Top 10 Student Cities in the U.S. and Canada Perfect for a Graduate Degree

Want to study in the USA or Canada? Are you really looking for a rewarding study experience as well as unforgettable student life? Then you’d better have a look at a list of the most student-friendly cities and towns in North America.

What makes a student city great? It’s all about your positive study experience abroad and the opportunities waiting for you in that city. Here are five main criteria used to consider the best student cities in North America:

  • Lots of great student activities
  • Large international student population
  • Cultural environment
  • The city is a great place to live after graduation
  • Rich job opportunities for global companies
  • Crime rates

Here are a few universities we recommend in the US and Canada:

Find Masters in Canada

Now, let's look at the top urban destinations for students in North America according to yearly statistics by QS Rankings as well as Forbes.

The first 3 cities are all in Canada while all the cities in the list have placed in the first 50 cities worldwide, according to QS City Rankings 2019. You’ll also find some important universities offering English-taught degree courses in these cities.

1. Montreal, Canada 

Montreal’s reputation for its academic education, outstanding quality of life, multicultural environment and energetic vibe attracts each year a large international student population. Illustrating cosmopolitan cultural mosaic, Montreal is a city of two languages: French and English.

The city has one of the highest scores for student mix, remarkable local diversity and a growing number of tourists each year. Montreal is truly an academic hub, hosting several of Canada's highest ranking institutions and attracting nearly 350,000 students every year. Montreal benefits of a high-skill workforce and remains an important centre of commerce, tourism and other economic sectors.

2. Boston, USA

The local population considers Boston one of the intellectual capitals of the world, “the Athens of America”, placing a lot of importance on quality education and career success. According to the Institute of International Education, Boston hosted 47,895 international students in 2015. Boston has many historic buildings and monuments as well as cultural and sporting events, specific to the American lifestyle.

As opposed to other large American cities, Boston is compact, clean and easy to explore. Statistics show that Boston has reduced levels of crime for a large international city. Boston is one of the top 30 most powerful city economies in the world based on city GDP. The most important economic sectors in Boston include financial, professional and business services, biotechnology companies, tourism, as well as law and government.

3. Vancouver, Canada

Over 10,000 foreign students coming from over 80 countries choose to study in Vancouver (including Australia, China, England, France, Italy, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Vietnam, and U.S.). Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in the world, with over 50% of the population not speaking English as their first language.

Vancouver has become an increasingly important centre for industries such as software development, biotechnology, aerospace, video game development, animation studios and a vibrant television production and film industry.

The entertainment in Vancouver is represented by many night clubs, theatres and music festivals. Vancouver is also popular for snow sports, so you can enjoy some of the world’s best ski resorts.

4. Toronto, Canada

Toronto provides an attractive lifestyle, rich cultural diversity, clean city streets, and a safe learning and living environment. Toronto is a leading Canadian city in economic growth and new job creation, welcoming immigrants and embracing talents from all around the world. Toronto has been classified as one of the most diverse cities in the world, as almost half of Toronto’s population is foreign-born.

Toronto is a booming centre for art, fashion, music, theatre, culinary variety and beautiful natural scenery. The city’s varied cultural institutions and events include numerous museums, international festivals, live performing, entertainment districts, national historic sites, and sports activities.

USA best cities to study a Master's degree.jpg

5. New York City, USA

The innovative graduate and undergraduate degree programmes offered by universities in New York cover cutting-edge teaching methods, with a focus on the students’ independent learning. New York City is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Over 20% of the city’s population is foreign-born and immigrants from over 150 countries live in New York City.

Also known as “The City That Never Sleeps”, or “the Big Apple”, New York City is all about city life, enjoying the American lifestyle and the colourful, vibrant nightlife. Explore emblematic places like Times Square, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre.

6. Ottawa, Canada 

As the political and technological centre of Canada, with a high standard of living, Ottawa attracts a significant number of international students, as well as tourists and foreign business people. The higher educational institutions integrate an interdisciplinary approach to research that led to important discoveries and innovations and to recognition and awards.

Ottawa is also home to numerous embassies and consulates and some of the world’s greatest technology companies located here, as it is one of the best cities in Canada in terms of economic development.

Ottawa has a well-developed and sustainable economy. The major sectors are public services, high technology (telecommunications, software development), health care, finance, administration and sales.

7. San Francisco, USA

San Francisco has world-renowned universities, including Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners among their alumni. Study in an informal atmosphere in the home-city of Silicon Valley – the cradle of research and technology – close to the main headquarters of Google or Facebook. The diversity and creativity of the population can be seen in everything from the spectacular cuisine to influential cultural movements.

Living in San Francisco means experiencing new languages, foods, cultures, people, ideas, and celebrations almost every day. San Francisco is the kind of amazing city that will always hold a special place in your heart.

8. Washington DC, USA 

The U.S. government has its headquarters in Washington D.C., and numerous embassies and plenty of international organisations are active in this city. The locals of D.C. are very involved in politics and ready to debate with anyone interested. Washington D.C. is abundant in law firms, non-profit organisations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations. Tourism is Washington's second largest industry, followed by education, finance, public policy, and scientific research.

Washington is an incredible city to explore and everywhere you walk you will discover places or monuments that speak of the American heritage. Walking or biking throughout the city is highly recommended, as most of the city's attractions are located close to each other.

9. Chicago, USA 

Study abroad in a city famous for its tasty cuisine, efficient transportation system and incredible night skyline. Large numbers of international students enrol in the local universities every year thanks to the affordable living costs, compared to other American cities as well as the friendly inhabitants and the rich cultural scene. Life in Chicago is all about the entertainment scene, walks in the parks and supporting some of the world-famous sports teams.

Take pictures of the Sears Tower, one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago. Chicago is also one of the richest cities in the U.S. featuring 12 Fortune Global 500 companies and 17 Financial Times 500 companies.

10. Los Angeles, USA 

Los Angeles, nicknamed the City of Angels, can arguably be considered the creative capital of the world, with its headquarters in Hollywood Studios. One in every six residents living in the metropolis works in the creative industry, as artists, writers, actors, dancers, or musicians.

Iconic places like Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard, Disneyland, the Pacific Coast Highway, are known worldwide. Los Angeles is home to people from more than 140 countries speaking 224 different languages.

Join a sunny, international student destination attracting cultures from all over the world and creating a global melting pot you can experience, whether in class or in the city. There are 841 museums and art galleries in the city and its surroundings. The city is home to 13 companies in the 2016 Fortune 500.

student cities LA.jpg

Best college cities and towns in the USA according to WalletHub

Interested in more great locations for students in the United States? Here’s a few more of the best student cities and towns and local universities, presented by Forbes, using information from WalletHub, after reviewing and analysing data from 280 cities in America.

And since you're at it why not also take a sneak peek at the U.S. universities with best campus life

Still not enough? More great Master's study options wait for you in the United States and Canada. 

Compare Masters in the U.S. and Canada

Interesting programmes for you

Explore more than 70000 Master's programmes from all around the world with Studyportals.

All disciplines
United States


Hey there 👋🏼

We are Studyportals, the #1 education platform to find your best matching studies for free.

What are you interested in studying?

Go to your profile page to get personalised recommendations!