Queen’s Commerce: The Definitive Guide for Applicants (2020)

  by     by Joel Nicholson Last updated Mar 04, 2020

Whether you’re applying to Queen’s Commerce or simply interested in learning about the program, this guide is for you.

For over a decade, I’ve been answering the same questions about Queen’s Commerce.

Applicants find it so frustrating scouring the Queen’s website for information.

Or getting unhelpful, sometimes harsh responses in the forums.

So here’s everything you need to know about the application, the program, and comparisons with other business schools.

Right here, in one place.

By the way, if you’re serious about getting into Queen’s Commerce, check out my FREE preview of my Admissions Bootcamp.

This rigorous program will help you become a better student, leader, and candidate—maximizing your chances of admission.

Table of contents:

  1. The Application (acceptance rate, essays, admissions average, etc.)
  2. The Program (courses, exchange, clubs, etc.)
  3. Business School Comparisons (e.g. queen's commerce vs. ivey)

The Queen's Commerce Application

This section of the guide covers the most common group of questions I receive when students are applying to the Queen’s Commerce program.

If you have questions about application strategies, essay tips, and more about getting admitted, check out my critically-acclaimed Queen’s Commerce Admissions Bootcamp, with a FREE preview on now.

Number of Applications to Queen's Commerce

The Queen’s Commerce program receives nearly 7,000 applications per year.

This is an official number of applications from the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC).

Apparently, the actual number of applications is more like 8,000 as reported by Smith themselves.

As you can see below, the number of applications has been growing steadily over the past ten years:

Interestingly, Queen’s Commerce has held a steady growth rate while many other business programs have experienced a decline.

In fact, Queen’s is the 5th fastest growing business program in Ontario with a 7% average annual growth rate over the past five years.

Why is business not as popular as it used to be?

Well, there’s a huge push right now for students to pursue STEM, and many students believe business is a secondary option.

When I was running my previous company, CampusRankings, admissions departments really needed our help promoting their business programs.

Looking at the data, applications to science and engineering programs have grown an annual average of 7%.

Whereas business has only grown 1%.

Have a look at the total application numbers below:

Queen's Commerce Enrolment / Class Size

The total number of enrolled students for the Queen’s Commerce Class of 2024 is 500, up from 475 the year prior.

When I was accepted in 2006, there were around 300 other registered students with me.

With the expansion of Goodes Hall after 2010, the plan was to double this number to a class size of 600.

In 2014, they reached their peak at 552.

But students started to complain.

They thought the program became too big and it lost the smaller, tight-knit quality that made this program great to begin with.

So they pulled back.

Today, the Queen’s Commerce class size is 500.

See below for this historical change:

Queen's Commerce Acceptance Rate

Queen’s Commerce receives 8,000 applications per year.

With an annual enrollment of 500 students (as of 2020/2021), people typically calculate an acceptance rate of 6%.

However, that’s incorrect.

This calculation doesn’t include students who do not meet the cut-off.

Apparently, only about 2,500 of those students do not meet the 87% cut-off that is required for your application to be reviewed.

Also, there are many students who reject their offers of admission to Queen’s Commerce.

About 60% of students accept their offers per year, as reported by Queen’s themselves.

Therefore, the actual Queen’s Commerce acceptance rate 15%.

This is calculated by taking the total number of offers (833) divided by the total number of applicants above the cutoff (5,500)

This means that if you meet the cut-off you have a 15% chance of admission, on average.

See the breakdown below.

However, you must remember that the students in this pool of applicants >87% are extremely talented.

If you want to learn how to differentiate yourself and get admitted into the program, explore the free preview of my Queen’s Commerce Admissions Bootcamp.

Queen's Commerce Admission Average

Let’s explore the academic averages of the students who are accepted and enrolled into Queen’s Commerce.

In other words: the Queen's Commerce admission average.

Take a look at the graph below:

Before we talk about numbers, let’s talk about people.

Why? Because the program director of Queen’s Commerce has a lot of influence with admissions.

The director from 2006-2013 was Shannon Goodspeed.

