10 Celebrities Who Went to University in Canada

An illustration of Canada on a map with photos of people overlaid and scattered across the image.

As a country, Canada is known for its high-quality education system. So, it’s no wonder that it’s also taught some of the world’s biggest celebrities. Colleges and universities in Canada offer well-respected programs in a wide variety of fields, from business and engineering to theatre and marketing.

Below, we’ll share quick bios of ten celebrities who went to Canadian universities, including Queen’s University, McMaster University, and York University. If this isn’t motivation to attend university or college in Canada, what is?

From actors to entrepreneurs, here are ten celebrities who studied in Canada before their rise to fame.

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1. Ryan Reynolds

Many folks know actor Ryan Reynolds best for his comedic role as Marvel’s wise-cracking antihero, Deadpool. But, when not wearing the distinctive red and black costume, Reynolds splits his time between acting, directing, and other business opportunities: he’s a major investor in companies like Wealthsimple, a partial owner of the Welsh football club Wrexham AXC, and sits on the board of Match Group (which owns dating sites like Hinge and Tinder.) He’s also contributed to charitable causes, like improving access to fresh water for Indigenous communities in Canada.

While he technically became an American in 2018, Reynolds received the Order of British Columbia (his home province) in 2023 for his many cultural and charitable contributions. Reynolds briefly attended Kwantlen Polytechnic University, but moved south to Los Angeles, California before graduating to pursue his acting dreams.


2. Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams was born and raised in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. While she planned to enrol in a social science program for undergraduate studies, she was encouraged by her high school drama teacher to continue acting. McAdams graduated from York University in Toronto with an honours Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in 2001, and quickly rose to stardom.

Although her breakthrough movie role was as the mean girl in the 2004 film Mean Girls, she certainly is the opposite, and has worked with charities ranging from Habitat for Humanity to the Food and Water First Movement, which works to preserve farmland and fresh water supplies in Ontario. McAdams’ work ranges from drama to comedy and romance; she earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in the 2015 film Spotlight.

A dark-haired young woman looks thoughtfully into the camera

Image Credit: Dennis Grocer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Shay Mitchell

Actress and author Shay Mitchell graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University’s acting program. Her most famous role was in the young adult TV series Pretty Little Liars, after which she went on to act in series like You and Dollface. She’s supported various charitable causes, including The Trevor Project and the NOH8 Campaign, and manages the travel brand BEIS. Mitchell now lives in Los Angeles, California.


A middle-aged woman and a man laughing at a film reception (Nia Vardalos, left; Eugene Levy, right)

Image Credit: Canadian Film Centre from Toronto, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Eugene Levy

Eugene Levy, Canadian actor, director, producer and writer, is renowned for his comedic and satiric work. Most recently, Levy acted in and co-created the award-winning comedy Schitt’s Creek alongside his son, Dan Levy. He’s also known for his sketch comedy work on SCTV alongside regular collaborator Martin Short and fellow Canadian John Candy. Levy has writing and acting credits in movies like American Pie, Cheaper by the Dozen, A Mighty Wind, and more. Before his rise to fame, Levy graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he studied sociology.

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Three men sit on theatre seats, laughing. One of them points offscreen.

Martin Short, at centre. (Image Credit: Martin Lustre, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

5. Martin Short

From movies and television series like Saturday Night Live, Damages, and Only Murders in the Building, to live comedy and Broadway performances, Martin Short has entertained many. Short has contributed to a wide variety of acclaimed movies and TV shows as a voice actor, from Bojack Horseman to Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. He holds an Order of Canada and a Canadian Screen Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. Born in Canada, Short graduated with a degree in social work from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.


A young man on a mock-news set looks at the camera.

Image Credit: The Beaverton, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Simu Liu

Best known for his roles in hit sitcom Kim’s Convenience and as Marvel superhero Shang-Chi, actor and writer Simu Liu has an Honours of Business Administration degree from the Ivey Business School at Western University. He worked briefly as an accountant, but after a company layoff, turned full-time to acting. (Accounting’s loss is our gain!)

In 2022, Liu was named to Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People for his acting and activism, particularly in improving Asian representation in the entertainment sector. As fellow actor (and Canadian) Sandra Oh notes: “Simu has been working hard to get through closed doors, and now he wants to hold those doors open for others. You see him doing that through the way he speaks out against hateful violence, his openness about his own experiences of isolation and discrimination, his professional choices. He’s our superhero.”

Curious about studying at Western University? From its renowned business school to award-winning research and 3M Award-winning faculty, it has a lot to offer international students.

7. Nina Dobrev

The lead actress on the hit series The Vampire Diaries actually studied in Toronto! While she was born in Bulgaria, Nina Dobrev grew up in Toronto, and then studied sociology at Toronto Metropolitan University. However, she left her studies before graduating to pursue her acting career full-time. Dobrev went on to star in a variety of comedies ranging from horror to romantic.


Five well-coiffed men look at a historical artifact at the Library of Congress.

The cast of Queer Eye (Antoni Porowski, second from right) looks over a collections display in the Whittall Pavilion, April 3, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. (Library of Congress Life, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

8. Antoni Porowski

Canadian television personality, model, and chef Antoni Porowski graduated from Concordia University in Montreal in 2008. But before he became Queer Eye‘s food and wine expert, he worked as a server while studying psychology, learning just as much about people at his workplace as in his classes. As he notes in an interview with Concordia: “You deal with all kinds of people when you’re a waiter…You study and go to classes during the day, then you work evenings. It taught me a good work ethic, and how to deal with people.”

Planning to study in Montreal? Porowski’s favourite places include classics like St-Viateur for Montreal-style bagels, Schwartz’s deli for sandwiches, and Cafe Olimpico for lattes.

Montreal has been called Canada’s cultural capital. Learn more about this dynamic, bilingual city on our blog.


A man wearing a dark suit smiles and frameless glasses smiles at the camera

Image Credit: PEN American Center, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Malcolm Gladwell

Canadian author, journalist, and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell graduated with a degree in History from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He’s been a staff reporter for The New Yorker since the late 1990s, and worked for publications like the Washington Post and The American Spectator. Gladwell has published seven best-selling non-fiction books, each looking at how learnings from sociology and psychology impact day-to-day human life. He also hosts the ongoing podcast Revisionist History.


A man wearing a microphone looks off-camera and smiles.

Image Credit: Heisenberg Media, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Elon Musk

The man revolutionizing transportation around the world (and in space). Elon Musk, entrepreneur, worked on a Commerce degree at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. His studies took him to the United States, and he finished his degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, he dropped out of Stanford after two days to start his first venture, Zip2 Corporation, which made online city guides for newspapers. From there, he leveraged his learnings to launch wildly successful business endeavours ranging from PayPal and Tesla to SpaceX.

Learn more about international student life at Queen’s University on our blog!

Canadian flag (a red maple leaf on a white field, framed by a red bar on either side)

Neat, eh?

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