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Are Harvard and Princeton the only US schools that are worth it for a Canadian to attend?

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Jun 10, 2015
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Are Harvard and Princeton the only US schools that are worth it for a Canadian to attend?

Approx. 2% of Harvard and Princeton's undergraduate class are Canadian. Is it safe to assume that degrees from these institutions carry some weight in Canada? I believe Dartmouth is the only other school where Canadian enrollment hovers around 2%.
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Nov 24, 2004
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It depends on what you mean by "carry some weight".

Undergraduate degrees from places like Harvard and Princeton are impressive, but they don't provide nearly as much of a career advantage in Canada as they do in the USA. And anecdotally, employment in the USA is a big part of why many Canadian students choose to go to American schools at the undergraduate level, so it may be a moot point anyway.

The proportion of Canadian students in a US school's student body has more to do with admission policies and name recognition than whether it is "worth it" or "carries some weight".
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Mar 6, 2015
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JHW wrote: It depends on what you mean by "carry some weight".

Undergraduate degrees from places like Harvard and Princeton are impressive, but they don't provide nearly as much of a career advantage in Canada as they do in the USA. And anecdotally, employment in the USA is a big part of why many Canadian students choose to go to American schools at the undergraduate level, so it may be a moot point anyway.

The proportion of Canadian students in a US school's student body has more to do with admission policies and name recognition than whether it is "worth it" or "carries some weight".
If someone has absolutely no idea about Canadian going to the USA for undergrad, where can one start?
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cybercavalier wrote: If someone has absolutely no idea about Canadian going to the USA for undergrad, where can one start?
They used to have university recruitment fairs (for US universities) in Toronto. Not sure if that is a thing anymore. Otherwise -- seek out alumni (contact the Alumni Association of the school in question) to speak with people who have been through the process.

Fundamentally, you have to ask yourself what you want to get out of attending a US university for undergrad, and whether it is worth the cost.
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Degrees from the major US institutions carry weight everywhere around the world, pretty much. The question is more along the lines of - does that weight provide good value versus local universities? That really depends on what your goal is and whether cost is at all a concern.
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Manatus wrote: The question is more along the lines of - does that weight provide good value versus local universities? That really depends on what your goal is and whether cost is at all a concern.
Agreed. I think many people contemplate US universities without a clear understanding of what they want, or with misconceptions about how the system works and what it provides or doesn't provide.
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You're not going to Harvard just so you can come back and work for CIBC in Canada LOL
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Why?
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redflagdealsnewb wrote: Approx. 2% of Harvard and Princeton's undergraduate class are Canadian. Is it safe to assume that degrees from these institutions carry some weight in Canada? I believe Dartmouth is the only other school where Canadian enrollment hovers around 2%.
A close family member went to Yale and couldn’t land anything worth it here for summer jobs but got some serious offers with signing bonus from several US companies, he had friends that got to New York and big tech straight from university.

It has more immediate value for those who will stay in the US but then Canada and any roots here will be neglected or left behind.
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badmus wrote: A close family member went to Yale and couldn’t land anything worth it here for summer jobs but got some serious offers with signing bonus from several US companies, he had friends that got to New York and big tech straight from university.
University affiliation is a very big deal in the US -- it's a lifetime thing, and this is a good example. It explains a lot about the culture around education in the States. Canada has nothing even remotely comparable.
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The other thing one is paying for the kid's exposure to and hence opportunity to network with people likely to be destined for high-paying jobs (Wall St, top-tier mgmt consultants, etc.) due to family background and connections. Remember that these schools count legacies (parents, grandparents went there, etc. as donations are always sought). Having completed a masters at one of the lesser Ivys (there are 8 of them, and I wasn't even aware the one I went to was an Ivy until it dawned on me that the plaque shields around some old hall signified something), that's my lasting impression, Networking was very heavily emphasized and encouraged. Lot fewer opportunities to do that (networking with the rich & powerful) at a top Canadian university where your classmates are more likely to be bright joes and jills of more-modest backgrounds. The "top" U.S. universities are like top-tier British primary/secondary schools (namely Eton College) in that manner. Come to think of it, going to Upper Canada College for high school is a rough equivalent
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JHW wrote: University affiliation is a very big deal in the US -- it's a lifetime thing, and this is a good example. It explains a lot about the culture around education in the States. Canada has nothing even remotely comparable.
My wife and I were actually talking about this the other day as I was screening entry level and intermediate engineering resumes.

As a hiring manager I screened over 100 engineering resumes last week. I can't tell you a single alma mater from those resumes. Not one. They could have been MIT graduates, or graduates from the University of Regina. No idea. They either had an engineering degree or they didn't, were eligible to register as a professional engineer or weren't, and had relevant experience or not. I didn't even care what their marks were, just their real-world experience. Their qualifications will come out in the next few rounds of the process.

Our HR folks verify accuracy of the resume, but the exact institution doesn't really matter.

My wife is an HR advisor, and they look for a degree relevant to the position (and verify when doing the background check) and that's about it.
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How much is it?

"Harvard estimates total billed and unbilled costs of about $73,800-$78,200 per year" according to this article that is 2 years old. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/05/it-cost ... y-pay.html

Basically $100,000 Canadian per year. Multiply for 4 or 5 years. Or longer. All of these considerations are conditional to admission. If (big IF) you can get in.

