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Grades SK TO 12 — Toronto, ON (Map)


Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Upper Canada College (2020)

Upper Canada College alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Matt, Mary Lea Rosetta, Maggie Mok had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Matt — alum

Matt attended UCC as a day student from Grade 7 to 12, for six years, and graduated in 2017. Matt developed strong relationships at schools and had some amazing teachers. He is currently studying Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at New York University-Abu Dhabi Campus.

  • “I was involved in a number of different things at UCC, like athletics and extracurricular events. I was on the soccer team, the cricket team. I was doing model United Nations and a lot of different things. And so I'm really grateful for my time there.”
  • “I think for me, the number one thing above all during my six years at UCC is definitely sort of the friendships and relationships I made at the college. That has been the thing that during that time I realized was extremely important to me and very valuable to me. But even the last three and a half or so years after being at the college halfway around the world, I still maintain those very strong connections with my friends, with some of my closest confidants, with my classmates, with people in different years.”
  • “Not only did I obviously go to class with friends and go to school with them from 7:30 a.m., sometimes until 7 p.m. after soccer practice or whatever, but it was those guys that I would go out with on the weekends and hang out and go do different things in the city, you know, hang out after school, get engaged with a bunch of different extracurriculars, and travelled with some of them. … And the really good thing is that it's the same values that we kind of hold among each other, really positivity, community service, all of these really great things that I think UCC instilled in us.”
  • “I think above all, [what was important] for me was definitely the camaraderie among my peers. And I can even say that I'd extend that to some of my teachers that I had there at the time.”
  • “[Another important thing is] academic rigour. UCC is a challenging school once you get up to the higher grades, but it sets you up very well for your performance after high school. And I found myself coming to university and being extremely prepared, being ready for the first year classes, being ready with the commitments that are expected from me as a university student. And I think part of that is through doing the International Baccalaureate Programme. And I think it's set me up extremely well to be successful in university. So I think that's sort of one area.”
  • “And I think the second one is really about the people that work there. The teachers I had are honestly some of the most impactful people I've had in my life. And I remember having a conversation with my parents actually over the summer about it and discussing how teachers really do shape your development.”
  • “I really noticed that I can name a couple of teachers that really had a profound impact on my life in a number of different areas, like teaching me personal values, teaching me how to be a good time-manager, teaching me how to be a good person and how to be a good friend.”
  • “The staff there, the reason that I'm out here in Abu Dhabi doing school, is because they sort of identified me as a particularly good fit for this university. I'm very grateful for them for that.” 
  • “And honestly, I'd wake up at 6 a.m. every day excited to go to school because that's the time I had to wake up to catch the taxi to get to school on time. But I loved it. I spent more time at UCC, I think, in the week than I did at home, because I would spend most days, more than 12 hours at UCC. And I really loved every single minute of it. And I think it extends from teachers to also some of the other staff that are there.”
  • “They're extremely supportive, extremely accommodating. Everyone there is always really there to help you as a student. And I do think that they are there for you in the best moments and the worst moments.” 
  • “I think just about how well-rounded the colleges are in the sense that we have academics, and you have sports and extracurriculars.”
  • “If you're someone like me who likes to do a bunch of different things, sports science, but also looking at the social sciences, my extracurriculars, I can do all of those at the same time and also at a very deep and enriched level. I think that really does differentiate the college, I think, from a lot of the other private institutions that are in Toronto and in Canada as a whole”
  • “I kind of like to go back to the values of community. I think a lot of the time these institutions, such as UCC or some of the other private schools in Toronto, it can present the image of your boy showing up at 8 a.m. and he leaves at 4:30 p.m. and is at school to learn. And, you know, he does a couple of extracurriculars and then that's it. And you get put through the machine and then you graduate and you go to a really good university, you get a really good job, and then you hopefully give back if you're an alum. And that's sort of the progression of a student through these private institutions. But I really think that at UCC it was completely different. And I think this is something that I didn't necessarily anticipate when I was back in Grade 6, going into Grade 7. I think it elevated as I went from Grade 7 all the way up to IB to Grade 12 again. And I think we've talked about a lot of different things like community, the teachers, and my peers. But honestly going to school was fun. It was a place that I wanted to be all the time because of my friends, because of all the things that were going on.”
  • “It was amongst the most fun years of my life. Like the boys that I was with were the people that I would die for. We would have some really great moments of like spirit at sporting events on campus, going to Winter Fest and watching the hockey team play or going to a game and just like rallying with all my friends and watching the football team, that was something that we would do religiously. And I think that community was built up because of your proximity with your friends and your peers.”
