Beyond the Patriots and Clam Chowder: New England offers a world-class education

Portland, Maine, USA at Portland Head Light.

New England is an area steeped in the early history of modern America. Comprised of six northeastern states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont), New England is known for its beautiful fall colors, delicious seafood, Boston accents, and world-class higher education. Home to four Ivy League universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, four of the Seven Sisters colleges, and the Five Colleges consortium in western Massachusetts, the region is highly desirable for international students. Canadians in particular have a deep history with the region, and many students look just south of the border to enrich their education.


Harvard College was the first institution of higher learning, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, only 16 years after the founding of Plymouth Colony. Yale University was the second university established in the region in 1701 in Connecticut (fourth in the United States), followed by the two other Ivy League colleges in the region, Brown and Dartmouth. By the end of the 18th century, twenty-eight universities had been established in the United States, with seven of them in New England, and at least one in each state (see table 1).

Consider the founding of these universities in the larger cultural and political context of the American Revolution in the 1770’s which culminated to American Independence in 1776. These institutions became the basis of American academic philosophies and early centers of innovation. These schools have educated presidents and become torchbearers that have set the high standards expected around the world from an education in the United States.

Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown were all founded as liberal arts colleges (although not considered so today), institutions based in the Roman ideal of learning a wide variety of arts and science subject matter in order to engage the full student. Today, many of the most well-known and highly ranked liberal arts colleges are in New England, such as Amherst College (MA), Bowdoin College (ME), Colby College (ME), Middlebury College (VT), Smith College (MA), Wellesley College (MA), Wesleyan University (CT), and Williams College (MA). Even though a “liberal arts college” is today defined as an institution that caters specifically to undergraduate students receiving a liberal arts-based education, the majority of universities across the United States were founded on liberal arts principles. As such, one of the defining elements of an American education is the goal to educate well-rounded students who engage in multiple disciplines and extracurricular activities to build dynamic characters.

New England by the numbers

In the United States, there are both public and private institutions. Additionally, there are two-year colleges (community college or junior college) and four-year universities (college or university). In New England there are 230 accredited 2-year or 4-year colleges, the large majority of which are in Massachusetts (97). [See table]

Among the accredited specialty institutions, there are 7 art schools, 1 culinary school, 5 health professions colleges, 6 institutes of technology, 2 maritime academies, 2 military colleges, 2 music colleges, 2 photography institutes, 8 seminaries, and 2 technical colleges. Of the religiously-based private institutions, 26 are Catholic, 6 are other Christian faiths, 2 are Jewish, and 1 is Greek Orthodox.

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), Massachusetts is the state with the 3rd highest number of Canadians at 2,454 (9% of total). The Boston metro area is home to 2,267 Canadian students, or 8.4% of all Canadians in the United States. The Boston metro area has 49 higher education institutions, and has third highest number of international students overall (51,072). Due to the small size of the other states in New England (27,868 international students total), Massachusetts is the only state that the IIE publishes in depth data on.

The economic advantage

The U.S. Department of Commerce has called the New England economy a microcosm for the entire U.S. economy. For students, this means that no matter your ambition, you can find an institution that specializes in your interests, and can prepare you for a career in your field. Therefore, for the sake of this article, we will focus on the top fields of study that Canadians choose, and where they can find great match universities or colleges in New England.


Nearly 4,400 Canadians are currently studying Business in the United States (all levels of study), making it the most popular major of choice. Beyond a Management concentration, Business can also encompass Marketing, Finance, Accounting, Logistics, Entrepreneurship, and more. New England’s major metropolitan areas are perfectly suited to support aspiring Business students.

According to The Global Financial Centres Index 21, Boston has the ninth most competitive financial center in the world and the fourth most competitive in the United States. For Business majors, Babson College is a university that is completely dedicated to the field. As a college focused on entrepreneurship, students will be able to take advantage of Boston’s financial institutions and access many global companies which are headquartered there, like General Electric, Santander Bank, and Reebok. Also in Boston, Northeastern University had the D’More McKim Business School and is known for their mandatory semester co-op program.

In Rhode Island, students can consider Bryant University, located in the region with second largest population of international students in New England. Bryant is made up of two colleges, one of which is the Business School and is really the main focus of the institution. The highest ranked programs in Business include Entrepreneurship, Human Resource Management, International Business, and Marketing. Students not only have internship opportunities in Providence, but also in nearby Boston.

The Hartford, Connecticut metropolitan region has 10 U.S. higher education institutions and has the third largest population of international students in New England. Hartford is most well known for being the international center for the insurance industry. Any student interested in finance and insurance, will find a plethora of internship opportunities in Hartford. Students interested in taking advantage of the strength of this region can consider the University of Hartford Barney School of Business or the University of St. Joseph that has both a Business/Management major and a Sport Management and Promotion major.

Health Professions

Comparatively, Canada has the largest percentage of students studying in the United States in Health Professions at 14.4% or 3,900 students. For students looking to continue their education with a professional degree in medicine, they can take almost any major as an undergraduate student. In the United States, undergraduates are not required to be Pre-Med majors to get into medical school. In fact, Humanities majors actually have a higher acceptance rate into medical schools than Physical Science majors. Why? As mentioned early, U.S. universities highly value a liberal arts education.

