Ryerson vs Waterloo vs McGill


Hello, I'm going into my final year of high school this upcoming September and I've known for years now that Architecture is my passion. I'm really hoping to get into either McGill, Waterloo or Ryerson, in that order of preference, however I'm not sure if my grades are up to par.

I averaged an 88% for my top 7 in grade 11 and I know that average is nowhere near enough to guarantee an interview at my schools of choice. However, I feel I do have a strong portfolio and I have extensive volunteer/community leadership experience with great references; would they be enough to carry me over if my grades only match the minimum requirements for consideration? I am shooting for at least a 90% average the upcoming year but I doubt that will be enough to garner McGill's attention. 

Anywho, granted I am gifted with acceptances, I'd like to weigh the pros and cons of each of the three universities listed. I've decided to not consider Carleton nor UofT's architectural programs.


  • I live within the city of Toronto so it's accessible and I can study from home (no residence fees)
  • Very hands-on approach
  • Easiest to get accepted in


  • Not as prestigious as the other two
  • I'm not sure whether they provide co-op
  • Located in the heart of downtown - difficult to traverse and slightly distracting


  • Nearby, only an hour and a half drive from me
  • The co-op program is salivating, especially with the international opportunities
  • Very well balanced between arts and engineering


  • Located in the fabulously scenic Cambridge (sarcasm, there are no other universities in the vicinity, however, this may be an advantage)
  • Small class sizes - ~70 per annum (also could be an advantage)
  • I'd have to live on residence or rent an apartment


  • Highly prestigious
  • I love to speak French so it being in Montreal is enticing


  • Since I live out of province, my first year would have to be all science-related. It wouldn't be a problem since I do like the sciences but I was hoping to jump right into a creative atmosphere
  • I would have to live on residence or rent an apartment
  • VERY small class sizes - ~25 (while this may provide a lot of one on one between the teacher and I, I'm afraid with the class being so small it would be a kind of brain-drain)
  • I've heard that this program is very technical and not as arts-based. They don't have a fine-arts studio to create in


Sorry for the lengthy post but I'm seriously attracted to these three universities. I have a feeling I would opt for Waterloo if I got accepted there but I'd like to weigh the circumstances and choose the right fit for me.

Jul 25, 13 7:52 pm

Hi TaspiaW,

I'm currently entering my final year of the Waterloo program, and have a profound knowledge of the program and its admissions process, having also participated as an interviewer for incoming students. As for the other programs I can't speak much of, other than their established reputations within the waterloo community (perhaps somewhat biased). I don't think McGill's undergraduate program is deserving of the reputation you've attributed. As a person attuned to architectural education in Canada I would rank their undergraduate below the other two with Waterloo being first and Ryerson second. Reconsider your analysis of each institution to also include the quality of falculty who will be teaching you, the quaity of the work being produced by students and the type and range of courses you will be participating in. Of course my decision for choosing Waterloo first is partially biased as I may be interested in learning things that someone who has gone to Mcgill deems irreleavant. Waterloo, above all, places huge emphasis on cultural history having a dedicated stream of courses throughout the program, as well as a full study term in Rome. For me this type of education is crucial to my understanding of architetcure. So create more complete picture of what each program actually entails.

Your marks should suffice in garnering attention from any of these institutions, really anything over 85% and you are in the clear. Your primary concern should be your portfolio. For all programs what they really want to uncover is your ability to think critically about the world around you. So read the news, read books, go see places you've never seen and then form oppinions, draw, paint, and write about what you've observed. The portfolio should be works that have manifested out of your thinking about the world.

Hope this helps somewhat!

Jul 26, 13 12:17 pm

I'm sure Waterloo is very good, and its reputation is more regional, but when a person in the U.S. thinks of a great Canadian university, they immediately think of McGill.  Its reputation is international in scope. True, their architecture school is contained within the engineering school, but is that such a bad thing?  You'll know how a building goes together and stands up.  Plus, of those listed, Montreal is the most dynamic location, and a true urban laboratory.

