Studying in the US? A Guide for Canadian Students

Studying in the US? A Guide for Canadian Students

Canadians looking to study in the USA have many details to sift through to make an informed decision. This nitty-gritty guide breaks down the essentials, including how to conveniently pay for your education online.  

Did you know the US-Canadian border is the longest international border in the world? Given the geographical proximity, it's no surprise that many Canadian students choose to drift down south and enroll in American schools.  

Still, that's not the only reason why Canada has the 4th highest number ¹ of international students living in the USA. The USA is a star attraction for Canadian students for numerous reasons, such as: 

  • Relaxed visa requirements 
  • World-leading schools 
  • Varied and high-quality extracurriculars 
  • A melting pot of all cultures (diversity) 
  • Gateway to a flourishing career 
  • A better life and educational experience  

It's no wonder the USA is consistently voted the world's most popular study destination². If it's got your vote, too, read on to learn more about studying in the USA as a Canadian. 

Applying to Study In the USA

It's a WHEW! the moment for many Canadians when they discover they don't need a student visa to study in the USA. This certainly takes some of the legwork out of applying to study in the USA. Generally, you'll need to complete the following steps before attending a U.S. school: 

  1. Apply to the U.S. SEVIS-accredited school or exchange program you want to attend. 
  2. Get an I-20 (or DS-2019) Certificate of Eligibility issued by the school (if accepted). 
  3. Get registered with SEVIS, the student tracking system, and obtain a SEVIS number. 
  4. Pay your registration fee. 
  5. Pack your bags and jet off south of the border. 
  6. Obtain your Form I-94 when you cross the border.  

What You Need

You need to have the following paperwork when crossing the border, according to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Canada. 

  • A Canadian passport; 
  • An original copy of your I-20 (or DS-2019) certificate; 
  • Proof of payment for your SEVIS fee; 
  • Proof of ability to pay school fees and living expenses in the United States; and 
  • Proof of ties to Canada.  

Note that each school comes with its own requirements that you need to meet before getting accepted. The list often includes SATs, TOEFL, and ACT scores, high school grades, written essays, or letters of recommendation.  

How to Find the Best Place to Study in America?

The United States is a big, 50-state country. Chances are you can grab a map, close your eyes, and discover a nearby place to study wherever you point.  

With so many diverse options, finding the best place to study as a Canadian might feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. 

However, finding a study option that suits your needs and lifestyle becomes easier when you consider factors such as your budget, your preferred major, ideal location, financial aid options, and proximity to family and friends living in the USA. 

You can also streamline your search in the following ways:

  • Use U.S. school search tools³  or check school profiles⁴ to find top options under one roof. 
  • Browse U.S. state guides⁵  to learn more about the 50 states and the American way of life. 
  • Get recommendations from family and friends or online communities. 
  • Visit the USA as a tourist if possible to explore the local area and campus for your top options.  

Questions to Ask

  • Is the school a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school? 
  • Does it offer programs or extracurricular options I'm interested in? 
  • What's the vibe or school culture like? 
  • What's the tuition range and location? 
  • Does the school match what I'm looking for in terms of religious affiliation, diversity on campus, availability of public transportation, safety, or other criteria?  

Best Places to Study

Looking for recommendations for the best places to study in the USA? It all boils down to your preferences and requirements. 

If educational attainment, graduation rates, college debt, and tuition costs are your top priority, consider states like Florida, Washington, California, Wyoming, and Colorado, which have higher education rankings⁶  in this department. 

The truth is that any U.S. state has its own merits, including New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, and more. You can investigate each state based on cost, scenery, culture, and other extras to determine what's best for you. 

Popular U.S. Colleges and Universities for International Students

Here's a look at some of the highly regarded universities and colleges that regularly feature on the list of top places to study for international students. 

  1. Princeton University 
  2. Yale University 
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  4. Harvard University 
  5. Columbia University 
  6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)  

Other options worth exploring include the Illinois Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, and more. 

Cost of Education In the USA

Studying in the USA can be a highly rewarding experience, but like all good things in life, it costs money. You can expect to include the following in your budget when planning to study in the USA: 


The SEVIS fee is currently $350. It's a standard requirement for all international students in the U.S. Fortunately, it's a one-time expense. 

Travel Expenses

This includes the cost of your plane ticket and transportation once you arrive in the U.S. Your transportation costs might be higher if you live off-campus. 

Health Insurance

Some colleges and universities require international students to purchase health insurance. The USA doesn't have nationalized healthcare, unlike Canada. Instead, the system is more privatized, and you're responsible for covering your own medical costs.  

