McGill Visit

Hi all,

I have read through some great threads on McGill and know there are some active McGill parents on this site. I’m hoping some of them will see this and respond.

Now that the US/Canadian border will open August 9 (yay!) we are going to go to Montreal in late August to check out McGill. My son would be applying for Fall 22 likely for the Science (biology) faculty.

We love just about everything we have heard about McGill and Montreal. French influence, international student body, rigorous, independent.

Here are a couple questions:

  • Anything to be sure to do or see while we are there? Any suggestions for hotels near campus?

  • One of the things I love about what I hear about McGill is that it requires kids to be adults. The only thing in that category that gives me pause is when people say things like academic advising is non-existent. I do think an academic advisor is an important part of the college experience - not to handhold or provide a safety net, but to give real and tangible information and guidance on courses & requirements. Any McGill students or parents have thoughts on this?

Thanks so much!

SM

The Delta and Hilton Garden on Sherbrooke St. are across the street from campus. The St. Martin on Maisonneuve is also a block away and very new. Although any downtown hotel would be within walking distance of campus.

Academic advising is of course available but a student will have to seek it out. My son is a Desautels graduate from 1999. (yikes!) He told me that when he first met with an adviser he had a proposed schedule of classes selected. The adviser reviewed it and suggested a change and planned out the next semester. Back then the course catalogue was paper, now it is online. Advisers appreciate it if the student comes prepared rather than having to start from scratch. Most programs have many option: major, faculty, honours etc. and it can be confusing. Also, a student should not delay taking a required course in order to avoid an early 8:30 AM time slot. That can lead to problems down the road.

My son enjoyed his four years there immensely, both McGill and being in Montreal. He also met the woman who would eventually become his wife. That was good side benefit!

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My son did not end up attending but if you are not from the northernmost reaches of the US, please make sure to visit in winter at least once so he sees what his life for most of the school year will be like…it’s cold!

Thank you! So helpful. No issues with the need for kids to self advocate (as they will have to do in life!) but good to know that the support is ultimately there. I think my son would also really enjoy his time there, and once again, thanks so much for the help.

All best,
SM

Thank you for starting this thread. Montreal & McGill both are of interest to me. I would enjoy reading any comments about either the school or the city.

As a side note: Bad Blood is a two season series on Netflix based in Montreal. The first season is based on actual events & circumstances in Montreal, while the second (final season) season is pure fiction.

My son is entering his 4th year at Desautels (business school). He has been tested, sometimes severely, but overall has had a positive experience there. He has some scathing things to say about the administration, and the Quebec government. Has also had some mediocre teachers. He tends not to spend much time with official academic advisors, and instead makes use of unofficial ones, such as fellow students, grad students, and teachers. It’s not really that hard…there are some very smart people there.

I am not trying to be negative, but also don’t want to sugarcoat things. McGill is a place where a competent, smart, well adjusted person goes to test themselves. Covid changed things for the worse, but the same could be said of just about anywhere.

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Any comments with respect to large class size at McGill University ?

Depends what faculty you are in, and what year. It’s best to think of McGill as a rigorous Big 10 school with really bad football and a strong international vibe… Class sizes can be big for some first year courses that are mandatory, or near mandatory, but get smaller once you get to Junior and Senior year.

Thank you for responding.

I am aware that class size decreases as one advances. Curious as to how large intro classes can be.

Again, there are so many different faculties that it would depend. Desautels is a school within a school, so the numbers would be smaller, but a common, shared intro class like Linear Algebra can have 200 people. The grading can be brutal.
Just talked to Son about class sizes, who is going into senior year at Desautels. He said that some classes will still be as much as 150 people, though broken down into smaller groups. We’ll see this year.

Ask about housing.

Probably way late here - early Sept. Intro classes can be large…500 for some…but differs by Faculty. My son (Econ Major/Poli Sci Minor) was in classes as small as 11 his final year. Phenomenal education - incredibly rigorous (my kids went to a top Boston area HS). Someone mentioned housing: really only for first years. Then kids move off campus to apartments…mostly in the McGill Ghetto and the Plateau. Incredible student life at McGill - something for everyone. Montreal is a fabulous city - lively, relatively inexpensive, and very safe.

The no handholding is true - but there is help there but kids need to seek it out. Twice in four years my son got caught in a bit of annoying bureaucracy. But he was able to talk to an advisor when he needed one and same with Professors.

My son ended up staying in Montreal. He got an internship through McGill that turned into a full time job that then turned into a promotion and better job - all in the course of 6 months. (Seriously.)

He considers McGill the “best decision” he has ever made. Turned down several schools (including an offer to run at a D1 school) - he is glad he did. That said, McGill does have a strong culture - the workload is intense, the rigor is real, and this is Canadian grading - class averages (by design) are usually in the C+/B- range. It is a big shock for kids from the US who are used to our system of grading.

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