If the OP plans on remaining in Canada, and especially in Ontario, then sure, go to Waterloo, where you'll save some bucks and get the co-ops. 

Jul 26, 13 10:05 pm
sam goods

I haven't studied in any of these school, but know a few people from McGill and Waterloo. I would disagree with observant, Waterloo definitely has a national not regional reputation and the work of their graduates is very impressive. I know of a few bachelor graduates who complete their masters in Harvard, Yale and MIT.

McGill's problem is not being in being part of engineering school, plus the year of learning calculus, physics and chemistry does not help you understand how building goes together and stands up. The problem is with the faculty and lack of direction in the school. That's just something I heard from a few people who transferred from McGill to our uni, I do not know the details. 

Most employers and practicing architects I talked to consider Waterloo grads to have the best skill set in Canada generally. It's also a lot more selective than any other school in the country.

So if your goal is to get a degree of the university which name is recognized in the States I'd say, go to McGill. If you want better arch. education, go to Waterloo.

Your portfolio is the most important thing in architecture, not the name of the school. Definitely the case in Canada, not sure about the States. But then again if your goal is to work in US, why not just go to "brand name" school there (at least for Masters).

That being said, you can be an amazing student with amazing work in any school, it depends entirely on you. 

Montreal and Cambridge, ON should not even be in the same sentence together. 

Just my 2 cents

Jul 27, 13 12:54 am
chatter of clouds

sam goods: The problem is with the faculty and lack of direction in the  (McGill) school.

I agree, at least my experience in relation to postgrad programs (then again, faculty is shared). I paid them a visit a while ago and this is the impression i was left with. also, they're quite a small school/faculty so if you're not quite happy with the one or more of the few core professors, you might find it difficult to avoid them. i would also suggest that having a quasi-ivy league rep in the US  has made them more stuffy and less willing to get their act together. and one of the professors immediately told me: grades, we like high grades from entry student otherwise...

not sure of the other schools.

why don' you consider Uof T? they seem to be quite a large school and their faculty list looks quite extensive and good with opportunity to explore more than a couple of interests. and there's UBC on the west coast.

Jul 27, 13 6:35 am

Yes, so consider Waterloo, then.  It's good.  It's close.

For me, if I had to schlep to Canada, it would be McGill or bust.  It's in my favorite Canadian city and, for those programs which "lack direction," find the direction yourself.  Like the saying goes "you are responsible for your own education."  That is, do what you want to do with the program, picking the electives you like, the summer travel options, and whatnot.  In defense of McGill, their architectural core is pretty damn substantial, having looked it over.

tammuz, if he's not interested in U of T, I doubt UBC would be of interest.  I sense that both of those are even less practical than Waterloo or McGill.  U of T has diversity, while UBC is international, but I wouldn't call it diverse.  All the wet evergreens and dankness would get to be too much.

Jul 27, 13 10:57 am
chatter of clouds

I don't see how UofT or UBC is less practical. I don't know how you measure practicaIity. I know someone who went to UBC architecture and he was a very practical kind of guy by nature and churned out very practical work. In both schools, there are teachers who run their own offices. It is thus reasonable to assume that the schools are well connected to the professional envirnonment in Toronto and Vancouver - very practical indeed. In Quebec, my impression is that it would be possibly easier to be a graduate of UdeM or Laval U than Mcgill for connections and work within the immediate region. I can't confirm this but thats what I deduce from the fact that many/most quebec firms overall have more graduates from those two francophone schools. That said, I cannot say how these compare to McGill in terms of quality of education.

Jul 27, 13 12:03 pm

I'm got my hangups and that's fairly obvious.  For starters, you can simply read the curricula.  Like someone said, the 1st year at McGill is a lot of math, physics, and even chemistry.  Their structural sequence is comprehensive and taken in civ. eng.  Clearly, they have a design studio every term.  However, they sure make room for building science, a 4 semester history sequence, as well as other courses.  The "gut feel" from a website is worth something.  For M.Arch. 1, how is it that UT and UBC offer only 2 structures courses, over 3.5 years!?  Again, people graduate from less technical programs and make good architects, so that's just my "issue," because I want to learn more about building science while I'm there.  I'm sure there will be students at UT and UBC who turn out practical and safe designs, the ones that won't be showcased on their websites.

