Studying in the U.S.A.

Going south of the border for postsecondary school can mean an affordable international experience

Studying in the U.S.A.

They say that the grass is always greener on the other side. Some Ontario students are finding out if this is true or not by heading south of the border to study in the United States.

But what do schools in the States have to offer that Canada does not? Students travel to the U.S. for many reasons, such as scholarships, special programs and simply not having any other choice.

Sports and academic scholarships are great incentives to study in the States. Sacha Pavic found that to be the case after he played high school soccer for five years in Hamilton, Ontario. Canadian schools did not have the athletic opportunities he was looking for, so he enrolled in Felician College in Rutherford, N.J., to study psychology. He was even offered a scholarship. “I would use them for an education, and they would use me for athletics,” he says.

Prior to leaving for school, Pavic needed to obtain a visa to study stateside. All Canadian students who make the move to the U.S. will need an F1 visa, which allows students to study in the States for five years. Upon graduation, you must apply for an H1 visa for what is called optimal practical training. This visa lasts one year. In that time, you must find a steady job and a sponsor who will allow you to stay in the country.

Student life in the U.S. can be quite different from what you’d find in Canada. There are generally more people on campus and a different curriculum in school.

Ryan Kirshenblatt found university admission criteria to be different in the States than it is in Canada. In Canada, he says, it was all about his marks. In the U.S., they were more willing to consider factors other than his grades. After completing his studies at the University of Western Ontario, Kirshenblatt applied to law schools across Canada and the U.S. “My plan was to attend law school in Canada,” he explains. “But admission to law school in Canada is purely a numbers game. I didn’t have the numbers, so I had no choice but to head to the U.S. It was either that or pick another career.” Kirshenblatt decided to attend Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Kirshenblatt enjoyed his time in the U.S., though it was hard to be away from his family and friends. He notes that there are many benefits to living in the States, including great shopping, outstanding sporting events and the road-trip possibilities to other large cities.

Rosemary Milcz chose to stay on the northern side of the border but attend school in the States. Milcz lives in Windsor and commutes  to Detroit to attend Wayne State University for a pre-professional pharmacy program. Few Canadian schools offer the program, so Milcz jumps in her car each day to cross the Ambassador Bridge and attend class. Crossing over the border each day requires a special visa and costs $4 a day. And though she saves money by not moving to the States, her tuition and commuting fees do add up.

In fact, the cost of attending a university in the United States may cost you a small fortune if you do not have a scholarship. But many schools do offer scholarships to international students—some even especially to Canadians. Milcz has had a great time reaping the benefits of the huge budget American schools have. “I really do enjoy the school, and feel that I am getting a great education. Most of the professors are great and the campus is a lot fun,” she says, though she also admits she could do without the hassles of crossing an international border daily in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Post-Sept. 11 restrictions can pose hassles for Canadian students in other countries. Kirshenblatt faced difficulties when he tried to get Pennsylvania license plates. “To get those, I needed a Pennsylvania driver’s license,” he says. “To get that, I needed a social security card. Try getting a social security card with no work permit and alien status in post-9/11 America.”

Besides the normal challenges of moving to a different country, there are vast upsides to attending a school in the U.S. Colleges and universities there receive great funding, and there are outstanding sports programs that allow students to catch some NCAA action. Sororities and fraternities are much more popular there than in Canada, and there are many specialized programs at universities and colleges available. If you are looking for a high-profile education and career, then living in the States gives you the opportunity.

Tips To Know
American students applying to postsecondary school take standardized entrance exams called the SAT or ACT. This requirement is often waived for international students. Ask the school you plan to attend if you must take the exams.

In the States, students must apply to each school individually. Get applications from each separate school. Or, check to see if the school participates in the Common Application, one form that lets you apply to several schools. Check it out at

In the U.S., the words “college” and “university” are used interchangeably. It is common to say, “I’m going to college” when you plan to complete a four-year degree. Most two-year schools are referred to as “community” or “junior” colleges.

Be sure to ask the college or university’s financial aid office about special scholarships or tuition discounts for Canadian students!


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