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The Top Ten Universities in Canada

Updated on October 20, 2016

University is a time of personal, academic and professional growth, while creating memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That’s why it’s important to choose the best school for you; whether it be for a renowned engineering department or a state-of-the-art athletic facility. However, university can be quite expensive, but thankfully there are scholarships, and awards are available for those that display exceptional academic prowess in secondary school and/or in need of financial aid. To help in deciding where to apply, I have ranked the top 10 schools in Canada as well as prestigious scholarships available at each institution:

10. Dalhousie University

Halifax, N.S.

Dalhousie’s urban campus is modelled after the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colloquially known as “the little college by the sea.” ‘Dal’ was also voted by Scientific Magazine as the best university in the Maritimes. St. Mary’s University is located nearby, and the two institutions led the Globe & Mail to deem Halifax as the “ultimate college town.” The city also hosts plenty of festivals all year long such as Nocturne, Halifax Jazz Festival, Halcon and the Surf Film Festival.

Notable Dalhousie scholarships:

- Harrison McCain Scholarship: $4,000 annually for students entering a program in the Faculty of Agriculture (excluding Pre-Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Technology, and others intending to pursue veterinary studies) or the School of Nursing.

- Fountain Performing Arts Undergraduate Scholarship: $4,000 annually for those entering the Music program or intend to major in Theatre.

- Dykeview Farms Ltd. Scholarship: $1,000 for Nova Scotia students entering any program in the Faculty of Agriculture.

9. University of Western Ontario

London, ON

Arguably one of the most beautiful campuses in Canada, UWO is a leading research institution with an impressive athletics program. Their football team calls TD Stadium home and offers the best collegiate sports experience in the country. The school also ranks highly for quality of student life as well as being easily accessible to anywhere in the London area – so you’re never stuck on campus. UWO has a long history of academic excellence and its alumni include Nobel Laureates, Rhodes Scholars and government officials.

Notable UWO scholarships:

*All scholarships are based on academic merit and/or financial need and are administered upon acceptance

8. Simon Fraser University

Burnaby, B.C.

Established in 1965, the 30,000-student campus is located atop Burnaby Mountain. SFU is just a short drive away from downtown Vancouver, but it has a culture all its own. It was the first university in Canada to offer athletic scholarships, but interestingly enough, the school voted overwhelmingly against fraternities and to this day there are none located on campus. It was also the first university in the country to offer computerized registration as well as offer the first executive MBA program.

Notable Simon Fraser scholarships:

- Ellen Lo and A.S. Soon Entrepreneur Spirit Award: $1,000 for those who demonstrate an innovative product or service that can benefit society.

- SFU Alumni Scholarship: $1,000 for those with exceptional academics in their senior year of secondary school.

- Ken and Su Jang Undergraduate Scholarship for Women in Science: $2,300 annually for women enrolled in a science program and is based on academic merit.

7. Queen’s University

Kingston, ON

Queen’s was founded via a royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1841 and has since become a leading research university on the world stage. The university has conducted significant research and provided generous investment in the development of sustainable energy systems and environmental management with many of the school’s “green” initiatives carried out by student groups. Some of their projects include: The Tea Room, which is now 100% consumer-waste free; and the College President’s Climate Statement of Action, which pledges to reduce carbon emissions on campus and increase funding for sustainability research.

Notable Queen’s scholarships:

- Bank of Montreal Award: $10,000 annually for academic merit (90% and up).

- Chernoff Family Award: $12,000-15,000 annually for rural or remote Canadians, based on academic merit.

- Dr. Iris May Marsh Memorial Award: $12,000 annually based on academic merit and must be an Ontario resident in need of financial aid.

6. University of Calgary

Calgary, AB

U of C’s research endowment is $325 million, among the highest in Canada and offers more than 100 programs across 14 faculties. The school has student body of more than 29,000 students and boasts 220 clubs ranging from music and theatre to social issues and politics. U of C also has its own museum, a large concert hall and the country’s only covered speed-skating oval.

Notable University of Calgary scholarships:

- President’s Admission Scholarship: $4,000 based on academic merit.