As for Quebec, UdeM and Laval are definitely options.  Both are neat campuses, with one being in Cote-des-Neiges and the other along the Grande Allee in Quebec City.  However, they are Francophone, and one's French would have to be at the level where it would not be a hindrance.  McGill is Anglophone, so that's not a hurdle.  Again, good architects come from every school.  And people can find work from every school.  My beef with Quebec is that the province does not offer M.Arch. 1s at ANY school.

The OP may not gain admission to McGill but may gain admission to Waterloo, which would then make this moot.

Jul 27, 13 12:23 pm

Now let's not forget Ryerson!

Ryerson was the only school that based on the work of the undergraduate degree gained a 6 year CACB term of accreditation.  That's pretty good if you ask me and suggests that the school is moving fast in the right direction to become one of Canada's top schools of architecture.

While their program is still very technically oriented, the design work coming from the program has placed in international competitions as well as Toronto based design build projects and cultural events in the city.  Let's not be fooled, good Architecture is as much about technical acumen as it is great design and Ryerson really provides that to its students.  Like Waterloo there are bachelor graduates also going on to complete their degrees at Ivy League schools in the States as well as many of the Architecture schools in Canada.

Now let's debunk some of your Cons.

- While you're right, Ryerson is not as prestigious in name as McGill or Waterloo their graduates are considered highly hireable in the job market.  The undergraduate degree prepares students to jump right into the working environment something most schools of architecture struggle to teach their students.

- I believe Ryerson will be providing a co-op in the coming year or two and it is definitely something that the school has been working on.  If this is something that interests you try to find out more information, call the school and ask.

- Location, Location... Let's get serious, if you want to learn about the Architecture go to where Architecture is.  Downtown Toronto, Downtown Montreal probably good options.


Now all three schools you have mentioned are well respected within the industry and will open doors regardless of which you choose.  There are graduates from all 3 programs that will go to Ivy Leagues and those that will decide not to pursue architecture.  Going to one school over the other won't make you better, in the end your education is what you make it.


Also to put one thing to rest,  a University of Toronto undergraduate degree in "architecture" is not a pre-professional degree (don't be fooled!).  This means that if you choose to go to UofT for your undergraduate degree you have a limited choice of M.Arch degrees in Canada you can apply to (Basically only UofT and UBC take students with non pre-professional degrees and its a 3.5 year masters program Vs. typically a 2 year masters program)

Jul 27, 13 2:20 pm

The OP needs to figure out if they want one accredited degree in one continuous sequence or willing and wanting to get a pre-professional degree and then do the M.Arch., either at the same school or somewhere else.

If the OP selects McGill, it's on the 4 + 2 system, where the first degree is not accredited.  Some people don't want to do it this way, preferring an accredited degree in one trip, and some students want to experience two different schools.

Jul 27, 13 2:26 pm

I will pre-empt my post by pointing out that in Canada, the architecture school one went to is largely unimportant - jobs are simply based on merit and connections. The most it has ever come up for me was shooting the shit towards the end of an interview when one of the architects on the panel had graduated from the same school.

Also, to the OP, I think you will find that this forum is typically geared towards M.Arch academic talk. The reasons you outlined, while very relevant as a high schooler (I looked at the exact same stuff when I was going through this 5-6 years ago), are somewhat superficial, especially when you begin to study at an arch school. You'll find people here are much more interested in discussing the specific merits of architecture school's philosophies and strengths a lot more than proximity to home, etc.

Its hard to get out everything in one post, so I'll say this: Waterloo architecture grads are consistently the top-performing people I work with. The breadth of the program is simply unmatched from graduates of other programs (including my own). While you will find one or two outlier undergrads at each school may get into a great Ivy/high-ranking institution for their Masters, I would not consider that the norm - however, it is definately more consistent for UW grads. This also spans across many aspects of design, not just in architecture.

