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Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Upper Canada College (2021)

Upper Canada College alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Cal, Christina, Omar had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Cal — alum

Cal attended Upper Canada College for his entire high school education. He then went on to Princeton University to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and is now enrolled at Perelman School of Medicine working towards his MD Ph.D. Cal also runs a non-profit organization called “Minds on Math.” During his time at Upper Canada College, he enjoyed many extracurricular activities such as playing sports and band, while excelling in the school’s rigorous academic program. He felt that the school’s IB Programme prepared him well for his future academic endeavours and beyond. He appreciated the tight-knit community at the school, and still maintains close connections with the friends he made there.

  • “Coming into [Upper Canada College], the [thing I appreciated most] was being able to pursue all of my interests. I came in as someone that had an interest in everything. A lot into sports, a lot into music, and obviously academics as well. Those are my main three pillars if you will. The decision to come to [Upper Canada College] for me was being able to do all those things at a very high calibre, and with like-minded peers. I think Upper Canada College was great for that.”
  • “[Upper Canada College] really allowed me to explore myself, and also to engage with as many people as possible that were in [my] fields [of interest]. Having been removed four years away from that now, I think I really appreciated that time and being able to do that, because as I get older, it's getting hard to do those things. Being able to be at [Upper Canada College], and be able to just be immersed and everything was an amazing experience for me that I really cherish because it's getting harder and harder to do those things as I go forward.”
  • “A number of things [that differentiate Upper Canada College from other schools]. I think the obvious ones in my mind come from things like the facilities, and also the connections [you make with your peers]. More so than that, the number of areas that [Upper Canada College] is very advanced in. In terms of excelling in various areas … one of the draws [to Upper Canada College] for me was the academic rigour, especially with the IB Programme. It's something that has well prepared me for college and beyond, and that's something I'm extremely grateful for. I’m also grateful that I was able to do the extracurriculars at such a high level.”
  • “The teachers [at Upper Canada College] know their stuff, and not only know the topic, but also know life, and know the world around them. Having conversations about how different things in the news correlate with the world, and how that happens has been really important for me. … [Upper Canada College] really develops leaders, and they develop responsible citizens.”
  • “Having graduated from [Upper Canada College] has changed my perspective on a lot of things. I'm no longer just trying to push pen and paper and do equations, but really be able to have discussions with people, and figure out what problems are really pressing in terms of how to fix a number of issues on a global scale. I'm going into medicine now. I'm not just trying to design a device to fix a problem, [I'm trying to] know how the device affects global health and people in various countries. All of these things have been really engaging for me and really brought in my perspective. So I really appreciate that.”
  • “[Upper Canada College] is resourceful on the surface level. … The facilities are spectacular. I still remember walking through the campus, just being in awe all the time. On a deeper level, if there was something that wasn't on campus, or the students didn't have access to, [Upper Canada College] was always there to support us in finding that, and resourceful in being able to give us the different things. … The second [word to describe Upper Canada College] is critical thinking, and I just really appreciate again, all the conversations with my teachers, and just trying to promote us to think outside of ourselves, and outside of the bubble, which [Upper Canada College] can be at times.”
  • “[Upper Canada College] really allowed me to use my voice, and to advocate for others. I now acknowledge that I've been able to use that same kind of empowerment and help my peers along the way in order to do things. I really appreciate that.”
  • “I think there's a lot of hidden talents at [Upper Canada College]. ... The conception was that [Upper Canada College] was a sports school, and an academic school, and they just do those things amazing. In reality, they're an everything school. They really do everything, and they don't just do it at a level that is satisfactory. They do it at the best level possible.”
  • “I played soccer. … I played in the band, and had a number of service opportunities. … I think service is another emphasis at [Upper Canada College] that sometimes gets brushed over. It's something that through the number of different programs for me personally, was very influential in terms of my upbringing, and what I'm doing now.”
  • “I would say [to new students at Upper Canada College]] that you're going to one of the best, if not the best school in North America. I wouldn't let that get to your head. You can't sit pretty. You have to take advantage of it, which means you wake up every day, be ready to learn, and be ready to participate in as many things as possible. Be open-minded and explore all of your interests and even things that you may not be interested in. You should see [Upper Canada College] as a really collaborative environment that allows you to do that.”

