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What's Queen's Commerce about?

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What's Queen's Commerce About?

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Facts & Fiction

Many prospective students have asked me what Queen’s Commerce is about. On this webpage, I will outline some highlights of Queen’s Commerce from my perspective so that you can get a better understanding of it.


  • Queen’s Commerce is a 4-year undergraduate business program. This is definitely true. However, if a student is so inclined; he/she could opt to do a dual degree which may possibly take 5 years. You can do a dual degree in four years, but it will require more work.  
  • Over 60% of students go on exchange. This is true, and the amount is probably even higher. I personally did not go on exchange because I’m technically already “on exchange” as an international student from South Africa. But if you have the opportunity to go, go – because it is a great experience. Most of the exchange partners for Queen’s are really high quality - from Peking to HEC in France – the selection is probably one of the widest and highest quality out of all the undergrad business programs that are offered in Canada.
  • Professors that Queen’s MBA students also teach Queen’s Commerce students. This is what makes this program really cool. The same professors also teach the Queen’s Exec MBA and other programs as well. Professor Free, Levin, Dimnik, Cross are just some of them that I can list off the top of my head. 
  • First years gain access to the top professors. This is true. In my first year, the geographic diversity of my professors were from Canada, UK, USA, and Australia. One of my first year profs was a Rhodes Scholar. There is no such thing as giving first years a full set of inexperienced professors.
  • There is a lot of case-based work involved. This is true. Most of the time, the professor will assign a case for you to do on your own or in a group, and have it prepared for class. Then, in class, the prof will discuss it. At times a case would be assigned for a report submission, at other times it would be for a presentation or debate. Most cases are from Queen's, Harvard, Ivey, and INSEAD, depending on which course it is. I find that for finance and HR you do more Queen's cases, for international business you do more Harvard and INSEAD cases, and for marketing you do more Harvard and Ivey cases.
  • The student group for Queen's Commerce is a society, not a council. This is true. The Queen's Commerce Society is by far the largest relative to the student population. The total budget of its combined activities is over $1 million and they receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate sponsorship a year. ComSoc also runs the most high quality student conferences and competitions in Canada; you may have heard of I.C.B.C, QMAC, Q'BET, QCIB, QFAC, Q.WIL, and many others. Additionally, there are plenty of clubs and internal social activites that you can take part of. All this in a school where one year is 300! (Smaller than many Toronto high schools). See http://comsoc.queensu.ca for more details. Many other business schools across Canada has a student council as opposed to a faculty society, and run a couple of conferences and events throughout the year.
  • There is no co-op at Queen's. This is true. Most students do internships or obtain summer jobs instead of doing co-op, but you can easily get an internship with a large corporation, especially in 2nd and 3rd year --> essentially replacing co-op terms that most other schools offer. However, if you're in first year, you'll probably only get a corporate job if you have good connections or if your marks and ECs highly exceptional. Remember, many competitor schools like Ivey, Schulich, Wharton, UBC, etc do not have co-op programs - you are not at an disadvantage.
  • Class sizes start at maximum of around 75, and gets smaller as time goes on. This is true. My largest class had around 75 students (in first year), and my smallest class had 11 students (in third year). Average classes in 3rd and 4th year are usually 30-40 students. Most of mine though in 3rd and 4th year are around 25 - it really depends on the course you are taking. The classes are pretty much small enough so that the professors know you by name (that is if you participate and don't become a hermit), and since the entire year is only 300, you get to really know your year and classmates very well.  The only exception to this rule is that non-Commerce courses (i.e. your electives) may be large, e.g. Psychology. But with the largest lecture theatre on campus seating 400 students you should still be good!


  • There are no Asian or coloured people on campus. This is not true, as I am Asian myself. While the Queen’s campus cannot be compared to that of U of T, York or Ryerson in terms of diversity, Queen’s is still a very welcoming environment and I loved it there.
  • All kids in Queen’s Commerce are rich. This is not true, as I am not a wealthy person myself. While you do have students who come from very respected backgrounds, there is plenty of diversity in terms of the make-up of the class.  
  • 30% of students fail out of commerce in first year. This is not true. While commerce is really challenging (actually, very challenging), the drop out rate is only around 5%.
  • Commerce students don't do cases. This is not true. Students start doing cases in first year and the load of cases increases all the way to fourth year. In second year, the marketing course is fully case-based. The cases we include cases written by Queen's, Harvard, Ivey, Insead, and MIT. I personally have done so many cases that I could not count how many cases I've done.
  • Kingston is boring. This is not true. I tend to find myself having little to do in Toronto. The difference in Kingston is that you are living in an university town, and the area around Queen's is essentially a 'bubble'. There's more than enough to do and some of the best experiences you have in your life will be, surprisingly, in Kingston!
  • Queen's is not good for accounting. This is not true. While everyone talks about Waterloo's CA program, Queen's have a semi-CA program of their own that is approved by the ICAO. You do all your commerce courses in your 4 years at Queen's, graduate, and you take 4 more courses over 12 weeks. That would get you in the door in terms of the amount of accounting courses you need. A student starting at Queen's will write the UFE at the same time as the student starting at Waterloo - there's no disadvantage per se. Also, all big 4 accounting firms as well as smaller firms recruit from Queen's with on-campus infosessions and events. The CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers is a Queen's grad.

