Canadian vs American Universities


I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on if I should look at Canadian universities or not. I was born and live in America, but am a US-Canadian dual citizen which from what I’ve read means that my tuition in Canada will be significantly lower than the 50-80k in the States (I might get merit scholarships, but will not qualify for need based aid). While I can afford the cost of college here without going in to debt, I’d rather not spend money I don’t have to and that has led me to increasingly consider Canadian schools. My big question is, is is it worth going to a Canadian school If I eventually want to return to the US for grad school and a career (This is my main dilemma, would a Canadian school hurt my chance for US grad school admissions?)? I also really like the idea of a small liberal arts school like Grinnell or Pomona which to my knowledge are pretty much exclusive to America so I’m not sure the cost savings are worth it, but would be interested to see what others think.

Overall I would be interested to hear what you think about choosing either between the two countries.


If you prefer a small LAC type school, then better to remain in the US.

Canada does have liberal arts universities like Mount Allison (think W&M in the US).

Mount Allison students have won 55 Rhodes scholarships, which is more than Williams or Amherst (or any LAC in the US, I believe).


No. The US and Canada have the same academic systems and both students and faculty regularly go between unis in the same country.

I would say the top Canadian unis like UT/McGill/UBC are in the same league as good American publics like UMich/UW-Madison/UW-Seattle/UCLA/UCSD.

Waterloo like GaTech is great in CS and engineering and features co-op though in terms of impact in SV, it’s probably between GaTech and MIT.

Whether it’s “worth it” is a subjective decision and also depends on how much 6 figures means to your family. Though you can do a lot with that type of money, and invested, that money can grow in to a lot over decades (affording early retirement, for instance).

As an American citizen in the US, you also must qualify for in-state residency somewhere, and in-state publics definitely do not cost $50-80K/year.

That’s what I need to decide. I’m very fortunate that my family can afford the cost, but it is still a lot of money and I want to make sure I make the most of it. Also, yes I will get in state tuition in Ohio (and an additional discount at OSU), but if I am staying in the US I would rather go to a LAC out of state which would cost those prices. My thought is that if I’m going to go to a large state school in the U.S. I might as well go to a large school in Canada.

My daughters were in the exact same situation. One went to university in the US. The other went to university in Canada. Yes, Canadian universities are WAY less expensive. We paid less in Canada that we would have paid for our in-state public university, and that was even considering the very good merit scholarship that we were offered by the in-state public university.

I know multiple people who have done their bachelor’s in Canada and then either a master’s or PhD or both in the US. However, the number is small enough that it is hard to know what impact if any this has on grad school admissions.

As far as I know the term “liberal arts college” is unique to the US. However, the concept is not. Canada has “small primarily undergraduate universities”. We looked at several of them in eastern Canada. Four very good ones that we looked at are Mount Allison (New Brunswick), Acadia and St Francis Xavier (Nova Scotia), and Bishop’s (in Quebec, but an English language university in a bilingual town). We liked all of them quite a bit and the most difficult thing was choosing between them.

I am told that UNBC (in Northern BC) and Lethbridge (in Alberta) are very good, but they are too far away for us since we live in the northeast of the US. There are also a couple of very good small primarily undergraduate universities in Ontario but they appear to be relatively far north.

One thing that I noticed regarding my daughter who went to university in Canada: You get more classes in your major or closely related to your major. There seem to be fewer “not related to the major” requirements. I was quite impressed by the number of classes that she took that were quite advanced. Another thing that I noticed is that if you attend university in Canada then your contacts and friends will be in Canada. This makes returning to the US not certain.

The most annoying thing for an American attending university in Canada appears to be dealing with the US tax system. It runs close to being as complex as a human can possibly figure out without a professional accountant (which is lousy when you have almost no income).

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Yes, a major/honours degree at Canadian unis tends to vary between an American major (typically 25-40% of 4 years for non-professional majors) and Scottish honours degree (75% of 4 years in 1 or 2 subjects).

A Scottish honours degree (or a 3 year English undergraduate degree) and also a Canadian honours degree in one subject would be equivalent to a major+Masters degree in the US.

*A professional major being something like engineering or design)