I also find it ironic that the Ryerson cheerleader above is quick to point out that the "University of Toronto undergraduate degree in "architecture" is not a pre-professional degree (don't be fooled!)," which is entirely true, yet left out the fact that Ryerson only rose above that same problem in the last 2 years - I believe they haven't graduated a true M.Arch class since accreditation, no? Of the Ryerson gradutes I have worked with, many tend to have problems moving on to a graduate program or even defining themselves as distinct from an Arch. Tech. diploma in some cases. The school is still defining itself as an architectural design school, and no longer a technical program - it still has work to do on that.

I really cant speak much about McGill, but the work I have seen in the past come from there has been high-quality. Granted, my perspective of the student work has been limited to what comes out through the school website, but regardless it still seems quite good.

Observant: Every program in Canada is either 4 + 2 or 4 + 3 (or some variation of that); regardless of what undergraduate school they go to, they are going to be entering an M.Arch program prior to licensure.

Jul 27, 13 5:19 pm

Observant: Every program in Canada is either 4 + 2 or 4 + 3 (or some variation of that); regardless of what undergraduate school they go to, they are going to be entering an M.Arch program prior to licensure.

Learn something new every day.  Thus, there are no 5 year B.Arch. programs in Canada.  Interesting.

Jul 27, 13 5:35 pm

I am a fourth year Architecture student at Carleton University, and from your options I would strongly recommend Waterloo. Waterloo architecture students are very easily employable, because of the strong connection they have with firms in Toronto through their COOP programs. McGill's and UFT masters are currently on probation, they recently got a 2 year accreditation while Waterloo Ryerson UBC and Carleton all got a 4 year renewal. McGill is a very established school and should still be considered but just letting you know what ive heard. As for Ryerson it is a great up and coming school. Great hands on programs more focused on the technical side of architecture, and a focus on details. I went to Carleton because I was more focused on the design aspect of architecture rather than the technical side, however waterloo balances both well. its all personal preference, so good luck

Jul 29, 13 11:17 am

Hi there,

I am a Canadian citizen and currently in India doing my grade 12.  am interested in pursuing B. Arch program. Is a undergrad  B Arch from India accepted in Universities in Canada?. My choices are U of Waterloo and Ryerson. Or do I have to take up assessments to equate my degree from India?. Any insights on this is really helpful. Also, tips on how to create a profile is also appreciated. Here, in India, all we do is score a good percentage in the board exams coupled with a good score in the NATA exam( National Aptitude Test in Architecture) and we are through. Doing undergrad in India with a merit seat is less expensive than doing it in Canada. But, I will be missing out on the Co-op programs offered there. Here, in India , only in the last 2 semesters we will be doing the internship.The curriculum here is well balanced with both arts and science. Any relevant information shared is highly appreciated.

Apr 21, 16 9:11 am
Non Sequitur

 Is a undergrad  B Arch from India accepted in Universities in Canada?

Probably not, The architecture regulations in India are non-existent compared to Canadian practice law. Check with the CACB. If your goal is to work and practice in Canada, please note that you require an accredited master's in architecture before even qualifying for intern status. Only then can you start logging experience hours and you can write your exams (4 of them) after 50% of the hours are complete (roughly 2 years of full time work if you're lucky to get a gig in a well diversified office).

However, foreign trained architects can apply for Canadian architect licenses in the province of their choice if they can demonstrate 10-years minimum of real experience, pass the exams, and stand up to an in-person interview... or something similar to that. There are also high fees to pay.

It's probably not worth the effort if you don't plan on working here in Canada but if you do, you'll quickly find that a foreign B.arch is a big hurdle.

Apr 21, 16 10:20 am

Thanks for the useful info. Yes, I checked the CACB, the  Commonwealth Association of Architects Validates only 2 colleges in Mumbai. Rizvi College and Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute. 

Apr 21, 16 11:09 am

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