Looking at the graph, Shannon experimented for a few years with the academic blends of her class.

In 2011, 31% of students had between a 85-89% average. Definitely less strict on grades.

Even a handful of students with an 80-84% average got admitted, which is significantly less than the 87% cutoff.

In her last couple years, it looks like she found an ‘ideal’ class mix for her goals.

When Lori Garnier took over from 2014 onwards, she didn’t sway off that formula.

But in 2015-16, Lori started to put a much stronger emphasis on grades, with nearly one-third of admitted students having a 95+ average and less than one-sixth being less than 90%.

So what does this all mean?

It means that grades matter more than ever.

It used to be that you could reach the 87% cut-off and have an equal chance with other students.

But that’s simply not the case anymore.

The overall Queen's Commerce admission average for the entrance class has jumped from 91.7% in 2014 to 92.7% in 2016.

I know that’s unrealistic to some people…

So I always advise my students to aim for at least a 90% average.

Need help boosting your math grades, such as MHF4U?

We'd personally recommend AllThingsMathematics. Patrick is an incredible tutor and offers hundreds of free online videos, breaking down each chapter of your OSSD math subjects.

Queen's Commerce Requirements

If you currently attend an Ontario high school, Queen’s Commerce requirements are based on courses and grades. You must meet these prerequisites before you can be officially admitted:

Mandatory Course Minimum Mark
Grade 12 English (ENG4U) 80%
Grade 12 Calculus and Vectors (MCV4U) 80%
One other 4U math course, such as:
  • Grade 12 Advanced Functions (MHF4U)
  • Grade 12 Mathematics of Data Management (MDM4U)
Three additional 4U or 4M courses* n/a

Important note: No more than two of your 4M courses may be used from the same discipline (Arts, Business Studies, Canadian and World Studies, Languages, Math and Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Health and Physical Education, or Technological Education).

If you're in Grade 12, and these courses are still in progress, you can still obtain an offer from Queen’s...

...However, your offer will be conditional, subject to you completing these required courses.

In BC, you need English 12, Calculus 12 or Pre-Calculus 12 with minimum grades of 80%; and two additional Grade 12 subjects with no minimum grades.

If you attend high school in a different region, use this fancy admissions requirements search tool.

Queen's Commerce Supplementary Application / PSE

There are two parts to the Queen’s Commerce supplementary application:

  1. The Personal Statement of Experience (PSE)
  2. The Commerce Supplementary Essays

The PSE is made up of a résumé-style section, where students list their top five distinctions, extra-curriculars, and jobs. It also includes an essay question.

The PSE essay question is:

Choose one extracurricular activity or one employment opportunity you have listed on your Personal Statement of Experience. In 2,000 characters, or fewer, describe the impact of this experience and the greatest learning outcome for you. Your answer will be evaluated for content and writing style.

This question hasn't changed in many years.

Note that Commerce is the only program at Queen’s to make the PSE a mandatory component of your application.  

Queen's Commerce Supplementary Essay Questions

As for the Supplementary Essay (SE) questions, the 2020-2021 essay question will not be released until September 2020.

As for last year's questions (2019-2020), they implemented a new system where the SE questions changed every month.

The PSE question remained the same, but the SE questions changed. There were three stages of questions:

2019-2020 November Questions (Due Nov 30th at 11:59pm)

1. Tell us a story that illustrates who you are.

2. Reflect on something you wish had been different about your high school experience and why.

2019-2020 December Questions (Due Dec 31st at 11:59pm)

1. What makes you unique?

2. Reflect on a time when you were treated unfairly and what that experience taught you?

2019-2020 January Questions (Due Jan 31st at 11:59pm)

1. Describe an experience that influenced the person you are today.

2. "You Belong". Reflect on what this means to you.

If you'd like examples of successful essays from past years...

...Or if you'd like a detailed breakdown of the essay questions from this year, I recommend you enroll in our Queen's Commerce Admissions Bootcamp.

Note: these essay questions will change again on January 1st. You can no longer submit the December questions at this time.