Christina — current parent

Christina has a son that currently attends Upper Canada College as a Grade 6 student, and has another son who will begin senior kindergarten soon. She most appreciates the facilities at the school, which allow them to offer many different extracurricular opportunities to the students there. She feels that the school is a nurturing and welcoming environment that fosters a close community among the students and parents involved. Christina has seen her son gain confidence, and learn how to take on responsibility since he enrolled at Upper Canada College.

  • “We were just really amazed at the IB Programme at [Upper Canada College], and the way it encouraged kids to think analytically and to make connections across different fields.”
  • “[My son] is a kid who asks a lot of questions, who's always wanting to know how things fit together. We felt that the IB Programme at [Upper Canada College] would be an amazing fit for him, so that was a huge draw for us. In addition to that, the campus was just something that absolutely amazed us. We don't live terribly far from the school, and when we weren't a family at the school, we would drive by it all the time, and just stare at the acres, and be absolutely in awe at all of the facilities.”
  • “When [my son] was about five years old and not a student at [Upper Canada College], he was able to do a summer camp there, and he came home and he said, ‘they have a pool, they have a skating rink. It's absolutely incredible. They have so much ground. It's just fantastic.’ So that was a huge draw for us. It did seem like a big school.”
  • “We were a little bit worried that our little guy would be a little bit lost in a big environment [like Upper Canada College]. I think the thing that surprised me the most is how unfounded that fear was because at the prep, it's a small school within a big school. [Upper Canada College] really feels like a tight-knit community, a small environment where you can go and the parents know who you are, and the staff knows who you are. Everybody chats with you, and there's just a strong sense of community and belonging. So for us, that was unexpected, but in an extremely pleasant way, and we've been thrilled ever since.”
  • “What I've seen happen over [my son’s] last three years at [Upper Canada College] is just a sense of confidence and responsibility coming out of him that is absolutely incredible. He's learned to take his education seriously, not through us hammering it down on him, or anyone from the school pushing it on him, but from an internal drive that's been embedded in him because he loves school, and because of the way that he's come to value his education.”
  • “I have to haggle [my son] to make his bed in the morning every single day, at 11 years old, but I never have to ask him to do his homework, and I never have to ask him what needs to be done or whether he's on top of things for studying. … He's got a drive from within him that makes him want to succeed. I can think of at least a couple of occasions where [my son] felt a little bit unsure about where he was at with his skills, and independently, he said to me, ‘you know what, mom? I'm going to reach out to my teacher [at Upper Canada College] and ask for extra help because I just want to be sure that I've got it.”
  • “[My son] values his time so much at school that he wants to do his best, and put in what he can. That level of responsibility is something that definitely has emerged throughout his time at [Upper Canada College], and it's led to confidence in him. He's now willing to be even more of a risk-taker, and to do more things that he otherwise might not have tried.”
