affordable, fun bars, great restaurants. Students always have things to do. There are five major universities in Montreal…tons of college students. It has a bit of a Boston feel that way.

A key aspect of McGill - adulting. McGill offers tremendous resources and support but you have to seek them out. BUT…there is a sense of camaraderie amongst the students. I have watched my son (a third year) really become very self sufficient. It’s been great to see.

International - McGill has a LARGE International population…25% or so of the student body. My son now has friends from almost every continent and his world view is so much broader. To me this has been an unexpected and important part of his growth.

Reputation - I agree with @TomSrOfBoston’s review. I can tell you that my son is getting a top notch education for sure. (By background…I’m Penn undergrad and Michigan for graduate school.) McGill is a very rigorous and challenging school. The Canadian grading system is much harder than US schools.

I hope that helps. Please feel free to ask any questions…I know we are living in extraordinary times right now and making decisions without see the campus is hard. Best of luck!

Thank you very much @ShrimpBurrito @SwimmingDad And @TomSrOfBoston For all your feedback. 2020 has been a stressful time. Your kindness in taking your time in sharing your insights has brightened our family’ day. Stay well and healthy!

Tough to find an American comparable. I would say it’s like Edinburgh in the UK. Would be with the top (big) publics in the US. So maybe urban publics like Cal/UCLA (though with much more different weather).

Hi I am a current senior and was accepted into McGill, the University of Michigan and waitlisted at Penn. I doubt I’ll be getting into Penn, and am currently undecided between Michigan and McGill. As you were a graduate at Michigan and your son attends McGill, would you by chance have any insight regarding these universities?
Thank you!

McGill is so different than Michigan. Like comparing Apples to Oranges… Think of McGill as in the center of a unique cultural milieu ( French/ English). This academic/ cultural mix is something to behold. Not knocking Michigan, but for a true scholar McGill would be the first choice. If you are looking for Midwest US life and football, then go to Michigan. If you haven’t visited McGill Campus, then please do so. It is in the heart of Montreal and well… you have to see it.

Hello - What did you end up deciding? If you chose McGill, were you able to obtain a visa easily to go to Canada? Or are students still staying at home and doing online classes?