  • “I just had bad days because it was raining outside. And every time, the one thing that stayed consistent was that every time I went to school, my spirits were lifted. It was as if a burden was taken off my shoulders. I wanted to wake up and get to school. Sometimes I wanted to get away from my parents and my siblings. And I think school was the escape. And it's just that they were there for me all the time, at every moment.”
  • “Some of those teachers, they would be able to notice when you're walking through the hallway and you have the slightest of slowness in your pace or your back is slightly hunched forward or something. And they'd say, ‘how's it going today, Matt? Is everything all right?’ Or even call you into their office and say, ‘you know what's going on? You seem a little off sometimes’. Everything was great. It was just, you know, whatever an anomaly, but sometimes it was really great to hear that as well and to sort of open up to someone.”
  • “So I think like trying as much as you can to break out of the box that you may have confined yourself within and trying new things, because that's where I think personal growth comes. And I think UCC is a really great place for personal growth. And then a side thing to this and kind of related to it is really making great sort of connections and relationships with your peers. I think this will come organically anyway.”
  • “I think that you see a lot of times there's group learning in terms of your learning from your peers, but also the teacher coming down to the level of the student and and helping you truly understand things that are outside of the course content, but things about life, things they've learned in their life.”
  • “I think entering in the middle school years, they do a bit of sort of pre-testing. You have to. I think it’s like a standardized test for students around the Grade 6 level. So that does prove that you're sort of up to the academic rigour and there's a lot of sort of orientation and initiation.”
  • “You're not necessarily at any disadvantage coming in in the middle years versus coming in at the sort of kindergarten years. I will say, however, though, that obviously I think coming in at the kindergarten years allows your son to be exposed to what you see as prior to and build that community and that network a lot earlier, even at such a younger age. However, I think in terms of how it looks when you transition to the Upper School and even if you enter during the Upper School, I really think that there is an on-ramp that's extremely quick. And by a month, two months, just because of how great and welcoming the community is, you're caught up to speed extremely quickly.”
  • “I can give you a sense of perhaps what I believe some of the values that a lot of the students came in with. And I think they really centered around, ‘what does it mean to be a good person?’”
  • But I think that's what UCC is about. It's as much as putting your son through an extremely rigorous academic program and setting them up for really great success after their final years at the UCC. It's really about raising a good society and individuals for society. How can you be a positive contributing member to whatever community you decide to go to, whether that be in a space of sports or music and art or something super specific and technical. I think there's a lot of work done to cultivate really good citizens and really good people. They do a lot of different programming that's at the college to help bring that in.” 
  • “The risk takers, one that I remember, particularly because I think I identified with those things, but showing that you as as a student are willing to embody some of those traits to someone who's willing to take risks or or go deeper into something or try out an interdisciplinary way of learning or just opening yourself up to different experiences, as I think probably what they look like from the inside and also showing that propensity to to turn into a good individual. I think everyone can and everyone has the potential.”
  • “I think it's really great that UCC’s position in a place where we have business down the hall or down the way, you also have really great connections with Havergal or Branksome. And so we have a lot of events with those schools. And so you get exposure to girls in that sense. And, you know, I had friends that were at those schools, so it wasn't as if, you know, during my high school years, all my friends exclusively were male. I was able to meet some of my peers at female schools through different events. You know, as I think as you get a little older, you have some of the dances at the Upper School and there's a couple of those. I certainly still had a lot of really great friendships with a lot of great females from different high schools in Toronto.”
  • “UCC is a competitive environment. There's no doubt about it. And you have such great students that excel in a bunch of different things. There will be competition. There's competition on the sports field and competition in extracurriculars like you wouldn't believe it. And there's also competition in academics. But I think it's competition that's extremely helpful. And I think it’s healthy. I think it was extremely helpful for me in my development because it pushed me to go to new lengths to challenge myself, to really figure out where I excel, where my shortcomings are, and how do I go and address those things.”
  • “I really come to understand how teachers really did pay attention to the fact that competition is a real thing. It can actually have serious consequences to people's mental health. And I think the other part of that is our peers. I think everyone understood that it is a competitive environment and that propagating an environment in which that became toxic is not good for anyone.”
  • “ I had friends that were at boarders. I sat in the same classes as them. I played on the same sports field as them. The only real difference is that at the end of the day I went home and they crossed quad to their dorms and I didn't really notice—there's no distinct difference between boarders and day school kids.”