What about placements?

  • In this day and age, high school students and their parents (and perhaps, more so the parents) are overly worried about placements. Fear not, because Queen's Commerce graduates have been very well placed. I have many friends who have been placed in top notch companies across various fields. A quick summary of the places my friends work in and my linkedin contacts who graduated in the same year as me include people who are now working in:
    • Finance: Goldman Sachs, TD, Scotia Capital, BMO Capital Markets, Lehman Brothers (when it still existed), Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Cormark Securies, CPP Investment Board, HSBC
    • Marketing: Unilever, PepsiCo, Cara, Proctor & Gamble, TELUS, Pharma Plus Drugmart Ltd, Extreme Brandz, Sears, Spinmaster, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, MARS Canada, I Love Rewards, Johnson & Johnson, Loblaw Coompanies, Grand & Toy
    • Consulting: Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey, Monitor, Accenture, IBM, SECOR, AT Kearney
    • Accounting: Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), KPMG, Deloitte, RSM Richter, Sievert & Sawrantschuk, BDO, Meyers Norris Penny
    • Law: Stikeman Elliott LLP
    • Other: Imperial Oil, Chubb Insurance, NexJ Systems, Junior Achievement, Me to We Social Enterprises
  • (Note: While many of these companies recruit on campus, some of these may not be direct placements. People may have started somewhere and decided to switch after - e.g. from a Big 4 accounting firm to a smaller firm. Others have decided to pursue law school after graduation, and have got into well known law programs across the country, e.g. Osgoode, etc. 
  • In terms of starting salaries, there are plenty of literature out there published by the universities that go on and on about what their grads' starting salaries are, and then try to "beat" the other schools by skewing some data by including bonuses or trying to dilute a certain field or category. At the end of the day, know that all jobs that will be available to you will pay you a very comfortable range where you would be self sufficient coming straight out of school - so pursue your interests! (and not the money!). If you are one of those who decide to go into banking, you can easily make over 2-3x the income of the average Canadian family (2+ people) as per Statistics Canada in one year.

What about Schulich / U of T / Ivey?

  • If you received an offer from Queen's Commerce, chances are you probably also received an offer from Schulich, U of T Rotman or Ivey. Choosing between Queen's and one of those schools can be a very hard decision to make, given that they are all quite reputable and have fairly good grad opportunities. Here are some of my opinions if you reach that stage:
    • Know that you can't go wrong with any decision. But, things can go horribly wrong if you regret your decision.
    • Know that experiences from each university will be very different. I found Queen's to be a place there you'll meet people from all over Canada and around the world, as opposed to GTA area only.
    • Campus experience really does matter. Queen's is a university where 99% of undergrads live on campus or just off campus, and this creates a significantly more dynamic atmosphere than a school where 90% of students commute to the university. There will be nights where you need to work on a team assignment late at night in one of the breakout rooms - and it helps to have everyone living closeby. You'll also get to meet a lot of people outside your program in residence and you'll hang out, get involved in clubs, do stuff, participate in sports, etc. People go out together on Friday nights and weekends. The environment will be highly dynamic, independent and collegial. On the other hand, a university where 90% of people "go home" after class is not conducive for that environment - especially if their priority for the end of the day is to go that 1 hour GO bus or TTC ride to go home and have their parents make food for them. 
    • Living at home is cheap and great, but sooner or later you need to become independent. University is the perfect environment to break the cord and learn to make your own independent decisions. I have yet to see an example where a successful leader lives with their parents. 
    • A 2+2 program may be appealing to some individuals, but in realty, most reputable universities, including those in the US, follow a 4 year route. Besides, you will pay a lot for your university education - why wait for another 2 years where you could start business school immediately?
    • If you don't enjoy where you are going to university for 4 years, then you will be less likely to succeed in those 4 years. That can hurt a lot. Thus, ensure you pay your dues and make visits to all universities before you decide on an offer. 
    • Money should not be a consideration, even if the difference between your choices can mean a brand new car. You should go where you want to go and your life in the next 4 years should not be valued as such. Cash strapped? Bursaries, summer jobs, work programs, OSAP, student loans --> you'll eventually make it through, trust me on that one.
    • And finally, my last tip of advice - try look beyond the brainwashing and marketing. Be highly critical and look at the facts when you do your comparisons.