Queen's Commerce Supplementary Application Deadline

The final Queen’s Commerce PSE deadline this year is February 1st, 2020.

It might be confusing, because in past years the PSE was due in mid-February. This year, they brought it forward by two weeks.

What makes it even more confusing is having the essay questions change every month, technically creating two other deadlines (Nov 30th and Dec 31st). 

If you're planning on submitting the Supplementary Essays to reach the deadline and holding off on submitting the PSE until later, I'd recommend you not wait too long.

The admissions office confirms with me that they will not package up your application for the admissions committee until your PSE + SE have been submitted.

If you want more information insights on when you should apply to maximize your chances of admission, check out my Queen’s Commerce Admissions Bootcamp (free preview available).

Queen's Commerce Portal

The Queen’s Commerce portal is known as SOLUS.

SOLUS is the information system Queen’s uses (run by Oracle’s PeopleSoft software) to manage all student applicant information.

You can login to SOLUS by first logging into your MyQueensU at my.queensu.ca.

You’ll then be prompted to enter your Net ID, which Queen’s should send you after your apply on OUAC.

When you login, you have to click the little red button in the top right to access SOLUS.

Queen's Commerce Early Admission

Queen’s Commerce does not have a standard early admission application, like other schools do.

However, there is a way to apply and gain admission long before that of other applicants.

I can only reveal so much in this guide.

Please reach out to me or explore our Queen’s Commerce Admissions Bootcamp, particularly the module called “Admissions Secrets & Past Success Strategies”.

Queen's Commerce Scholarships

There aren’t many Queen’s Commerce scholarships, specifically for incoming students.

The best thing to do is browse these three categories of scholarships and awards to see what you’re eligible for:

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About the Queen's Commerce Program

Program Name

While they are officially known as the Smith School of Business Bachelor of Commerce program at Queen’s University, that’s quite a mouthful for most people.

Prior to the school being named ‘Smith’, the program was simply known as Queen’s Commerce or QC.

However, I’ve noticed an intentional effort by the school to rebrand to “Smith Commerce”.

I’d use this terminology in your interactions with the school, as well as your application.

Evidence below:

Queen's Commerce Courses & Classes

Queen’s Commerce does a great job of educating students across all disciplines of business in the first two years, then allowing students to specialize in third and fourth year.

I personally think it’s the best part of the program.

This page (and below) shows all the required courses Smith Commerce students must take throughout their four years.

In first year, for example, students must take a full course load of 11 business-related classes, from accounting to marketing.

The only class outside of the Smith School of Business is ECON110, which is a full-year class offered by the Department of Economics.

Every class has its challenges in their own way. For example, Organizational Behaviour involves hours and hours of reading to prepare for each class; and Managerial Statistics requires a lot of work if you’re not a math person.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about each specific class, or you can visit this page to read short descriptions about each Commerce course.

In Year 2, you’ve got another full course-load of Commerce classes. This year, you have room for two ‘electives’ from Arts and Science.

Students typically choose bird courses, but I made that mistake and ended up not enjoying the course at all—which limited me from wanting to do the little work the course required.

My advice: your electives should be something you love.

Second year is known as the most difficult year. The professors are no longer taking it easy on you and many of the courses are quite challenging.

In third and fourth year, students are required to take a minimum of five Commerce courses each year, with only one annual mandatory class.

This is your opportunity to specialize in a particular field.

Notice I didn’t say the word “major”. Smith doesn’t offer majors or minors in anything except for general business. Your degree is a BComm—and that’s all that will appear on your diploma.

Your transcript, on the other hand, will be requested by certain employers. And it’s helpful to adjust your mix of courses based on what you want to do.

For example, if you want to work in finance, you better be taking courses like COMM 323 and COMM 325.

If you want to work in a more general field like management consulting, they might appreciate more of a mixed bag of courses.

Overall, the Queen’s Commerce curriculum in its first two years is quite consistent with other BCom’s.

The big difference is in Year 3 and 4 when you have a ton of flexibility to create the business degree that you want.