Mary Lea Rosetta — current parent

Mary Lea is a very active parent in the UCC community. Her son, Michael, joined in Senior Kindergarten and is currently in Grade 5.

  • “The admissions process was actually very smooth for us because they were little. He was in SK and it was super fun and they went into the class and they had them observe their playdate. And I know that it's quite different when you're in the older grades, you actually have to write a test and things like that. But it was great to come into the school and to meet the admissions team, and to feel that not only were we going to be interviewed, but they were happy to speak to us about the school and the community and what was happening at UCC.”
  • “And it was an easy process and a good process. And I think the hardest part of the process is waiting to find out if you're in or not. But that was a highly exciting moment because they come to the door and welcome you to the school on the morning that admissions go out.”
  • “It was an easy decision for us to choose UCC. I mean, from our point of view, it's the greatest school in Canada. And we didn't actually apply anywhere else because it was just like this is where we want to go. So that was our experience. And again, the team was so lovely to work with and made it so accessible if we had any questions.”
  • “Well, arriving at the school and watching this little five-year-old blossom into a real young man now has been incredible to watch. The process has been amazing. And I think the biggest surprise, and I don't know why I was surprised, but it’s how welcoming everybody was and the parents.” 
  • “I think there's always this preconception for private schools, whatever school it is, that perhaps you might come across some people who aren't quite friendly or welcoming. And it's been an incredible experience not only for the kids who are there and watching them make new friendships and these forever friendships and welcome new kids into their classes as they go through the years.”
  • “There's entry years. But the parents are all so engaged. And I think that's been the biggest surprise—just how everybody wants the best for their son and wants to make the community better.”
  • “Michael is 10 now. I mean, he was five when he started. And just seeing how the depth of those friendships that he's made over the years and in Grade 3, they had a new class come in. And this year in Grade 5, we have a new class that's come in. And already they're friends with the new boys who've come in.”
  • “It's smaller classes. There's only 15 of them, but half of them are new. And it's just like they don't miss a beat. The faculty and the teachers are incredible. The teachers make all the difference in the world. And you hear from other friends and family about situations with teachers and kids.”
  • “But you see right now for your boys, the biggest observation I've noticed over the last two or three years is an incredible sense of independence. And he has a quiet confidence that he is good where he is, that he goes into the school and he's happy.”
  • “He knows where he's at. He knows he has the support. He knows the teachers. The teachers know him. It's incredible, such an incredibly supportive community. And to see the confidence, you know, like he's very polite. The teachers, you know, are big on, I don't want to say like manners, but, you know, conduct. And I think that's important. I do.”
  • “Well, I think that the greatest value at UCC is having the boys become their best selves. So the school, the teachers, the community, the whole experience is there to take your son. Everybody’s child is different. But the whole idea and the value system at UCC is to make that kid the best they can be for who they are. And there's an incredible amount of support, I find, to get to that point.”
  • “The teachers are very approachable. And I find that the school is there for anything, whether it’s discussing progress or just to chat. Everybody's open to questions and being emailed, phone calls or, you know, even outside, people can talk outside still. So we do that too.”