  • “[Upper Canada College] encourages all kids to attempt to be on a team and to give it a try. [My son] found out, ‘you know what? That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed doing basketball. I really enjoyed doing soccer. I can actually do this. I'm not as bad as I thought I would be. Maybe I can be an athlete.’ So that confidence and that responsibility has just been so phenomenal as parents for us to watch develop.”
  • “[The] first word [I would choose to describe Upper Canada College] would be dedicated. I've been so unbelievably impressed by the staff and administration at [Upper Canada College] who have consistently been willing to go above and beyond to do whatever they need to do in order to help a family, help a student, and just help everyone achieve their personal best. The level of dedication has been way more than I ever would have anticipated and has been a huge surprise, and so welcome. The second word that I would choose would be balanced. It's not the type of school where you have to be just a strictly athletic kid, or you have to be just an artistic kid.”
  • “There's room for everybody at [Upper Canada College]. They have an incredible art program, an incredible sports program, and everybody is encouraged to do a little bit of everything, and they might end up finding out that they like something, or that they’re good at something that they didn't think they [were good at]. Being afforded those opportunities is just so tremendous. The last [word to describe Upper Canada College] is fun. So for me, I don't know. I'm not a student there, but it looks like fun.”
  • “[My son] comes home every day saying that [Upper Canada College] doesn't feel like school. He just has so much fun. The teachers are incredible. It doesn't feel like learning. It's games, it's entertainment. At the same time, they're absorbing all of these things without even realizing it. In addition to the academic side, there are so many activities and events, events that involve the entire community. It's such a pleasure to be a part of and so much fun.”
  • “Excellence permeates a number of different things [at Upper Canada College]. Excellence is something that's sought after by the staff, by the administration, and by the school itself, in terms of teaching, in terms of academics, and in terms of offerings. It's also something that the boys are encouraged to pursue, and that means a different thing for a different child.”
  • “[Upper Canada College is] about meeting [students] at their level, figuring out what their personal best is, and helping them achieve that. … So finding their own excellence in an excellent environment. It's a lot of excellence. I really feel like that's at the core of the [school].”
  • “We're all in it together [at Upper Canada College]. The boys are all in it together, and there's a place for everybody. The school motto is ‘never walk alone.’ You've always got someone who has your back, and you're with someone at all times. There's a real sense from a parent community, to the student body, to just an overall feeling, you belong to the [Upper Canada College] family. You are part of the community, and there is room for you.”
  • “I hear it again and again from friends who have sons at other schools, and they're like, ‘oh, I'm not sure my son is going to fit in. He's not athletic enough. He's not this. He's not that.’ No, it's not like that at all. [Upper Canada College has] a diverse group of individuals, and there's room for everyone. … It's a place where you can explore your own interests, and you can learn at your pace. You can find a spot for yourself that will allow you to grow in your own personal way.”
  • “[My son says Upper Canada College is the] best school ever. … You hear about a lot of kids who are just jumping out of bed and rearing to go to school, and that's absolutely my son. Every single morning he's up without a fuss, puts his clothes on, rushes downstairs and is eager to get into the car, get to school, see his buddies, and get the day going.”

