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How to Pay for US Universities as a Canadian International Student

31 MAR 2021

Each year, thousands of students leave Canada after graduating from high school to pursue a degree in another country. Many students look to the US and the UK (and sometimes even the EU!) to continue their education for the countless opportunities these two systems offer.

From application processes to course duration and structure, scholarship and aid opportunities to academic philosophy, universities in the UK, US, and EU provide a variety of different options when it comes to studying at some of the best institutions the world has to offer.

The good news is, at Crimson we offer students comprehensive support in their applications to universities in all three regions - whether you are interested in applying to the US, UK, EU, or maybe all three! Crimson works one-on-one with students to help you analyze your school list, optimize for aid, offer support with the CSS portal, and craft a narrative that separates you from the thousands of other international student applications.

Our student success rates are evidence of our established track record for helping each of our students reach their ultimate university goals — be it studying in the great halls of Oxford or as a student-athlete at Stanford.

Download our ebook and learn more about the intricacies of studying at a university in the UK vs UK vs EU.

What to Consider

As for studying in the US, there are many factors that go into the decision it takes to attend university abroad. The US has, what seems like countless, opportunities for students looking to expand their horizons and pursue higher education. The US offers every type of educational experience and environment. Whether you’re looking for a Liberal Arts, State School, or Ivy League environment, there are options for you! 

"What we've seen this year is that the international admissions market has become dramatically more competitive. The widespread adoption of test-optional admissions practices has drastically lowered the barrier to entry, leading to a flood of applications. This has depressed admissions rates - in the early round, they fell at competitive universities by 30%+. We have also seen more secondary impacts: the financial pressures of the pandemic have reduced the cushion universities have (squeezing the financial aid available), for example," shares Crimson COO, David.

One big thing to consider when looking at the United States for university is the cost. The tuition rates are likely double, triple, or quadruple the cost of Canadian universities depending on where you’d like to apply. Both opportunity and an exchange rate advantageous for American residents, the opportunity for Canadian students to make a healthy salary after graduation is greater in the US than in Canada. With some of the world’s most successful start-ups stemming from American soil, Canadians may want to consider the return on investment of attending a US university and what that means for their wallets!

However, students who graduate from top US universities can expect much higher starting salaries. In a 2017 report, the Conference Board of Canada found that the average starting salary for Canadians holding a bachelor's degree was $54,295. Depending on the institution or field, starting salaries of top US school graduates can go up to $113,375 CAD per year.

Cost of US Universities As An International Student

More goes into paying for university than just tuition - Canadian students considering the US should also think about travel costs, visas, and the exchange rate. While heavily populated states such as California and New York are the most popular destinations for international students, budget-conscious students may want to look into less popular destinations. 

According to U.S. News, out of the 355 ranked schools that enrolled at least 100 international students and reported total costs for international students to U.S. News in an annual survey, many of the 15 most affordable are regional universities located in the South and Midwest. International students can expect to pay as low as $14,000USD per year at schools like Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and as high as $80,000USD per year at schools like Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. 

Check out this U.S. News ranking of the 15 U.S. colleges and universities with the lowest reported total cost for international students in 2020-21.

Financial Aid for Canadian Students

If you have dual citizenship in both the US and Canada, you may elect to apply for U.S. Federal financial assistance by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).  

Though most Canadian students are not eligible for federal student aid, they may be eligible for institutional aid by filling out the International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA), or the CSS Profile, both of which are distributed by the College Board. 

Many institutions offer need-based aid and merit-based aid for international students. We recommend that students start by researching financial aid procedures at U.S. universities on the school's financial aid website or reach out to the financial aid office directly. 

Looking for help and guidance with this process? Crimson Canada is ready and available to guide you through step-by-step.

Need-Aware vs. Need-Blind

One option for price-conscious students from Canada applying to the United States is to look into applying to need-blind schools. Need blind colleges and universities do not take your financial situation into account at all when assessing your application. These colleges will not deny you based on whether or not you are able to pay. Why is this important? Because the need for financial assistance can hurt your chances at need-aware schools.

Need aware colleges and universities do take your financial situation into account when accessing your application and may reserve some spots only for students who can pay full price. The Ivy League is need-aware for international students.

While there are over 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States, there are actually only five four-year colleges/universities that are truly need-blind for international students. These schools are Amherst, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Yale. 

In addition to the five schools listed above, both Cornell and Georgetown extend their need-blind admissions policies to international students but do not meet the full demonstrated need of international students who have been admitted. Cornell explains that “due to our limited funds we cannot provide funding to all admitted international students that demonstrate financial need.” And Georgetown says it has “a very limited number of need-based scholarships” for international students.

“UPenn and Babson, among a few other US universities, treat US students as need-blind but international as need-aware, treat Canadian and Mexican citizens as need-blind.” says Crimson Head of Strategy, Bob.