I want to do my CA / go into accounting

  • There are many programs in Canada that offer accounting and allow you to start your CA route. Queen's Commerce is one of them. Here are a few thoughts if you are interested in doing your CA and trying to pick between universities
    • You may be set on becoming a Chartered Accountant right now, but things may change in 4 years time. That is why I do not recommend people applying to an "accounting only" program like the MAcc program offered at Waterloo, unless you are absolutely sure you will have no interest in other areas of business. If you attend a "holistic" program such as Queen's, Ivey or Schulich, and later discover that accounting is not for you, you will still be able to do well and concentrate in other areas of business, such as finance, marketing, consulting, etc. In other words, you will keep your doors open by going to a university like Queen's. This is a very important for career development. Being able to attend an all rounded university is best, as it allows you to fall back onto another subject if you decide to change your mind.
    • Accounting is not the same as engineering. Co-op will not provide you a great advantage if you are doing your CA. In fact, in many ways, co-op is more disadvantageous given the strict rules that co-op universities put upon their students, such as interview restrictions. Big 4 accounting firms such as PWC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte hire summer interns from Queen's, U of T, Western and Schulich all the time; sometimes even if you are in second year. One firm would hire around 10 students from a school at any given year. 
    • Queen's Commerce excels in accounting. This past year in 2010, there were two Queen's Commerce students on the UFE honour role out of 18. That in itself is a remarkable achievement, given how few accounting specialized students (approx 60) there are in Queen's to begin with (smaller than mot other universities). On the other hand, other universities have larger classes, and may not perform as well. Here is how all the schools did this past year.
      • Waterloo: 6
      • Laurier: 2
      • Queen's: 2
      • U of T SG: 2
      • York: 2
      • Brock: 2
      • Carleton: 1
      • Laurentian: 1
      • U of T Mississauga: 0
      • U of T Scarborough: 0
      • Western / Ivey: 0
      • Ryerson: 0
    • Lastly, Queen's would give you an edge in recruiting. It is much easier to recruit when there are 60 other accouting students in your year, as opposed to 100 or 300 students. Despite the smaller class size, all major accounting firms consider Queen's as one of their priority schools when it comes down to fulfilling positions for summer and full-time hires.

 Globe and mail university report

Frequently Googled Keywords

As the owner of the website, I have the privilege of seeing what keywords candidates use to search information on prospective universities. Here, I put some of my comments on the most frequently googled keywords.

  • "Who gets paid higher - Queen's Graduates or Ivey Graduates". This one gave me a laugh because all the fields pay the same regardless of which school you go into. To illustrate, if your ambitition is to become a Chartered Accountant, and you enter into a Big 4 firm, a graduate from Queen's will be paid the same as a graduate from Ivey. A graduate from Ivey would be paid the same as a graduate from Ryerson - provided that the graduate from Ryerson got hired. I don't think this question should be a question - rather, keep in mind that the reported average salaries are highly swinged by the number of grads that go into high paying jobs like banking, etc, and the number of grads that decides to pursue even higher education such as law school or public administration. If you go to law school, such as Osgoode, your graduating salary will be guaranteed to be zero :)
  • "Is Queen's Commerce good?". Yes. However, it's not just the program. It's the university environment, the university facilities,  the student spirit, and the calibre of students the program, as well as other Queen's programs. That truly makes Queen's Commerce stands out - unlike some some other universities where the business program is good and the rest is just mediocre.
  • "Queen's Commerce vs. Wharton". Queen's Commerce is the top undergraduate 4-year business program in Canada. If you want to go to Wharton, then you should consider the pros and cons of spending that money for an undergraduate education. But if you really want to go to an Ivy League school, consider doing that as a graduate (i.e. do an MBA). Many of my friends who have graduated out of Queen's Commerce 4 years ago and have gone into consulting are heading to top business schools such as Harvard, Kellogg, Insead, etc - all paid for by their consulting firms (BCG, Bain, McKinsey, etc).
  • "Queen's Commerce Investment Banking". If you want to go into investment banking, the Queen's classes and recruiting scene will prep you well. But be warned, investment banking is not for everyone. It's probably one of the toughest starting careers out there.
  • "Will I get into Queen's Commerce". Queen's Commerce is very hard to get into. Don't let the "cut-off" of 87% fool you... the cut-off only means the part where your application would actually be read or not. The average is really like 94%. Not only do you need good marks, but you need to have top talent, top leadership skills, great energy, and excellent extra-curricular activities, be it sports, student council or other volunteering activities. All students who enter Queen's Commerce are outstanding and brilliant individuals in some way or another. It's a high bar to reach - but you should apply regardless!




'The History of this university is the story of a fire that would not be quenched.'

Leonard Brockington, Queen's Rector, 1947-66