FAQ: Studying in the United States as a Canadian Student
From applying to paying for school, education in the USA is within your reach.
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Considering school in the United States? Some of the world's highest-ranked universities call the USA home, so you'll be in good company. Here's what you need to know to study abroad in the USA.
(Want to meet schools from across the United States, and get your questions answered? Check out US College Expo on Saturday, April 30, at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto. Students and families attend for free, so register now!)
How to apply to schools in the United States
Still looking for the right school? Check out the US school profiles on SchoolFinder. Ready to apply? Many schools use the Common Application, and some will require SAT, ACT, or other test scores. Read this article for details on visas and related paperwork to be sure you've got everything you need.
The costs of school in the United States
Paying for school is the most difficult part. Tuition and the cost of living varies across the country, so it's important to do some research before committing to a single school.
Tuition costs in the United States
Tuition fees depend on the school. Many universities are publicly funded, while some are private and even for-profit. Publicly funded universities are generally least expensive, while private institutions charge more. You can expect to pay anywhere between $10,000 and $60,000 per year to study in the United States.
Cost of living in the United States
The cost of living in the States can vary quite a bit, depending on your location. As a rule of thumb, the Northeast and California are the most expensive, while some Southern states are least expensive. Check out this fun state-by-state cost of living map to get a better idea of what costs are like in the US.
When you're considering accommodations, remember that many schools guarantee residence placements only for first-year students. You may need to find an apartment or rent a house with some roommates, so be sure to budget accordingly. To this end, many students find value in joining a fraternity or sorority, as a chance to make friends and have somewhere convenient to live. Of course, frats and sororities have associated costs, too.
How to pay for school in the United States
Now that you've decided the United States is the place for you, you'll need to be able to afford it. You have a few options — you may need to combine some of them to cover all your costs.
Schools with tuition discounts for Canadian students
Some schools in the United States offer tuition discounts or incentives to Canadian students. You can reach out to the schools that interest you and ask directly, or check out some of the big names on this list:
Canadians can apply for reduced tuition at any of Florida's 40 public universities and colleges.
The University of Maine boasts seven campuses, and Canadian students pay a reduced rate at each.
Manitoba and Minnesota have an agreement: Manitobans pay the same fees as Minnesotans when studying at any college or university in Minnesota.
For a longer list of opportunities for Canadian students in the States, check out this PDF from EducationUSA, or reach out to an EducationUSA advisor for details. More than 100 schools in the States offer reduced tuition to Canadians in some way.
Scholarships from American schools
When you enter a school in the United States as a Canadian, you'll be considered an international student. International students are generally eligible for some scholarships at each institution, though the amount and availability will vary — and generally, international students aren't eligible for all the same awards that domestic students are.
Awards are often based on your GPA and resumé, so having strong grades and volunteer or work experience is always a good thing.
American schools are also more likely to offer athletic scholarships than their Canadian counterparts. If you're a high-performing athlete, especially in a popular sport, schools in the United States might fight amongst themselves to recruit you!
Looking for awards? Consider browsing these search engines to find available scholarships:
Provincial student loan assistance
If you qualify for student aid through your province, you should be able to use that student loan in the United States. If your destination school is on the approved list your province uses, you'll be able to bring your student aid along.
Here are a few ways to check if your school is eligible:
Be aware that while the US offers federal student aid through FAFSA, Canadian students are not eligible for FAFSA! Canadians must apply for student aid in Canada instead.
Scholarships from the Canadian government
The Canadian government offers annual scholarships to encourage its citizens to earn an education abroad. The Organization of American States (OAS) scholarships are open to master's or PhD-level students heading to the United States. Recipients must agree to return to Canada for two years after graduation.
#YouAreWelcomeHere is an initiative to encourage more international students to choose the United States. Participating schools offer tuition at a 50% discount to at least two international students every year. New schools are joining the program all the time, so check the list to see which schools catch your eye.
The Canada-US Fulbright program also supports Canadian graduate students eager to study in the States. The Traditional Fulbright Student Award is worth $20,000 USD over 9 months. If you're studying at the graduate level, be sure to give this program a look.
The Humphrey fellowship program is a Fulbright initiative to encourage academic research in the United States. Professionals with a few years of experience — and at the least, a bachelor's degree — can get a year of research in the US covered by the program.
Bank loans and financing
Many students need a loan or line of credit to afford post-secondary. You might approach a local bank, or a company dedicated to loans for international students.
If you have a co-signer, you can try a Canadian bank for a student line of credit. Both BMO Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank both offer lines of credit to Canadians heading to the States to study. Generally, you'll be able to borrow anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the bank and your program of study. Learn more about student lines of credit in this article.
International student loans
Some organizations exist to offer loans to international students. MPOWER is one example. MPOWER offers no-cosigner loans to international students, especially those heading into STEM fields. The interest rate can be steep, but you could receive a loan of up to $100,000 USD. Just be sure you'll be able to pay it back when you graduate!
Stilt Inc. is another example. You need to be in the US to apply, and loans are only available for a handful of states at present, but the handy Stilt loan calculator can help you get a grip on potential expenses as you plan.
Working as a Canadian student in the United States
Most Canadian students in American schools will be able to work part-time during the semester, and full-time during breaks. To work while you study, you'll need:
Canadians can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year, and full-time (or beyond) during breaks and holidays. Be aware that Canadian students can only work on-campus when studying in the US.
The pros and cons of studying in the United States
Still on the fence? Here's a quick list of some of the best (and worst) things about attending college or university in the United States as a Canadian:
Pros of studying in the US
- Stronger fraternity and sorority culture
- Study an "undeclared" major while you decide on the right program
- Athletics is a bigger focus of school life
- Many of the world's highest-ranked schools call the USA home
- "Melting pot" culture contrasts with Canada's "mosaic"
- Into fashion, food, or future tech? The USA has plenty of each!
Cons of studying in the US
- Higher tuition costs with fewer financial supports
- You'll need to cover your own health insurance fees
- Admission rates can be competitive, especially in the Ivy League
- May be more difficult to find work opportunities, as you must work on-campus
- You won't be eligible for FAFSA, the United States' federal student aid program
Whether studying in the United States is right for you will depend on your goals. Home to many of the world's mostly highly-regarded institutions, the US could be the perfect place for you. Best of luck!
Register now for US College Expo on April 30
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