Recommned universities in Ontario and Quebec
January 14, 2004 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is planning on transferring to a university on the east coast next semester (Ontario or Quebec with preference for Quebec). She has little experience with French so anglophone universities are a necessity. Currently attending a university in British Columbia (the name escapes me), she has a 3.4 gpa and hopes to bring that up to between 3.5 and 3.7 by the end of this semester. What are good schools? Safety schools? [In Quebec] How difficult will it be to locate part-time employment without speaking much, if any, French?

[She's undecided on a major so ideally the school would have a good sciences or liberal arts program]

Thanks in advance for any help :)
posted by Raze2k to Work & Money (20 answers total)
McGill, in Montreal
posted by amberglow at 11:51 AM on January 14, 2004

McGill is one of the best schools in Ontario or Québec. I think it's a bit tough to transfer into though.
In Ontario, there are a few top ones that are interchangeably good. UofToronto, Queens and Western are usually considered the best, but I would include McMaster as one of the top science schools and Guelph as a great all-around school.
If your girlfriend doesn't speak any french I wouldn't suggest anywhere other than Montreal, and even then it would be tough. I would suggest sticking with Ontario.
She'll have to check the websites for the schools since their policies regarding transfer credits will all be different.
posted by nprigoda at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2004

Concordia is an excellent English Language University in Montreal, and might be easier to get into than McGill. It's also much smaller than McGill which has its advantages. If she's going for prestige, though, then McGill is the one to try for (although Concordia enjoys a decent reputation as well).
posted by degnarra at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2004

McGill. I went to Quebec on a federal program to learn French. While I was at Laval in Quebec city, I did have to speak French. While I was at McGill, non.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:59 PM on January 14, 2004

You can live in Montreal for years (especially around McGill and Concordia), and never really need any French. It's a good asset to have, of course - francophones tend to appreciate anglo efforts - but by no means a necessity. As for part-time work, it's hard to find (outside telemarketing) if you're fully in the no-french camp, but if you're confident enough to convince an employer that you can get by (ie, you learn your french numbers, and tell him/her 'my french is good'), you should be able to get resto/cafe work in the student areas, which are very large.

McGill is a better sciences school than Concordia, and their arts program is good too - but for applied/fine arts (dance, drama, film, art, communications), Concordia is far superior.
posted by Marquis at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2004

I might be answering a question with a question, but if Ontario and Quebec are the east coast...where the hell am I?
posted by boost ventilator at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2004

The annual Macleans Magazine University Survey ranks U of Guelph (Ontario) at the top of the comprehensive heap . No one I've met who goes there or has graduated has anything bad to say about the place.
posted by xiffix at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2004

Various places (I went to this program at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) offer immersion courses in French over the summer. I highly recommend it. Even if she won't really need it in Montréal, it would be helpful in order to take full advantage of the city.
posted by mookieproof at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2004

What xiffix said. I was going to recommend the Macleans feature as well.

I was a grad student in Montreal (at Concordia) for a few years in the mid-1990s. If one can't speak French then most service-type jobs are going to be tough to get. You can live there as a student without French just fine, but getting into the economy is tough. The flipside is that living in Montreal as usually been much cheaper than southern Ontario or Ottawa, where rents have been quite high for years.

What Marquis said about McGill and Concordia. I took media studies there.

I also lived in Guelph for awhile and its a good school and a great town. University of Toronto, Queen's, Western, and Waterloo also recommended. Not Windsor, Brock or Carleton.
posted by tranquileye at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2004

I recommend reading Macleans! Especially since they think so highly of my school, the University of Guelph, and I love love love it here (I'm an international student too).

Guelph is very strong in the sciences, most especially biological sciences, we're literally next door to the Ontario Veterinary College, and very decent in both the performing and visual arts. Personally, I'm enrolled in their VERY rigorous Environmental Sciences degree program (which unfortunately I do not recommend transferring into, as we have core-requirements up the bum), and while I have to work like crazy, my professors are great, I know I'm learning, and I just love the school. It's got a great character.