Maggie Mok — current parent

Maggie is an active parent in the UCC community. She has two sons who started in Senior Kindergarten, one who’s currently in Grade 3 and the other who’s in Grade 7.

  • “There was one teacher who is now retired. But I have to tell you guys, that guy was great that day. I walked up to him, everybody talked to him and I listened to him. His name was Don Kawasaki. He graduated. Now, that day he told me something very impressive, that at UCC, we take care of the boys, on the up days or the down days when the good boys are silly, we take care of them.”
  • “I have two boys and … on the silly days, the school is there for them, taking care of them, and teaching them the right thing, the right values.”
  • “I have a lot of friends in the school now. And also the teachers are awesome.” 
  • “At UCC, this is a place where you should go because they basically have everything for everyone, as strange as my older boy who likes only reading and more quiet stuff like two years ago when he was in Grade 4 and 5, the teachers let him start his own club. So when we found out why he started origami, he said he has been doing it with different friends. And the teachers allowed him to book a room during recess, even buying papers and books for him to do origami with the other students.”
  • “This also shows you how caring the teachers are. The teachers get him ready.”
  • “Now go to my active sno. Since we got back to school after the lockdown, he has been so happy every day like he won money. And every day there's a new friend and he's been sharing with me.”
  • “You have different games to play during recess. So some days I will hear my younger one telling me I've been playing soccer. Next day he'll be playing Four-Square, a game that the boys play.”
  • “When I think back on how UCC shaped my boys versus what I have done at home, I think I appreciate that the school raised both of them to become risk takers, to have courage.”
  • “And I really appreciate that the teacher gives them a very good sense of what is right and wrong, a very good sense of value. … I think this is part of how the teachers have been shaping them, teaching them what is right and wrong.”
  • “We have a very good, rigorous academic program. For example, my older son likes to compete. I never push him. I never need to do anything. He just loved math and reading. He does all the questions. In Grade 5, he won the number one award in Canada in a math contest. And I did nothing, believe it or not—it’s the teacher. The teachers identify that he loves math. They talked him into an enrichment program.”
  • “But then it's the teachers. And since Grade 5, 6, and 7, even now they've been teaching him, coaching him, giving him extensions and helping him. And so I really appreciate what the school has been doing from both the values and norms by setting the right path and also teaching them on the academic side.”
  • “Of course, it's fun. They love school.”
  • “My older boy, for instance, I sometimes joke with him, ‘would you like to go to university early if you can, since you are so into reading and all the academics’? And, he says, ‘yeah, sure. But guess what, even if I got in, I want to stay here until I'm 17 years.’”
  • “When I drop off my son as a mom, the one thing I want to know is are they safe? And he's happy. And if there is anything, I want to make sure they're safe and someone cares for them and this is what the school has been giving me. I know that ... when they fall down, when they're sick, someone is gonna handle them and take care of them.”
  • “I think the school is very good from the perspective that they care about them, not only from the academic level, but also from the mental health needs, the well-being levels.”
  • “I will say that there are many multiple ways every year to have conferences, different times when you can have interviews to have a formal discussion with the teachers. And on top of that, if you have any questions, you can always ask them. You can always talk to your teacher during pick-up or at another time. And you can always email the teacher.”
  • “You can also log into the system and check the stuff that they have been doing and what their progress is. So you don't need to worry. You get all the information you want.”

More about Upper Canada College

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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.

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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.
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Alum, Darwin Jimal (2021)

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Alum, Sevion DaCosta (2020)

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More written reviews


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 ...


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 ...


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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