Queen's Commerce Ranking & Reputation

The undergraduate business program has a stellar reputation in Canada.

Smith’s MBA program is definitely not as stellar, but it’s improving.

To this day, I don’t know how or why this happened.

If you’re Googling “Best Business Programs in Canada”, the vast majority of the rankings are on MBA program or overall business schools, rather than the undergraduate program.

In 2018, Smith was ranked 66th in the world by Bloomberg.

That’s very impressive—especially seeing as though this was an MBA-focused ranking.

Either way...

People can debate endlessly as to which undergraduate business program is the best in Canada, but Queen’s Commerce will always be a large part of the conversation.

The issue with Smith is its international awareness.

As someone who worked abroad for the first five years after graduation (in Australia, Asia, and the US), Smith’s reputation is relatively non-existent.

When you look for a job, you can reference rankings like Bloomberg to help educate recruiters, but the fact that Queen’s is not a trustworthy brand or familiar name will be an up-hill battle.

For instance, when I was working in New York City, my colleagues thought I went to school in Queens, New York.

Queen's Commerce Co-Op

Queen’s Commerce and the Smith School of Business does not have co-op, otherwise known as co-operative education.

This means that work experience is not directly integrated with your degree.

In my opinion, this is the biggest issue with the program. A Queen's Commerce co-op department should exist by now.

However, Queen’s shows no signs of building a co-op program in the future.

Instead, they have a Career Advancement Centre and many summer internships available to students, particularly after 2nd and 3rd year.

Looking at this positively, your job finding skills will grow immensely because you aren’t ‘handed’ a job. The Career Advancement Centre will support you with résumé development and interview preparation, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to speak to recruiters, network, and actually obtain the job. This better mimics the real-world.

I found a summer internship at a school board after 1st year (on my own).

Then, I somehow obtained a role as an Assistant Brand Manager at Unilever after 2nd year (through on-campus recruiting).

In 3rd year, while still on exchange, I found a role at BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion).

After graduation, I wanted to work in management consulting abroad. This wasn’t supported by the Career Advancement Centre. They specialize in helping students obtain jobs in Toronto.

So, I led this search and was lucky enough to work with AT Kearney Australia for four years, based out of Sydney and Hong Kong.

Queen's Commerce Job Placement & Salary

The Queen’s Commerce employment statistics are impressive, to say the least.

98% of job-seeking students were employed within 6 months of graduation.

Here’s the breakdown by industry:

The consulting placement is the most impressive to me.

As a former top-tier management consultant myself, it’s an incredibly tough industry to break into.

Maybe this is an indicator of our strong economy? Or the strength of the Commerce student profile? Or both?

Queen’s Commerce has an incredibly well-rounded placement. I am particularly excited to see 7% of students pursuing the ever-growing field of data and analytics.

Think about this industry mix with what you seek out of a business program.

Do you want to work at a tech startup? Or a large bank?

You should probably go to school where your goals match the strengths of your school (and the students).

In terms of Queen's Commerce salary, the highest salary from the Class of 2017 was $119,655.

Because it’s not a whole number, it’s obvious the employer is outside of Canada, likely US-based.

My guess would be Goldman Sachs New York. Usually at least one student gets this job each year.

The mean base salary reported by Queen’s Commerce is $61,583. This isn’t bad. But it hasn’t grown much since I was a student ten years ago. This is an industry-wide issue.

The issue is, Queen’s doesn’t include details about signing bonuses and other compensation.

That’s why Western Ivey’s average salary is so much higher at $70,393.

If you’re wondering what companies Smith Commerce graduates go to, the answer is:

All of them.

From Amazon to Zendesk, Smith students are everywhere.

Queen's Commerce Society & Clubs

Smith Commerce boasts the largest and most successful business student government in Canada.

I’d be happy to debate anyone on this.

The organization is known as the Queen’s Commerce Society, or ComSoc for short

Within Comsoc, there are 18 conferences and 33 clubs and committees, composed of more than 750 positions.

