Why I'm leaving Canada to attend university in the US
Vancouver's become a hub for university recruiters. Our students have garnered a reputation internationally. Each year, we send some of the brightest students to the US, in what could be described as the Canadian youth brain drain.
For Grade 12 students at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary, the question everyone's asking is, “Where are you going to university next year?” Unlike my many friends who are self-reporting marks to UBC, SFU and other Canadian schools, I know where I'm going. I will be matriculating at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine next September.
A liberal arts college comprised of 1,700 students (smaller than my current highschool with a population of 2,200 students), Bates has a selective acceptance rate of 26%. I was a lucky draft this year, and I will be attending university in the United States with a generous financial aid package allowing my parents to only pay $10,000 a year for my personalized education, tuition and room and board in these next four years.
Why go down south where an education comes with such a hefty price tag? For one, some of the lecture halls in Canadian universities such as the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo can contain five-hundred to seven-hundred students.
That's just too much for me.
Richard Wang, a student at the University of Waterloo said, “It's difficult to motivate yourself to attend lectures unless you have a compelling professor. It's just too big and at times very tedious. You can get the same experience out of your textbook.”
At Bates, most of my classes will have on average, 20 students, allowing me to develop strong relationships with my peers and professors. I admit that I will be in the middle of nowhere next year, far from the conveniences of Montreal or Vancouver, but as a city girl, I know that I need the isolation in order to propel myself completely into my studies. Another reason? If you come from a low-income family, an American education is much more affordable than you think. Although competition for the financial aid packages is competitive if you're an international student, it's not impossible to get a full ride to schools based on merit or need.
The 2011 university admissions statistics compiled in the New York Times named this year as the most competitive year in the history of university admissions in the United States. That proved to be no barrier for Saint George's school, an all-boys preparatory school in the Dunbar area. This year, they have two students accepted into Harvard and a handful of others accepted into Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, UPenn and Brown – some of the top-tier and Ivy league schools in the U.S.
Vancouver is now a hub for university recruiters and ambitious minds. Our students have garnered a reputation internationally. Each year, we send some of our brightest students to the United States, in what could be described as the Canadian youth braindrain. The culture is also evolving (or depleting – depending on who you ask) to accomodate students and parents with big dreams.
SAT and ACT preparation academies are abundant with Kerrisdale's Ivy Academy and West Broadway's Elite Institution being two of the several preparatory institutions that train students to write standardized tests. The industry is in demand here in Vancouver, and will only continue to expand with the burgeoning immigrant population with high aspirations for the first-generation. University counseling for Canada and US schools are also on the rise. Options Solutions, with offices in West Vancouver and Vancouver caters to students who want advice on how to obtain admission into a dream school.
But the competition extends throughout Canada as well. Earlier on in the year, my counselor sent the entire graduating class an email stating that he'd highly recommend us all to apply to Langara College in light of UBC's growing admission demands, and to be frank – Langara is a plausible option for talented students in this city. Despite the stigma that some students attach to attending a community college in Vancouver, they are a great path for those who want to receive a more compact and intimate education.
Colleges can take you straight to the skilled trades, or into larger universities through transfer programs. Keenan Hassan, a student at Richmond High school decided to enroll in the Langara transfer program for various reasons. He had the grades to make UBC and SFU, but chose Langara for its smaller classes and it's much more affordable price tag. There was no pressure for Keenan. On the other hand, over spring break, Kadidja Youssouf, a Grade 12 student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School was finishing a Math 12 online course so that she could self-submit those marks to UBC in April.
Students who weren't able to make the grade frantically rushed to enroll in online courses in online schools in a desperate attempt to finish courses within a time span of two to four weeks. Jennifer Lawrence* enrolled in Chemistry 12 during spring break and has taken two weeks off of school to complete the course. “I need to get into UBC and at this point, this course is my only option. I need to make the mark so that my average is high enough. I've even gone to Victoria to write some of the tests.”
It is a bit futile to attempt to finish a course designed for the time span of one year in the matter of two weeks, but that is what our students are faced with in light of the spectacular qualifications that top students are armed with today. Reformers of the education system have suggested a more holistic approach to reviewing applications arguing that the meritocratic system of Canadian universities is questionable seeing that the standard of education throughout Vancouver is not levelled from school to school. Geography at one school may be a piece of cake whereas geography at another may be rocket science at another. There's just no way to measure the teaching quality and the academic performance in relation to other students.
The Vancouver high school education system (and overall, the Canadian system), is one of the most top-tier educations that you can receive in the world. Besides, we are some of the privileged few who have the opportunity to read, to write and to have held a graphing calculator in our hands.