University Abroad? Canada is calling

In recent years, the number of international students enrolled in Canadian universities has increased, with over 500,000 international students as of 2018 – a 16% increase from the year before and a 73% increase in the last five years. On the global stage, Canada is seen as providing a world-class education at around half the cost of the US. Five Canadian universities feature in the Top 100 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019

There are many reasons why Canada is growing in popularity as a destination for higher education. Canada has generous work permit policies for international students, along with a growing number of job prospects in industries such as oil and gas, science and technology, and manufacturing. Upon graduation, students can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This permit is issued for the same number of years as their study programme allowing them to gain valuable work experience. It also provides the student with an opportunity to apply for permanent resident status to continue working in Canada. 

Canadian universities offer ‘Co-Op’ programmes which allow students to combine their academic studies with paid work experience in their field of study. Thus, a student can get exposure to work-life and hands-on experience early on (and potentially switch majors or make other adjustments). Universities that offer Co-Op programmes have many employers readily recruiting students on campus.

The application process for Canadian universities is somewhat simpler than the US. Admission is based on two main requirements: high school transcripts (focused on grades 10-12) and extracurricular activities. Depending on the university, students may also have to submit essays. There are no standardised test requirements (SAT/ACT), however, some universities and courses may have their own entrance tests.

Finally, Canadian universities are generally cheaper. International student fees at Canadian universities approximately range between US$15,000 – US$36,000 per year. Student living expenses vary considerably depending on the location within Canada and spending habits, but average between US$6,000 – US$9,000 per year. 
Yash’s initial plan was to study in the US – he applied to eight US colleges and one in Canada. He was of the belief that all colleges in the US had a stronger reputation. After getting offers from 5 of his 8 US choices, including Duke, University of Southern California and Tufts, as well as McGill in Canada, he started doing some research on the pros and cons of the US versus Canada.

Yash was awarded a full scholarship at Tufts in the US and a partial scholarship at McGill in Canada. Factoring in living expenses, McGill worked out to be the more attractive option for him. He also found that in his subject area of Chemical Engineering, McGill was more highly recognised than Tufts, and in general, the global prominence of some Canadian colleges was  very strong. Furthermore, Yash considered the relatively easier access to work opportunities in Canada, especially for graduates in his field of Chemical Engineering.

On weighing his options, Yash decided that Canada and McGill was the better fit for him. So far, he is happy with his choice, citing a good study-life balance and vast international student community at McGill, as well as the welcoming nature of Canadians, as great advantages. Yash is not enrolled in a Co-Op Programme but is looking to build his work experience through summer internships. In his programme, he also has the option of taking a gap semester to do a longer summer internship.
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