My McGill Experience 🎓
As a member of the BCom Class of 2021
In June 2021, I graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in management information systems and marketing. Throughout my four year degree, five semesters were in-person, one was hybrid (two months in Sweden before Covid hit), while the remaining two were fully remote from the comforts of my childhood home.
Now it’s March 2022, nine months since graduation and nearly six months since I entered the workforce. I wanted to write this article to commemorate my time at McGill before it truly becomes a fading memory.
For context, I entered McGill straight out of an Alberta high school as a U0 freshman student in the 120 credit program.
The true business school experience begins in your U1 year, which is either your first or second year depending on whether you enter as a U0 or U1 student. In U1, your schedule is packed with management core courses (MGCR) that cover a range of business topics from accounting to finance to marketing (complete list here). Since these courses are mandatory for all BCom students, expect large class sizes and a B to B+ class average.
I found it more difficult to get an A in these core courses compared to my major and concentration courses. I’d recommend taking a maximum of 4 MGCR courses per semester if your schedule permits. I’ve never taken 5 in one semester, but I’ve heard that it can be really overwhelming. In my opinion, U1 is the hardest year to maintain a high GPA because you have to take all these diverse courses, some of which you’re bound to dislike. On the bright side, in doing so, it’s much easier for you to discover your passions and choose your specializations accordingly.
In U2 and U3, you specialize and take courses related to your chosen major and/or concentration(s). A major is 30 credits or 10 courses in one area, while a concentration is 15 credits or 5 courses in one area. There are a plethora of options when it comes to areas of study, which gives you the flexibility to tailor your degree to your interests and desired career path. In recent years, new concentrations have also been launched in hot topics, such as Business Analytics and Retail Management. Students usually take either a major and a concentration, three concentrations, a major, or two concentrations. You can also take minors in other faculties, such as psychology and computer science.
Overall, I enjoyed the information systems program and am really happy with my decision to switch over from a marketing major. I took some useful courses in front-end development (INSY341), SQL and databases (INSY437), data analytics and visualization (INSY442), and project management (INSY450). The program gave me a basic foundation of technical knowledge, which helped me a lot in my current career in SAP consulting. I’m also happy with my decision to complete a marketing concentration as the classes equipped me with presentation, creative thinking and PowerPoint skills. I found the marketing courses to be quite repetitive with overlapping material, so I’m glad I chose to take 5 courses instead of 10. One last thing to note is that the IS and marketing programs involve a TON of group projects, so be prepared to work with lots of different people each semester.
Upon graduation, there are two academic honors you can earn based on GPA— Dean’s Honor List (top 10%) and Distinction (top 25%). GPA is also a factor in the selection of most scholarship and graduation award recipients.
Student Life and Involvement
McGill University is located in the heart of Downtown Montréal, which is perfect for people who like to be in the center of it all. I loved how the Faculty of Management building was so close to all the corporate offices in Montréal as it created a motivating atmosphere. Being in downtown also means vibrant nightlife for those who are into that.
I highly recommend freshmen students to live in a McGill residence in first year. I personally loved my experience and met most of my close friends in my dorm. It’s super easy to build close friendships when you all live the same lifestyle together, from studying to eating daily meals at the cafeteria. While hotel-style dorms offer better amenities, the consensus is that it’s much easier to make friends in traditional-style dorms given the communal spaces.
McGill offers a plethora of involvement opportunities. I won’t get into all the clubs and associations since information can be found online or at Activities Night. Within the Faculty of Management, there are also part-time job opportunities for students, such as IT Assistant, Office Assistant, Grading Assistant, etc. These are excellent opportunities to make some spending money while completing your degree.
Students also have the opportunity to go on exchange and experience a semester abroad. The selection process differs across faculties, but in Management you are expected to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students then rank a few schools in order of preference and are matched with an institution by the BCom Office. I got my first choice of Lund University in Sweden and flew to Europe (for the first time!) in January 2020. I spent exactly two months living and studying in Southern Sweden, which was an unforgettable experience at 20 years old. There was also a lot less academic pressure given the pass-fail grading system and I was able to travel to Copenhagen, Berlin and Prague before coronavirus hit Europe. Unfortunately, I returned to Canada in mid-March due to the escalating situation, but I hope future students can enjoy a Covid-free exchange.
Career Development and Post-Grad Opportunities
The average annual starting salary for a new BCom graduate in 2020 was $60,338 (BCom Employment Statistics, McGill University, 2020). According to Canada income statistics for 2020, the average annual salary for fully employed Canadians was around $54,630. At 22 years old, the average graduate is already earning more than the average Canadian (and it’s only up from there!).
The McGill BCom program does not offer co-operative education (alternating classroom learning with paid work terms), which is a pro or a con depending on your priorities. No co-op means completing your degree in 4 years and entering the workforce one year earlier. You get an extra year of full-time work experience with a full-time salary. However, no co-op also means you don’t have the opportunity to try out a ton of different roles prior to graduation. It’s usually difficult to land an internship after first year, so you really only have two internships under your belt before you graduate and look for full-time jobs.
While career advisors are available to guide and support you, you have to get the offer yourself. In my U1 year, finding a summer internship was so difficult as a 19-year old student not even halfway through my degree with no corporate work experience. However, with enough networking, case competitions, online applications and perseverance, things always turn out okay. From my observation, hard-working students have no problems securing prestigious corporate jobs post-graduation. Getting involved on campus, holding leadership positions, and maintaining a high GPA definitely set you up for success.
I hope this article was helpful to any prospective or current students, or was just a fun read. 🙂
Class of 2021, see you back in Montréal this June for our make-up convocation! 🎓