Everything is 100% student-run.

The conferences are world-class and the clubs are operated with clear objectives and exceptional execution.

You could even consider ComSoc a ‘quasi replacement’ for a co-op program. For example, the Queen’s Accounting Association does an amazing job of preparing students for a career in the field.

Queen's Commerce Exchange / Study Abroad

Another strength of Smith Commerce is its international exchange program.

In third year, students have the option to go on exchange for one semester.

Today, well over 90% of Commerce students go on exchange. There’s even a scholarship fund to help students in financial need.

I went to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in the fall, then the Bader International Study Centre aka “The Castle” (a Queen’s satellite campus in England).

I was the last student to find a loophole by going for two semesters.

Usually exchange classes are pretty easy and you travel every weekend. It was an incredible, eye-opening experience that changed my life.  

Smith has over 100 exchange partners based in over 35 countries, and it’s growing every year.

Queen's Commerce Double Degree / Dual Degree

Smith Commerce offers only one dual degree option with the Faculty of Arts and Science.

This can be done consecutively, but this dual degree requires additional coursework of 126 units.

This would likely extend your time at Queen’s to five or even six years.

Queen's Commerce Majors & Minors

As mentioned previously, Smith does not offer majors or minors in anything other than ‘business’.

The official degree is a Bachelor of Commerce.

This is what will appear on your diploma, and nothing else.

Queen's Commerce Tuition

Queen’s Commerce tuition for domestic students in 2019/20 is $17,702.71 per year, which includes mandatory student fees.

Tuition for international students is $47,666.64.

Clearly, Smith Commerce is a very expensive program. Domestic tuition just saw another jump of over $1,000 since last year. 

I’m pretty sure it’s the second highest undergraduate tuition in Canada (Ivey HBA is the first).

It’s gone up nearly 80% since I started the program in 2006. That’s quite the jump if you ask me…

But the demand is there, year-after-year, so I can assure you: it will not decrease. Here's the tuition growth over the past nine years. 

Note the decrease this year. The Government of Ontario implemented a 10% tuition reduction. More on this here.

Queen's Commerce Notable Alumni

For starters, Elon Musk did not graduate from Queen’s Commerce.

He attended the program for two years and decided to transfer to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kimbal Musk (Elon’s younger brother), on the other hand, graduated from Queen’s Commerce in 1995.

It’s difficult to define “notable alumni” because everyone considers notability differently.

If you want to get a feel for what Smith Commerce alumni are doing after graduation, check out the Smith Magazine alumni notes section.

Alumni send updates about their careers and it’s all organized by graduating year.

Of course, the three big names you’ll hear about other than the Musk brothers are Melvin Goodes and Gordon Nixon.

Interestingly enough, Stephen Smith (Co-founder of First National and bearer of the school’s name) graduated from Queen’s Engineering.

His $50m donation to the Queen’s School of Business was the largest ever donation to a Canadian business school.

He’s also a very nice, humble guy.

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Business School Comparisons

Before I start comparing schools, I have to preface by saying I’ve only actually attended Queen’s Commerce.

However, I have dedicated the past fifteen years of my life understanding every aspect of the top schools in Canada.

I’ve worked with many of these schools through my former company, CampusRankings.

I’ve also kept in touch with the hundreds of students I’ve helped admit into these schools.

At the end of the day, these are my thoughts based on the information I have at hand.

But let me tell you this:

You need to make a decision that’s best for your needs… no one else’s.

Queen’s Commerce (Smith) vs. Western Ivey HBA

This is possibly the most frequently asked school comparison I am asked.

In fact, I wrote a whole article about it on my former website.

If Western offered a four-year business degree, I would say their educational quality surpasses Smith.

Why? Because I believe in the case method of learning.

However, they offer two years of compressed business education.

That’s a very short time to digest everything, absorb the right information, and build lasting relationships.

This also means students can only get a business-related summer internship after third year.

Queen’s offers four years of case- and lecture-based learning, while also offering international exchange in third year.

Queen’s also has a better student society and overall student experience.

