Canadian Universities Get High Marks for Education, But a Bum Rap for the Weather

No generation is more susceptible to being influenced by the blogosphere and social media rants than applicants to colleges and universities—especially those anticipating studies in distant foreign countries.

It’s challenging enough sorting through the academic choices, admission standards, visa requirements, and financial commitments that are critical to making choices about where to apply without also factoring in language barriers, social customs, and basic living issues like weather.

Weather? To judge by the narratives floated in various forms of media directed at aspiring international students, discussions about weather appear to be a priority.

Universities in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California use weather as a big recruiting plus—for obvious reasons. It seems to work.


Bundle up?

But when describing college choices in Canada, once the narrators get past the great cost advantages and international esteem given Canadian universities—the second or third paragraph of the blog or article tends to focus on the weather, and advice such as “don’t forget to bundle up.”

Take this example from Teen Vogue: “Expect to spend a big chunk of your time at university trudging through slushy ice and snow, trying to get to class in sub-zero temperatures where you can see your own breath! Last year, Ontario hit record-low temperatures of around -15 F. If you’re prone to the winter blues, be mindful that seasonal affective disorder could negatively impact your grades and university experience. So if you hate the cold, you may want to reconsider moving to Canada.”

Well, just hang on here. How about inserting a little fact into that fantasy?

We did a little climatological research and found the following.

If you’re planning on trudging to classes in Boston (that’s as in Harvard or MIT) you’re likely to get just as much snow as you would in Toronto during an average winter—44 to 48 inches respectively, and low temps of 22 F to 20 F, with virtually the same number of snow days (measured as anything in excess of one-tenth of an inch or more).


Winter in Chicago or Vancouver?

And if you’re planning classes in the Windy City—Chicago—expect that you’ll have more low temps in January (with average lows of 17 F) than you would in Toronto, or Halifax, or don’t even think about Vancouver—where crocuses bloom in February and snow days are rare events.

As a matter of fact, if you compare campuses in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Western New York to those in southern Ontario, the maritime provinces, or British Columbia, you’ll have to “bundle up” at least as much.

We left Montreal out of those comparisons because if you don’t bundle up in that great city you will risk serious hypothermia. But, as we noted in a previous blog post—International Students Love Montreal—even blustery weather can’t spoil a good thing.

Nix the exaggerated weather forecasts and concentrate on what really counts—the quality of the school experience, your own willingness to enjoy and prosper from it, and your preparedness to blend into a new environment.


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