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Look to Canada for opportunities to study abroad

Spending a semester abroad has become very popular in recent years as students and employers recognize the value of international experience in a global economy. But for some students, a semester or year outside the United States just isn't enough. They are finding exciting opportunities just over the border in Canada, which welcomed more than 10,000 U.S. students in 2011.
Students are living in a foreign country and learning about another culture without having to travel very far or become fluent in a foreign language. In Vancouver last summer I met a young man from the U.S. who had just graduated from University of British Columbia. He felt he received an excellent education, and perhaps because his Asian studies major was in a smaller department, he found that classes were reasonably small. He had a study-abroad experience in China and loved living in Vancouver.
He also enjoyed the international student body at UBC. He did say that students who thrive at the school need to be fairly independent, as they will not get the kind of nurturing students often find at schools in the U.S. At UBC and other Canadian universities, students can get to know professors and work on research projects with them, but it may takes a little more effort.
The quality of life is great in Canada, and some of the most prestigious universities are located in exciting cities, including Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You will also find liberal arts colleges in scenic parts of the country. Canada has more than 90 universities and 150 colleges offering a variety of programs.
Canada has a number of world-ranked universities. While Canadian universities offer bachelor's degrees as well as graduate degrees, the colleges are more like our community colleges, with certificate and diploma programs. There are a number of resources to help you sort through the options, including MacLean's on Campus magazine, which has university rankings as well as student surveys, campus news and articles about student life.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has a website with profiles of each institution, and you can search for schools by program and location. The Canadian Council of Ministers of Education also has a website with information about programs and costs at different schools. Getting a student visa is easy, and international students can work in Canada.
Some of the more familiar schools, such as the University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of British Columbia, attract a good number of international students At McGill, 19 percent of the students are from outside of Canada.
If you earn an undergraduate degree from a Canadian school, you can apply to graduate and professional schools in the United States, and students with a Canadian degree have been accepted at top U.S. law, medical, business and graduate schools.
Not only can students get an excellent education in Canada, but the cost may be significantly lower than what they would pay in the United States. The Canadian government heavily subsidizes higher education, so the cost, even for international students, is quite reasonable.
The admissions process at Canadian universities is different. Students apply to a specific program, so you need to know what you want to study, and you must have the prerequisite coursework to be accepted to that program. While the more selective schools ask for SAT or ACT scores, and possibly SAT Subject Test or AP scores in certain programs, Canadian universities focus more on grades and preparation for the specific program.

They don't care about extracurricular activities, so if you haven't demonstrated extraordinary leadership in high school but want to attend an internationally respected university, a Canadian school could be a great option. As is the case in the U.S., application procedures and deadlines vary, so it is important to check with each school.
American students are not eligible for need-based aid or Canadian federal loans but they can bring U.S. financial aid, including Stafford loans, to Canadian universities. They may also be eligible for academic scholarships at some schools.
Audrey Kahane is an independent college counselor. Email:
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1 comment:

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