(I also considered Queen's, Mt. Alison, Acadia, UToronto, and Dalhousie, but settled on Guelph, just so you know)
posted by nelleish at 3:23 PM on January 14, 2004

whoops, that should be University of Guelph
posted by nelleish at 3:23 PM on January 14, 2004

I recommend ignoring Macleans. They weight certain attributes that may not matter to your gf at all, and make some rather unhelpful distinctions between categories of universities. The University of Guelph's a great school, but not if you're looking for a vibrant cultural life: Guelph is not exactly Toronto, Montreal or Halifax. The friends of mine who study there and enjoy it are those who like to stay in and rent movies with floor-mates, or to go out drinking with their buddies; my friends who hate it are the ones who get cabin fever hanging out with the same people all the time, visiting the same hang-outs, seeing the same mainstream flicks at the cinema. If Guelph sounds nice, do look at Mt. Alison: it's like Guelph, but for liberal arts students (as opposed to agriculture, environment + physiotherapy kids).
posted by Marquis at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2004

It would really help if she had some idea what she wanted to study. Certainly, the schools themselves are not going to fall all over themselves to admit mid-degree transfers who aren't prepared to declare a major.

Beyond that, most schools are good at something specific, if not everything in general. For example, if she's interested in Psychology, York has an excellent program, though the University as a whole is seen as a safety school for Torontonians who didn't get into UofT and can't afford to pay rent elsewhere. (And I say that with all love and respect for my alma mater.) Waterloo is well regarded in hard sciences and mathematics, but their programs are known as intense and focused, and probably not well suited to a generalist.

For someone who is undeclared, Guelph rates highly all around, and UofT is large enough to have good programs in most areas. Making the decision between the schools is probably a matter of choosing lifestyle factors - the big multi-cultural city v. a more campus oriented lifestyle.

As for Quebec, without French, her choices are probably McGill or Bishop's. McGill is the Quebec equivalent of UofT and Bishop's is a much smaller, arts oriented school. Also, Ottawa is right on the Ontario / Quebec border, and Carleton, while not highly regarded, is an English school. Given that she doesn't speak French, is there a particular reason why she'd prefer to go to school in Quebec? That might help guide the answers, as well.

Also, as other's have suggested, some of the best general arts schools in the country are actually located on the East Coast rather than in Central Canada. St. Francis X, Acadia and Mt Allison are all very well regarded for undergraduate arts studies.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:15 PM on January 14, 2004

The University of Guelph's a great school, but not if you're looking for a vibrant cultural life: Guelph is not exactly Toronto, Montreal or Halifax.

As someone who grew up in Guelph, I have to agree with this statement wholeheartedly.

I personally like my alma mater, University of Ottawa. Being a bilingual university in the capital city gave it a great cultural feel. It repeatedly does poorly in the Macleans rankings, but I scoff at them, because I loved it there, and thought my program at least (Criminology) was top notch.

[But then, I've never gone to University anywhere else, so I have no real comparison].
posted by aclevername at 4:20 PM on January 14, 2004

I'm at Guelph right now, and I have to agree with Marquis. The Maclean's features are usually complete bunk since the university only presents the magazine with the information that is positive, and Maclean's has never spoken to any of our workers' unions or anyone that has anything negative to say about the school.
If you go to Guelph, expect to pay more in tuition, service fees etc. than your degree is worth, especially if you are here for graduate studies. The university provides almost nothing in terms of services to students or faculty. They overcharge for nearly everything, especially the food!
Also, the rental prices in Guelph are extremely high (nearly as much as renting in downtown Toronto) and there are loads of really slummy places.
And finally, while Guelph does have a relatively vibrant social/performing arts scene for a city it's size (there are quite a few good local bands and several bars that have nightly live music) almost nothing happens on campus and so you have to ride on the city's inefficient bus system to get "downtown".
Sorry for the rant, but I'm writing up my thesis now, and getting mighty sick of this place.
posted by nprigoda at 5:19 PM on January 14, 2004

Raze2k Guelph is perfect for me, but it might not be for your girlfriend. If she can, she should visit every one of her potential schools, nothing but that will give her a feeling for whether this new place can be a temporary home! Good luck.