Omar — alum and current parent

  • School alumni
    Yes

Omar graduated from Upper Canada College in 1993 and has a son who is currently a Grade 7 student there. Omar appreciates that the school is forward-thinking, and sees that many improvements have been made to the academic program and the facilities since his time there. He feels that the Upper Canada College’s educators see the potential in each student, and bring out the best in them, whatever their strengths and weaknesses are. He believes that the school pushes students to be independent, while also offering the support and encouragement they need to thrive.

  • “I started at [Upper Canada College] in the ninth Grade, and I had the benefit of experiencing the boarding program, as well as the day student program. It’s really interesting because when I graduated from [Upper Canada College], and fast-forward to where I am now, my closest friends are actually old boys that I spent those four years with.”
  • “It's actually the relationships [from Upper Canada College] that I really value, and the peers, and the people that I spent my time with. Interestingly enough, on campus, there are other old boys that are of my generation that are also sending their boys to [Upper Canada College], and the way we connect, and the way we have this common thread among us is amazing.”
  • “I felt like the opportunities were amazing when I was at [Upper Canada College]. What I find fascinating about [Upper Canada College] now is how it's changed, and in my opinion, how it's improved, how forward-thinking it is. I'm really impressed to see how my son is really gravitating towards the changes that I see. When I went, there wasn't the IB Programme. Now that there's this IB Programme, I see that it's global, not just in terms of the programming, not just in terms of what they're teaching, but even in terms of the educators, in terms of the experiences that these students have.”
  • “What's interesting about [Upper Canada College] is the ability for the educators in the community to really extract these potentials that they see in our children. My son went from being super introverted, and really shy, to being elected captain for Greenhouse for seventh grade.”
  • “[My son] decided that he was going to write a song, and he delivered this song on video. … When I'm looking at this video, and watching my son, and then looking back at old videos of the same boy, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm looking at [my] child develop, and he's really excelling in ways that I never thought he would. … I think what's amazing about [Upper Canada College], is number one, it's the pursuit of excellence.”
  • “From the peers that are [at Upper Canada College], to the educators, to the facilities, [students] want to do the best that they can do in an environment like this, which is really amazing, and yet it's still nurturing, which is really fantastic. I think that's the beauty of the prep. I found that when I came into [Upper Canada College] in ninth Grade, I was sort of this starstruck kid who was dropped into this campus. … I went from a program or a school where they didn't have more than maybe five or six sports, and all of a sudden, I could play rugby, I could play squash, I could play cricket, I could play football, I could do whatever I want to do. I could try and I could develop. I found that's something that [my son] is really enjoying and taking to.”
  • “The first [word to describe Upper Canada College] is engaging. The reason why is because the educators and the community have this incredible ability to engage with the students, but also with the parents. There's a reason why I feel this connection to the school, even after the fact. The fact that it can extract the best of these young boys, to really kind of harness their strengths, and also at the same time make some of their weaknesses into strengths”
  • “[Values of Upper Canada College are] friendliness and inclusivity. I found that people really try to get you involved early, whether it's the school staff, to other families. I find most families are super welcoming, which is great. I found that in terms of values, honesty is really important. It's really critical. Integrity is really critical for [Upper Canada College]. There's a very high benchmark, and I think that's part of why there's that pursuit for excellence, and that doesn't just translate to marks and athletics. It translates to ‘how are you going to behave as a human being? How are you going to treat your environment? How are you going to treat others that are not part of the community? How are you going to treat your other family members?’” 
  • “[My son] brings home a lot of positive habits and attributes that he develops at [Upper Canada College]. For example, I think it's a great sign when if my son misbehaves in some way, and my threat to him is, ‘you know what, you're not going to school if you behave this way’, and he suddenly smartens up, and everything is copacetic.”
  • “[My son] has a great time at [Upper Canada College]. He enjoys the friendships, and he enjoys the curriculum. He's not always thrilled about having to study for tests. … But what's great is he has a really positive outlook. At the end of the day, he has fun. That's what you want. You want your kids to come home and smile and say they had a good day.”
 

More about Upper Canada College

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Key insights on Upper Canada College

Each school is different. Upper Canada College's Feature Review excerpts disclose its unique character. Based on discussions with the school's alumni, parents, students, and administrators, they reveal the school’s distinctive culture, community, and identity.

See key insights about Upper Canada College

Our Kids Feature Review

The 50-page review of Upper Canada College is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

  • UCC is respectful of its long tradition while thinking progressively about what education can offer.
  • A sense of place and community is a foundation for its academic program.
  • $5,000,000 in financial assistance is available at UCC.
Read our in-depth review

Our Kids Feature Review video

Learn about Upper Canada College's unique and defining characteristics through this informative video.

Watch the review

More video reviews

Alum, Darwin Jimal (2021)

Watch our alum interview with Darwin Jimal to learn about the unique experience of attending Upper Canada College.

Roundtable Q&A (2020)

Watch our Upper Canada College Q&A discussion with Matt (Alum), Mary Lea Rosetta (Parent), Maggie Mok (Parent) to gain fresh insight into the school’s culture, values, and strengths.

Alum, Sevion DaCosta (2020)

Watch our alum interview with Sevion DaCosta to learn about the unique experience of attending Upper Canada College.
See all video reviews (4 total)

More written reviews

(5)

Parent, Pierre Pong (2019)

I feel my child likes the teachers the best, they care, they are energetic, fully engaged, responsible, and resourceful. My child appreciates the learning experience and result the most: teacher took ...

(4.8)

Parent, Julia Pantalone (2018)

My boys have had an amazing experience at Upper Canada College since Day 1. They engage the boys right from the start and as a result, they feel a part of the school very early on. The school spirit ...

(4.9)

Student, Will Huang (2018)

My time so far at Upper Canada has been absolutely amazing. I truly love every time I come to school and see the towering clocktower above you. I first came to UCC in grade 3 and I looked up at the cl...
 

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