April 14, 2023

Guide to Studying in Canada for International Students

Every year, tens of thousands of international students set their sights on North America, with many of them having to decide whether to study in Canada or the United States. Both countries are known for their quality of education and post-graduation employment opportunities, but there are some significant differences in tuition, financial aid, work opportunities, and immigration options that make Canada a preferred destination for international students. In this article, we’ll explore those differences and provide a comprehensive guide for international students considering Canada as their destination for higher education.


Quality of Education: Canada vs. the U.S.

When it comes to quality of education, both Canada and the U.S. have some of the best universities and colleges in the world. In fact, in the 2023 QS World University Rankings, both countries had universities in the top 20, with Canada having three (Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver) and the U.S. having two (Boston and New York City). However, when we look at data on a country-by-country basis, a recent survey by the International Development Project (IDP) found that Canada was the top choice destination for international students, with 27% of respondents considering it as their first choice. By comparison, only 15% of respondents picked the U.S., which ranked fourth behind Australia and the United Kingdom.


Price: Canada vs. the U.S.

One of the most significant factors that international students consider when choosing where to study abroad is the cost of education. In the U.S., the average cost of education ranges between $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the type of institution and level of study. On the other hand, the average cost of post-secondary education in Canada is between $20,000 to $40,000, again depending on the institution and level of study. While the costs may seem similar, it’s important to note the difference in currency. Canada’s more favorable exchange rate with an international currency, in addition to lower average tuition costs, makes it an attractive destination for international students compared to the U.S.


Financial Aid: Canada vs. the U.S.

International students also consider the availability of scholarships and bursaries when deciding where to study. While the U.S. does have state-funded and institution-specific scholarships for international students, there are no federally funded programs to deliver financial aid to international students. International students in the U.S. are also eligible for student loans, but they will need a credit-worthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

On the other hand, Canada has scholarships and bursaries for international students on the university, provincial, and federal levels that are often much easier to avail than comparable programs in the U.S. Based on their eligibility for the previous financial aid options, international students may instead choose to take out a private loan with a bank in Canada. These loans often have student-specific interest rates, which can make repayment more feasible for international students.


Work Opportunities: Canada vs. the U.S.

Work outcomes for international students are largely the same in both Canada and the U.S., with some notable differences between the two. For example, a survey by World Education News + Review (WENR) found that 62% of 1,095 international alumni respondents had found full-time employment after graduation. The National Bureau of Economic Research also found that roughly 23% of Master’s graduates found work in their state of study.

Comparatively, a 2022 study conducted by Statistics Canada found that international graduates at all levels of the study had on average a 73% full-time employment rate. While Canada has much higher international graduate participation in the workforce, work outcomes are largely comparable.


Immigration Options: Canada vs. the U.S.

One of the most significant factors that make Canada an attractive destination for international students is the immigration options available to them after graduation. Canada has a variety of programs that allow international students to stay and work in the country after they finish their studies, with the ultimate goal of becoming permanent residents. Some of the programs include the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, the Express Entry system, and the Provincial Nominee Program.

The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program allows students who have graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution to work in Canada for up to three years, depending on the length of their program of study. This allows them to gain valuable work experience in their field of study and potentially transition to permanent residency. The Express Entry system and the Provincial Nominee Program are additional pathways to permanent residency, with Express Entry being a points-based system that considers factors such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency, and the Provincial Nominee Program allowing provinces to nominate candidates who meet their specific labor market needs.

In contrast, the U.S. has limited immigration options for international students after graduation. While there is an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program that allows international students to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months after graduation, the program does not guarantee permanent residency. The H-1B visa, which is commonly used to hire international workers, has also become increasingly difficult to obtain in recent years due to changes in immigration policies.

In conclusion, while both Canada and the U.S. have excellent universities and colleges, there are significant differences in tuition, financial aid, work opportunities, and immigration options that make Canada a preferred destination for international students. From lower tuition costs to more accessible financial aid options and better immigration pathways, Canada offers a more attractive package for international students looking to study abroad.


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