How to Study Abroad in the US

Why should you choose to study in the US? Its culture offers enriching history, world-class sports, amazing museums, cities based entirely around music, and diverse cuisine. Within one country you get rolling mountains, cityscapes, and natural world wonders. Earn a degree while exploring the country. Start your adventure by reading on.

Where to begin?

The biggest question for high school students is "where will I go to school?" There are many factors you need to think of to choose the right school for you. Does the school offer programs that you're interested in? Does it have extracurricular options? Is there a good vibe on campus?

But most important for Canadian students: is it a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school? (pdf) An SEVP certified school is one that has registered with the government to enrol nonimmigrant students. It may be a great school, but if it's not SEVP certified, you won't be able to attend as a Canadian! Keep in mind that most US schools on SchoolFinder will be SEVP certified.

How to apply to schools in the United States

A great way to keep track of your applications is by applying to the schools that you're interested in directly. This way you can be sure you're meeting all the requirements and deadlines. It's a good idea to keep a record of your applications in an excel or word file so you don't miss any information.

Another popular option for students applying to schools in the US is through the Common App, an undergraduate admissions site where you can navigate your entire application journey. Common App is similar to the provincial application portals we use in Canada, like Ontario Universities’ Application Centre and EducationPlannerBC.

What do you need to apply?

Each school will ask for different requirements in the application process, but here are some common requirements you’ll need:

  • SAT or ACT scores
    • SAT: A test that measures the reading, writing, and mathematics levels of high school students
    • ACT: A test that measures a student's English, math, reading, science, and sometimes writing skills
  • Positive grades from all four years of high school
    • US schools, unlike Canadian, typically look at your grades throughout high school. So, if your grades weren't great at the beginning, don't worry! School admins are looking to see if your grades trended upwards
  • Written essay
    • Different schools will ask different essay questions, but generally, you should write about a topic not otherwise mentioned in your application that shows who you are and how you will make a difference. Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through
  • References from academic and non-academic sources
  • Demonstrated interest in the university
    • Try signing up for in-person or remote campus visits and admissions interviews. Request information from the school to show interest.
  • Identify a couple of sustained extracurricular, job, and volunteer roles that you participated in all through high school to demonstrate a balanced life

When should I apply to study in the US?

While Canadian universities typically have one set deadline in January for applying to universities, each school in the US has a different timetable. It's important to check with the schools you're interested in to see when their deadlines are.

Schools in the US often have four separate deadlines to watch out for when applying:

  • Early decision — a student who applies in this round and is accepted must attend the school. Students typically apply in November for this round.
  • Early action — a student receives an early response to their application but doesn't have to attend that school. Students typically apply in November or December for this round.
  • Regular decision — students typically apply by January 1 for this round.
  • Rolling admissions — schools evaluate applications as they receive them and release admissions decisions on an ongoing basis.

If you’re in grade 12 this year, then application season is right around the corner!

Do you need a visa to study in the United States?

As a Canadian citizen, you don't need a student visa. Instead, the school you'll attend will send you an I-20 "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" form. This, along with a payment of approximately $350 USD (approx. $478 CAD) for the I-901 SEVIS fee, is required to enter the US.

You'll also need:

I’ve been accepted. Now what?

You’ve followed these steps and now you’ve been accepted to a school in the U.S. — congratulations! There are three key pieces of information you’ll need to remember as you make your way into the US:

  • You can enter the US no more than 30 days before your program of study begins
  • You must contact your designated school official (DSO) when you enter the US or else they can revoke your admission
  • You’ll need form I-94: “Arrival/Departure Record” to show that you have been legally admitted to the US

Working in the United States as a Canadian student

Working during the school year is a great way to help pay for your education. As a Canadian studying in the United States, you’ll likely be eligible to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during the semester, and full-time during your breaks.

Where you can work in the US depends on your status and program. For majority of Canadian students studying in the US, their options for working are limited to on-campus jobs. This includes on-campus cafés, research assistant roles, or placements that are part of your program. Students may only work off-campus after completing a year of their program and suffer from economic hardship that qualifies for the Department of Homeland Security’s emergent circumstances.

Cost of living in the United States

Where you choose to live and study in the US will have an impact on how much your cost of living could be. States like Hawaii, California, and New York tend to be more expensive, whereas Mississippi, Kansas, and Alabama tend to be cheaper.

Here's a quick look at the general cost of living in the US as a single person each month (CAD):

  • Estimated monthly costs: $1,545
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city: $1,637 - $5,257
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city: $1,228 - $3,578

So, if you live in the US for one full year, you could expect to pay $33,276 - $81,624 CAD, not including your school costs, utilities, phone plans, etc.

In comparison, you could spend $54,624 - $107,016 CAD per year in New York, NY, $32,520 - $47,100 CAD in Columbus, OH, and $47,136 - $86,436 CAD in Boston, MA for your cost of living. Make sure you do your research to find out what the cost of living is in locations you want to study.

Funding your education in the US

Studying abroad can be expensive, but there are ways you can help limit those costs.

Many schools offer scholarships or tuition discounts for Canadian students. Many of the scholarships will be based on GPA and extracurricular involvement. But, if you’re a strong athlete, then you may even earn an athletic scholarship with the chance to play on the school team. Some schools, like any of the 40 public universities and colleges in Florida, will offer tuition discounts for any Canadian who chooses to study there.

Did you know that your provincial student loans can also be used in the United States? You can apply to your provincial student loan provider, like the Ontario Student Assistance Program and StudentAidBC, to find out how much you could receive. You just need to make sure that your school in the US is approved by your loan provider.

There are also scholarships not offered by schools that you could apply for. The Canada-US Fulbright scholarship program supports Canadian graduate students studying in the US. The Traditional Fulbright Student Award is worth $25,000 USD over 9 months.

Don’t forget to check out for scholarships and awards that could help you study in the United States.

Have fun studying in the United States!

Find the right program for you in the US