Scholarships and Grants for Canadian Students

While the price tag to study in the US may be a bit daunting, you shouldn’t let it be. There are plenty of scholarships and financial opportunities for families. As US universities often prioritize international students, the number of scholarships offered has grown exponentially.

Many US colleges and universities have scholarships designated for remarkable international students. Some are college-specific, others can be utilized no matter the university. Some examples include:

  1. NYU Wagner Merit Scholarships - NYU Wagner offers a limited number of scholarships to admitted students, approximately 20% of enrolling students each application cycle, including international students. The scholarships are partial to full-tuition scholarships.

    To apply you must submit your online application for admission to NYU Wagner. These scholarships do not require you to submit an additional essay. Recipients are chosen based on their fit for the program and the strength of the applicant.

  2. Robertson Scholars Program - The Robertson Scholars Program connects Duke University and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, seeking students who have demonstrated outstanding potential to become leaders in college and beyond. The application is available to American high school students, international students, and current Duke and UNC students. The deadline for the application is November 15th. You will then be invited for a Skype interview. If you are deemed a finalist, you will be flown to campus and interviewed. Offers will be made mid-April for the following year.

Crimson team member and US Country Manager, Anjali Bhatia, who was a recipient of the Roberston scholarship from 2006-2010 shares, “The Robertson Program gave me incredible access to education and coaching around leadership. We regularly reflected on our values, our leadership style, and the impact we could make on the world. I learned in the classroom and also from all my peers, whose dedication to changing the world always inspires me!”

  1. Fulbright Scholarship - The Fulbright program is an exchange program in the US that offers scholarships to candidates across all educational and career stages. Recipients often have a high academic and professional merit, a strong program proposal, and defined potential outcomes. The application process is quite intensive and is not limited to just high school and college students. There are several different programs to choose from with various eligibility requirements.

  2. Columbia-Juilliard Program - Columbia students in the Columbia-Juilliard program have the opportunity for weekly instrumental, jazz, composition of voice instructions with the Juilliard faculty. Participants will also gain access to practice facilities at both universities and the opportunity to apply to Juiliard’’s Master of Music program. The deadline to apply is December and is only available to students who are studying at Columbia. The tuition cost is $6,450 for the program and financial aid is also available for students in need.

  3. American University First-Year Merit Awards - American University offers partial merit award scholarships for international students. Scholarships range from $8,000 USD - $20,000 USD per academic year, meaning you would receive this amount at the start of each school year if successful academic performance is continued. Students are awarded scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, excellent communication skills in English, leadership, volunteering, and community service. To apply, you must detail your interest in your application to the college.

  4. The Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships - The Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships were established at Harvard University in 1945 by a gift from Annie Reid Knox, wife of the late Frank Knox. Knox, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy in the 1940s and was a highly regarded politician and businessman, believed that strong ties between the United States and Britain were essential to international peace. The Knox Fellowship program promotes the Knox legacy through scholarly exchange between the U.S., Britain, and the dominions of the British Commonwealth. Since the first Knox Fellowships were awarded in 1948, more than 625 Knox Fellows from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have studied at Harvard University.

Another fantastic resource to check out for scholarships for Canadian students is - they even have a section on going abroad! The scholarships available are for students interested in all sorts of disciplines ranging from environmental science and electrical engineering to female leadership empowerment. 

The Canadian Government also has a list of international scholarships available to Canadian citizens. Explore (here!) international scholarship opportunities for the best and brightest Canadian students and researchers to study and conduct research abroad. Explore the database by country of destination to find scholarships, fellowships, or funding opportunities made available by Global Affairs Canada and other Canadian federal government departments.


Hopefully, the resources above aid your decision-making process whether or not you decide to apply to universities in the United States. There are countless options available to help Canadian students fund their studies in the United States - do not let the unknown deter you from a world of possibilities!

Since Crimson Education was founded in 2013, we’ve served over 5,000 students across the world to help them gain admission to the world’s top universities and have helped secure over $70 million USD in scholarships and financial aid. Now operating in 20+ countries, Crimson continues to expand upon its successful university admissions support, creating initiatives to foster younger gifted and talented students.

 Admissions experts at Crimson are always happy to chat with both students and parents about the opportunities available in the US, UK, and EU. Studying abroad is an experience many dream of but not all take advantage of. We’re excited and ready to learn more about you and your goals! 

Shannon F.

Written by

Shannon F.

Shannon completed her Bachelors at Franklin University Switzerland where she majored in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies & minored in Social Justice and Sustainability. Shannon has a passion for environmental and social justice and immersing herself in new cultures. Shannon has worked in higher education and now works as the Community Outreach & Engagement Lead with Crimson. Shannon currently lives in California and enjoys reading, water polo, hiking, yoga, and traveling.

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