Your two main options are purchasing student health insurance from your school or a reputable private company. Some Canadian companies also offer health coverage for Canadians studying abroad. The cost will vary based on the required coverage per year. 

Tuition and Living Expenses

This often represents the highest cost of studying abroad. You can expect tuition in the USA to be significantly higher compared to Canada. However, the total costs depend on the program you're studying, your chosen school, and your location. Your living expenses typically include groceries, food, books, study materials, and other basic or daily expenses.  

Room and Board 

Opting for on-campus residence is often cheaper, though you'll have to share with other students. You can also choose a shared non-campus residence, which varies in cost based on location. 

Unexpected Expenses

It's always wise to budget for unexpected expenses in case of emergencies, such as health threats and family emergencies that require you to travel home. 

So, how much does this all add up to? There's no one-size-fits-all answer because each student's experience is unique. Generally, the costs can range from $32,000-$60,000 or more depending on the course and whether it's a private or public college. 

Admittedly, the cost of studying in the U.S. can add up. Where possible, apply tips such as buying used textbooks, cooking instead of ordering out, looking for discounts when shopping, and looking for discounted tuition rates. 

Paying for Your Overseas Education

For most Canadians, the wholesome experience of studying in the U.S. comes with a five-figure price tag. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the total costs or get the extra cash you need to cover essential expenses.  

You can look for scholarships and grants. The Canadian government offers student loans, bursaries, and scholarships⁷  to Canadians wanting to study abroad, while some provinces provide grants. You can also contact your school to discuss financial aid options for international students. 

If you need to take out a loan, remember that U.S. student federal loans are not available to Canadians. Instead, you can apply for a private loan with a U.S lender, though you might need a cosigner who's a qualifying U.S. citizen. You can also check with your local Canadian banks to see if they offer a suitable financial product. 

Moving Money Online From Canada to a U.S. Bank Account

One of the requirements for studying in the USA as a Canadian is proof that you can sustain yourself financially until you complete your studies. That means you need access to money sitting in a Canadian bank account. So if you're going abroad for a few years, you need a way to use those funds in the U.S. 

One seemingly easy way is to move the money via bank transfer, but it's not ideal if you want to reduce costs. To cut a long story short, if you want to move money from Canada to the U.S. conveniently and affordably, consider a specialist foreign exchange service like MTFX. Here's what you can expect: 

  • Lower exchange rates by 3-5%;
  • 24/7 online platform with the best automation technologies; 
  • MTFX personal account that can send money anywhere in the world; 
  • Set up regular online payments with a turnaround time of 24-48 hours; 
  • Free guidance from foreign exchange specialists.
Planning to study in the United States?

Study In the U.S. as a Canadian – FAQs


Do you need a student visa to study in America as a Canadian?

Not at all. You still need to obtain Form I-20 from the school, though. Form I-20 provides supporting information about your proposed course of study and confirms you have sufficient financial resources to complete the course of study. 

What's the difference between F-1 and M-1 status?

F-1 visas apply to academic programs, while M-1 visas are for vocational or non-academic programs. You must have been accepted by a SEVIS-certified school to be eligible for either visa. 

Should I Be Worried About Exchange Rates?

If you're studying in the USA and need to move money from Canada to a USA bank account, exchange rates are something to watch out for. Unfortunately, banks generally don't offer competitive exchange rates, which means your study costs just got more expensive.  

The best way to make exchange rates work for you is by using a foreign exchange service like MTFX. With bank-beating rates that are 3-5% lower, you can get great bargains (save as much as $1,500 for every $30,000) that enrich your student experience and wallet. 

Use MTFX's rate calculator to check the current USD/CAD exchange rate before initiating your international transfer. 

Any tips for navigating the overall American landscape as a Canadian student?

  • Most schools have a guide for international students. This is an excellent resource you should take advantage of. 
  • Join forums and talk to other international students to learn more about integrating into the U.S. culture. 
  • Prepare for the weather change and stock up on the appropriate clothing items. 
  • Read up on the rules of etiquette that most Americans subscribe to, such as tipping at restaurants. 
  • Always keep all your immigration documents organized. 
  • Don't assume that American life or culture is identical to what you see in the movies. 

Popular related articles;


  1. International Students Studying in US by Origin
  2. Top destination of international students
  3. USA School Search
  4. School finder in US
  5. State guide
  6. US State Ranking
  7. Fee information
  8. Cost of Studying in US
  9. Scholarship Detail

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