Alright, mildly off-topic, but ANY town is what you make of it. I have been to Toronto many times in my mere two years at Guelph, by bus on my own money, and on field trips to see plays and the city. I've been to three "real" concerts (Great Big Sea, Ashely MacIssac, Sloan) and dozens of local bands. I see movies at the Bookshelf, not the megaplex (it's cheaper, to say nothing of better movies). I go to the sports games, I play intermural waterpolo. I'm on tech crew for a major musical production here on campus. I don't go to the downtown bars and clubs, I go to the pubs with the live music. I do get hyper-involved with extra-curriculars and I meet lots of people. I live off-campus and I don't see what's so unreasonable about my rent ($350/month CAN, I thought downtown Toronto was in the $650+ range? maybe wrong), and my house, even if on the old side, is great.

I am paying international student tuition, so I don't have a sense of how much is "too much" only that it's cheaper than at home. And Student Services? We also have the Learning Commons, Raithby House, and I work for Safewalk. I'm not trying to correct anyone, I guess just have a very different perspective. Maybe I'll feel the same way when I'm fourth year, who knows!

I dunno, maybe it's because I'm one of those annoyingly enthusiastic people, or because I'm from a small town originally so I didn't want a city, and I'm not saying that Guelph is where I want to live, I just think you work with what you've got.
posted by nelleish at 6:21 PM on January 14, 2004

Response by poster: boost ventilator: Point taken. I live in New York and I sort of consider anything that close to me to be East Coast since she's been in Vancouver .. and well, that's pretty far away :)


A few notes to answer some of the questions that have been posed. After much deliberation, one program that seems interesting to her is Genetics or Microbiology, so Guelph seems like an ideal school. One of the reasons that she has hopes of living in Montreal is that she'll pick up french by being exposed to the language every day. Culture immersion or some such :) There's interest in smaller classes although the hope exists that smaller classes don't equate to small universities in sketchy areas.

I believe that Concordia has been decided upon as one of her safety schools and she had already planned on applying to McGill, Guelph, Waterloo, Queens, Ottawa, Western, McMaster, and Toronto.

nprigoda: When you say costs are extremely high could you approxiamate living expenses in the area?

That leads me to another question; What's the minimum wage in Quebec? In Ontario?

Thanks again for all of your help thus far!
posted by Raze2k at 6:33 PM on January 14, 2004

Expect to pay around $450 for shared accomodations, $650 for a bachelor's appartment (not including hydro). Hydro (and most places in guelph are heated by hydro) is about $30/mo in summer, $80/mo in winter. Grocery costs are about $150 a month. A lunch on campus (which I never do) is about $5-$6. A bus to Toronto is $23 (return, student fare) from there, a bus from Toronto to New York is $40 one way (if I remember correctly).
It's possible that my perception is skewed, since I'm talking about living expenses for a grad student. The grad student stipend is very low compared to other schools in the area, and tuition is very high. This makes living in Guelph nearly impossible for a grad student. It's especially hard when the grad students (who are teaching assistants for the undergrads) get almost no support or understanding from the undergrads. As a grad student you tend to get a better view of what's going on "behind the scenes" from our advisors and department heads. It's enough to make anyone bitter, and I've seen it turn many potential scientists away from further study.
If your girlfriend is seriously considering genetics/microbiology I'm going to have to strongly suggest that she looks into McMaster. It's a very highly regarded school, with a medical school on campus, so the life sciences are very well funded. I went there for genetics, and when I graduated I was immediately hired by a biotech firm. The training that I recieved there was amazing, something I didn't realize until I left. The classes are centred on "problem based learning" which teaches you how to tackle problems, not how to memorize facts. The libraries are much better at McMaster, and the courses are more well funded. A well paid teaching staff means that TAs have more time to help students if they have questions.
Living expenses in Hamilton are much lower, and it's much faster to get to from New York than Guelph. Plus it's got the benefits of a big city (good shopping, good night life, good school spirit, CFL team) along with some of that small town feel (good city spirit, "Jack and Jill"s at the legion every weekend, etc).
I agree with nelleish, part of your undergrad is what you make it. I've been involved in student life here at Guelph, and at McMaster, and what I've realized is that it's very hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
posted by nprigoda at 5:03 AM on January 15, 2004

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions about Guelph and/or McMaster. I'm trying to procrastinate, so this is working very well for me.
posted by nprigoda at 5:08 AM on January 15, 2004

I read the question as east coast, so I immediately thought
of Dalhousie in Nova Scotia. They're big on Marine Biology.
Um, anyway probably not relevant.
posted by milovoo at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2004

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