College in Canada or the United Kingdom

 College in Canada

Canada UBC
University of British Columbia

Canada has universities that are as well known worldwide and academically excellent as any in the United States. Every year one or two of our graduates go to college in Canada.  Some do it to gain an international perspective and to try living in a society that’s distinct from America.  Some have a family tie to Canada, or have traveled there before and liked it.  Maybe some just love winter, although it’s really not that cold on the British Columbia coast.  Canada’s universities are publicly supported and tuition charges (even for American students) are about half what a private American university would charge, and less than the out-of-state tuition at most American state universities.

Some Canadian Universities with international reputations include:

McGill University in Montreal: English has always been the language of instruction at McGill, even though Montreal is in French-speaking Quebec.
The University of Toronto: Canada’s largest and best known.
The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. (If you like this part of the world Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria are nearby.)
Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

McGill University
McGill University
University of Toronto Health Sciences Complex
University of Toronto Health Sciences Complex


College in the United Kingdom?

Cambridge University
Cambridge University

UK UnitedKingdomFlag

Most of the world’s best universities are in the United States and Canada.  Many of the rest are England and Scotland.  All British universities are subsidized by their government, which means that tuition charges are low.  British citizens pay very little in tuition and fees, but even American citizens studying in the United Kingdom pay much less than an American private university would charge.

Getting admitted into British universities is complicated, though, because of the differences in our educational systems.  British teenagers applying to universities take a series of exams called “A levels”.  As an American high school student, you might not do very well on the “A levels” even if you could figure out where to take them.  You haven’t studied English history or government, or read enough English literature.  Even the science and math exams might focus on different topics, or topics presented in a way that’s different than what you’re used to.  Also, British students generally enter university a year later than Americans, so they’ve studied these topics in more depth.

When applying to British universities all you have to offer them are your American high school diploma, your SAT scores and maybe some AP classes or community college classes.  For most British universities this is enough, and for a few it isn’t.  England’s top two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, don’t really encourage applications from American high school students.  In any case, these universities are as competitive to get into as Harvard or Stanford.

Scottish universities are more welcoming because the Scottish secondary school system more closely resembles ours.  The University of Edinburgh accepts Americans with strong SAT scores and three AP tests.  The University of St. Andrews has accepted several students from our school in recent years.  The University of Stirling enrolls hundreds of American students.  The policy on American applicants varies from one university to another, but grades and test scores are usually the only criteria that matter to UK admission officers.

The University of London is really a collection of independent schools with names like University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary, and the London School of Economics.  Each has its own admissions process.  Queen Mary welcomes American students and does not require AP exams for admission.  If you don’t get in to Queen Mary, it also offers a one year pre-undergraduate “foundation programme” for international students to prepare for admission to British universities.  Once you complete the program you are automatically admitted to Queen Mary, and in a strong position to apply to others as well.  A lot of British universities have foundation programmes like this.  This could be the way to go if you have your heart set on one of the difficult-to-get-into British universities.  Already having done one year of U.S. university study will satisfy the admissions requirements of any UK university. The British Council’s web site has a useful overview of all this.

At British universities, you apply directly to the department (biology, economics, etc.) that you intend to major in. The curriculum is specialized and less broad than in American colleges and universities. There are few distribution requirements. It is expected that you already obtained a good general education before you came to the university.

Oxford University:
Cambridge University:
The University of London:
University College London:
King’s College London:
Queen Mary University of London:
Queen Mary’s Foundation Programme:
The London School of Economics:
The University of Edinburgh:
The University of Saint Andrews:
The University of Stirling:
The British Council:

On December 1, 2008 the New York Times featured a front-page article on the growing popularity of Scottish universities among American students.

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