- Chancellor’s Club Scholarship: Up to $40,000 administered over four years.

- Schulich School of Engineering Scholarship: *amount varies

5. McMaster University

Hamilton, ON

Originally founded in Toronto in 1890 in order to merge Toronto Baptist College with Woodstock College, has become a leading institution with a world-class medical school and has several notable alumni, including two Nobel laureates. Actors Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Dave Thomas also graduated from “Mac” in the 1970s. However, it’s an extremely intensive university that demands a lot from its students, that’s why secondary school students that entered with at least 90% make up 32% of the student body. If you’re looking to enroll in a science program, be sure to check out one-fifth of Albert Einstein’s brain floating in a jar of alcohol in one of the labs.

Notable McMaster scholarships:

- President’s Award: $2,500 for students with above 95%.

- Honour Awards Level II: $750 for students with 85-89.9%.

- Honour Awards Level III: $1,000 for students with 90-94.9%.

4. University of Alberta

Edmonton, AB

Founded in 1908, it was the first university in Alberta and started with just 45 students and 5 professors. It now has 39,000 students and still the largest university in the province. The university is very multicultural and even has a French-language campus (Campus Saint-Jean). U of A consistently ranks high on international rankings and is widely considered among the top 100 universities in the world. Interestingly, the university is the fourth largest employer in Alberta, testament to its sheer size.

Notable U of A scholarships:

- Entrance Leadership Scholarship: Up to $7,500 for demonstrated leaders that also display exceptional academics in secondary school.

- Entrance Scholastic Distinction Scholarship: Up to $50,000, based on academic merit.

- Universiade '83 Scholarship: Up to $2,000 for athletics or fine arts and awarded from a surplus of funds from hosting the 1983 Universiade Games.

3. McGill University

Montreal, QC

Known as “The Harvard of Canada,” McGill is one of the best universities in the world with alumni that include 12 Noble laureates and a whopping 139 Rhodes Scholars – both of which are the most of any school in the country. McGill is one of the most recognized Canadian universities in the world with 24% of the student body from more than 150 countries and boasts several internship programs for students that send them across the globe. Montreal is also one of the world’s biggest university towns with more than 220,000 post-secondary students calling the city home.

Notable McGill scholarships:

- Entrance Bursary Program: For financial aid (Dependent on program).

- One-Year Entrance Scholarship: $3,000, based on academic merit.

- Major Entrance Scholarship: $3,000 to $12,000 renewable for up to four years, based on academic merit.

2. University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B.C.

Founded as McGill University College of British Columbia in 1908, boasts a massive student body of more than 60,000 students across their two campuses in Vancouver and Okanagan Valley (Kelowna). UBC consistently ranks as one of the top three universities in Canada with an alumni of 7 Nobel laureates, 69 Rhodes Scholars and 65 Olympic medalists. It’s also the alma mater of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. UBC even has its own Quidditch team, which competes internationally and ranked 1 in the Northwest!

Notable UBC scholarships:

- Major Entrance Scholarship: $5,000 and renewable up to $40,000 over 4 years, based on academic merit.

- Schulich Leader Scholarship: $20,000 annually for 4 years if renewal criteria is met, based on academic merit.

- UBC Centennial Scholars Entrance Award: $40,000 over 4 years for students in need of financial aid.

1. University of Toronto

Toronto, ON

Consistently ranked as the best university in Canada by both domestic and international rankings, U of T provides an exceptional education as well as a high standard of student life. The university is comprised of three campuses across the GTA with a student body of just under 60,000. The university’s biggest accomplishments include the discovery of insulin, pioneering stem cell research as well as inventing the first electron microscope. U of T is also noted for its influential movements in literary criticism and ground-breaking communication theory, which is now known collectively as the Toronto School. This school of thought focuses on how “communication systems create psychological and social states.”

Notable U of T scholarships:

- U of T Scholars Award: $6,000 for 350 students, based on academic merit.

- President’s Scholars of Excellence Program: $10,000 + non-monetary awards for 50 students, based on academic merit.

- National Scholarship: Tuition for 4 years + residence in first year for 10 students; must submit essay.


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