I’d say Ivey has slightly stronger international and cross-Canada reputation, piggybacking off their MBA program.

But overall, I have to give this honours to Queen’s.

Queen’s Commerce (Smith) vs. U of T (Rotman) Commerce

Rotman Commerce honestly doesn’t get enough credit.

Being in Toronto, you’d have access to the best teachers and employers.

Classes sizes are also around the same size as Queen’s after first year.

I’d even say their career services office is better than Queen’s, as it offers focused programs that help you obtain careers in certain fields, e.g. management consulting.

However, having spoken regularly to Rotman Students, I noticed they miss an eagerness and passion I see from Smith Commerce students.

There’s also a dire lack of student culture, which is hard to avoid at larger commuter schools, but necessary for a quality university experience.  

The student body can make a huge difference for a b-school. It means more employers, more student clubs, and more competition in class.

If you’re looking into accounting, Rotman might be a good option with their four-year Accounting Specialization.

If tuition is a concern and you need to live at home in the GTA area, go to Rotman.

Otherwise, Queen’s takes the cake on this comparison.

Queen’s Commerce (Smith) vs. McGill BCom (Desautels)

McGill has three distinct differences over Queen’s.

First, it an incredibly diverse class:

  • 39% come from Quebec
  • 20% come from other Canadian provinces
  • 41% come from international

Second, Desautels has the highest grade requirements out of any undergraduate Canadian business school (95%), but they don’t look at anything beyond grades.

Third, it has a much, much stronger international reputation—perhaps better than any other Canadian school.

I recall my first day on international exchange in Hong Kong, I overheard a group of Ivy League American exchange students classify McGill as the “Harvard of the North”.

I thought “what about Queen’s?”

They had never heard of Queen’s.

McGill’s student culture is incredible and being based in Montreal is much more exciting than Kingston.

If you’re looking to work in Montreal or internationally, I honestly believe McGill BCom is your best bet.

If your focus is Ontario, stick to Queen’s Commerce.

Queen’s Commerce (Smith) vs. York BBA (Schulich)

York and Queen’s are two completely different schools.

Queen’s is a res-life, tight-knit environment type school.

Whereas York is more of a metro, commuter school without much of a student culture.

Queen’s will get students access to the most prestigious companies, such as Goldman and McKinsey, whereas I don’t believe the accessibility is as strong for Schulich students.

Starting salaries and employment stats are noticeably lower.

If cost is a huge factor (and you live in the GTA), go to Schulich.

If you’re sole goal is to become an accountant at a Big 4 or gain an above-average, entry-level business job…

...And you don’t care much about (or can’t afford) to get the ‘true’ university experience away from home, then simply go to Schulich.

It’s still a great program and has very high, holistic admissions standards.

It’s a very diverse class and it’s MBA program has a great reputation you can piggyback off of.

Queen’s Commerce vs. UBC BCom (Sauder)

This is a tough comparison because I’m a fan of both programs.

I love the fact that UBC BCom has co-op. That’s probably the biggest advantage over Queen’s.

If you appreciate the great outdoors and adventure activities, go to UBC.

If you want to work for unique west coast companies like Amazon, Lululemon, and EA Sports, go to UBC.

However, if you want to work on Wall / Bay Street or management consulting, I’d highly recommend going to Queen’s.

UBC has their Portfolio Management Foundation (PMF) program within its BCom, which is quite prestigious and puts many people at the top banks.

However, the program selects 5-6 students out of a class of 1,000, which is totally ridiculous.

Also, UBC’s average entrance salary is much lower than Queen’s.

It’s actually the lowest out of all the top BCom programs in Canada.

If weather, lifestyle, and co-op are important to you—and you don’t mind a class size of 1,000 students—UBC might be a good option for you.

Otherwise, I’d recommend Queen’s.


Joel Nicholson

Joel Nicholson is the Founder and Managing Director of Admissions Ally—Canada’s #1 platform for advising students through the toughest applications. He’s also the Co-founder or CampusRankings and a Queen’s Commerce graduate.

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