Students may be surprised to find out that liberal arts colleges have some of the highest success rates in medical school admissions. Typically this is due to very supportive Pre-Health Tracks, which can include Pre-Health counselling, admissions application support, interview practice, and job shadowing. Bowdoin College (ME) recently had 97% of their Pre-Med students accepted into medical school. Middlebury College (VT) has and 87% acceptance rate, and Williams College (MA) has a 90% acceptance rate. Most colleges and universities publish this information on their websites, so make sure to research this if you are interested in applying to medical school in the future.

For students who would like to start their path into medical fields more immediately, New England has five colleges that specialize in health professions. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science has more than 100 bachelors and advanced programs, including many accelerated health options. The College does not have a medical school, and rather focuses heavily on Pharmacy, Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Physical Therapy, and Healthcare Business. The downtown college is based in the world renowned Longwood Medical area, offering students cutting-edge opportunities in their fields.

STEM degrees – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

From 2-year colleges, to large research institutions, there are institutions in New England that will meet any future Scientist’s needs. For students who would like a school whose majority focus is STEM programs, there are six institutes of technology in the area: Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (MA), Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA), New England Institute of Technology (RI), Vermont Technical College (VT), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known around the world for having some of the strongest and most innovative STEM programs, as well as incredibly selective admissions with an undergraduate admissions rate of only 6.7%. MIT is known for a student body with “out-of-the-box” thinkers and innovators. All undergraduates have a chance to work in research labs alongside preeminent scholars in their field. Far from taking themselves too seriously, MIT students like to pull pranks known as MIT Hacks, a playful way that students show their ingenuity, school spirit, and joie de vivre.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering shares a campus with Babson College in Boston. Olin was founded to take a different approach to engineering by starting students with hands-on experiences during their first year. The goal is for students to become problem solvers of real world challenges, which means that they have to take a healthy dose of social science, humanities, arts, and business courses in order to be well prepared to problem solve within cultural context.

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston and Vermont Technical College in Randolph both offer 2-year Associate degrees and 4-year Bachelor degrees. Institutions such as these give students the opportunity to work towards a degree that will streamline them right into the job force. Covering fields like Agribusiness Management, Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology, Forestry, or HVAC and Refrigeration, these institutions are best for students who want to spend the bulk of their time with hands-on work, and less on time on theory.

Social Sciences

Approximately one in ten Canadians who study in the United States are in the Social Sciences, a broad designation that can encompass any field that scientifically studies society and social relationships. Field such as, Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Education, International Studies, Politics, Psychology, or Social Work. In the United States, most institutions will have a large variety of social science majors available, meaning that the best places for these majors are usually large public campuses, or small, liberal arts schools.

Fine/Applied Arts

New England is a phenomenal place to complete an Arts degree. Particularly, there are seven arts-specific colleges and two music colleges that students may consider. The Berklee College of Music, which includes the Boston Conservatory, is one of the most highly regarded music schools in the United States. They have 12 majors focused on Music, including Film Scoring, Music Management, and Music Therapy. As a music performance school, the admissions process relies heavily on the live audition and interview which can be completed in cities across the United States and in Toronto.

For students interested in a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA), Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the first art and design schools in the United States. RISD prides itself in having a selective admissions process where 1/3 of their accepted students are international, making it an incredibly diverse campus. Some interesting niche majors include Furniture Design, Glass, or a concentration in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies.

Alternatively, Emerson College in Boston was founded as a “school of the oratory” and only has degrees in Communications and the Arts. Aspiring actors, journalists, marketers, and stage-hands will all find a home here. The campus lies on the edge of Boston Commons in the heart of the Theatre district, making access to the industry a quick walk down the street. Although an arts-focused campus, Emerson competes in NCAA Division III athletics, an opportunity that most art institutes do not have.

Undecided? There is a university for you!

U.S. universities truly value students who haven’t yet decided which major to focus on. Many schools have an exploratory first year, which allows students to wait until their second year to declare their majors. Becker College (Worcester, MA), St. Michael’s College (Colchester, VT) University of Saint Joseph (West Hartford, CT), and Western New England University (Springfield, MA) all have this option.

New England is home to a wide variety of small liberal arts colleges. Students who want to spend their whole university career exploring a wide variety of course work can do so! Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, for example, is a public campus in North Adams that requires students to take coursework in four fields: Creative Arts, Human Heritage, Self and Society, and Science and Technology, culminating in a Capstone Senior Seminar.

College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME) is another example of an incredibly innovative liberal arts institution. They have one major: Human Ecology. Every student gets to interpret that major and build their own coursework around this theme. For students who want the freedom to follow all of their passions, this school could be a great fit!

Many schools have selective programs within their campuses to further support student learning interdisciplinarily. For example, Trinity College (Hartford, CT) has a unique opportunity called The Cities Program where students interested in Urban and Global Studies (but is open to every major) take coursework to understand urban issues from multiple perspectives.

Need help finding a good fit school? Reach out to EducationUSA to learn more about applying to U.S. universities. All resources and advising is free. Check out educationusacanada.ca for more info.