Is it worth it? People think only about the brand name (for the resume) and the potential to develop relationships. But if we ignore those for a minute, is the actual educational experience worth it? It depends, opinions vary. It is a top university for sure, but if you are not a genius already, it is not going to make you a genius (just because it is expensive).

I would agree with the general feeling, it has to be done as part of a plan. This degree would work better if you stay in the USA. What's the point in coming back to Canada, where the degree may be worth 15% - 20 % less, in general terms? That is 20% less impressive / useful here than in the USA.
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motomondo wrote: But if we ignore those for a minute, is the actual educational experience worth it? It depends, opinions vary. It is a top university for sure, but if you are not a genius already, it is not going to make you a genius (just because it is expensive).
In terms of quality of teaching, at the undergrad level, I don't think the top US universities have any advantage over the top Canadian universities.

From the undergrad perspective, here is what the top US universities provide that Canadian schools usually can't match:

  • Networking opportunities / career advantages due to alumni networks in the USA
  • "School spirit" around frats, sports, and clubs -- less prominent in Canada due to people not caring as much about that stuff + historical "commuter culture" for post-secondary
  • Nicer facilities -- much nicer gyms, student centres, sometimes rez halls, sometimes nicer labs (for science and engineering)
  • Possibility of having "famous" professors (but they may not be good teachers and you likely will not get any face time with them)
  • A certain degree of coddling -- Canadian schools are more sink-or-swim / no-rules, or at least used to be -- may not be the case anymore
  • Highly motivated peer group -- Competition to get into top US universities starts in grade school and is reflected in the student body, you may find it hard to find anyone who was lower than 2nd or 3rd in their high-school graduating class (marks ranking) -- can be a shock for many Americans who were A+ students in high school and become C+ students at Princeton or whatever


Each of these could be very compelling for someone looking at US schools. My major point, though, is that there is no real academic quality advantage to going to a top US university. You won't understand biology better if you study it at Harvard vs. U of T, you won't be a better BA-level historian for having gone to Princeton vs. Queens. Etc.
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JHW wrote:
  • Networking opportunities / career advantages due to alumni networks in the USA
  • "School spirit" around frats, sports, and clubs -- less prominent in Canada due to people not caring as much about that stuff + historical "commuter culture" for post-secondary
  • Nicer facilities -- much nicer gyms, student centres, sometimes rez halls, sometimes nicer labs (for science and engineering)
  • Possibility of having "famous" professors (but they may not be good teachers and you likely will not get any face time with them)
  • A certain degree of coddling -- Canadian schools are more sink-or-swim / no-rules, or at least used to be -- may not be the case anymore
  • Highly motivated peer group -- Competition to get into top US universities starts in grade school and is reflected in the student body, you may find it hard to find anyone who was lower than 2nd or 3rd in their high-school graduating class (marks ranking) -- can be a shock for many Americans who were A+ students in high school and become C+ students at Princeton or whatever

I do not have first hand experience with universities in the USA, but based on the experience of my relatives (who live down there) I would agree with all advantages in the list.

But I still would look closely at the price (value for money).

Like in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off - "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." The problem is having the means, as a Canadian, to send our kids to study down there.
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motomondo wrote: I do not have first hand experience with universities in the USA, but based on the experience of my relatives (who live down there) I would agree with all advantages in the list.

But I still would look closely at the price (value for money).
I agree, but that in turn depends on what you consider "value".

My major gripe is about the impression that American schools provide a superior education (that they teach you to be a better historian, or French language expert, or mechanical engineer, or biochemist) relative to Canadian schools. At the undergraduate level, that is manifestly untrue. At the graduate level, there are too many school-to-school differences to allow a country-wide generalization.
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Maybe those Canadians go there because they got a full ride scholarship. What the hack if someone else is paying for the degree. However, if you were to pay those ridiculous American tuition fees, the math would not make sense if your target is the Canadian job market. Our Canadian employers frankly do not care where you got the degree from as long as it is relevant to the job you are being hired for. No one is going to pay you a premium for that Princeton degree. EY or KPMG in Toronto will hire you at the same salary as your colleagues from Laurentian or University of Manitoba.

The only exception is in the area of academia where a PHD from an ivey league university will give you a leg up when gunning for that tenure track professor position. Academia has a bit of an esteem problem where they believe in hiring an academic educated at a school more "prestigious" than the hiring institution as this is supposed to bring some prestige and bragging rights that they have Yale trained professors. Maybe it helps attract more research dollars?
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canuckstorm wrote: The only exception is in the area of academia where a PHD from an ivey league university will give you a leg up when gunning for that tenure track professor position. Academia has a bit of an esteem problem where they believe in hiring an academic educated at a school more "prestigious" than the hiring institution as this is supposed to bring some prestige and bragging rights that they have Yale trained professors. Maybe it helps attract more research dollars?
Grad school is a different game altogether. There are a lot of school-to-school differences and it varies a lot by field -- plus the dissertation advisor matters a lot as well.

As an example -- in my field, Harvard is a very highly regarded university for graduate studies, but Yale barely makes the list (U of T would probably rank higher than Yale would). In other fields the reverse might be true. You can't really generalize.

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