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For ALL Business Students... Don't Be Discouraged!

Hello everybody! 

This post is directed mainly for those kids who won't get into Ivey, QC, Schulich, etc. This website is really great for answers and support, but the people who don't get 90's often get rained on by other users, which sucks and can really hurt their confidence. But for those students, I have good news...  

I was speaking with a Financial Advisor today who is very successful and works in downtown Ottawa under a major bank (for privacy reasons I wont specify which one). I asked them point blank: does the school that you attend make a difference when looking for a job?  

Their answer was simple. No. They said that when they see a university degree with the required certifications for the position, they weigh a degree from Carleton the same as one from Queen's. And for those looking at Laurier worried about getting co-op or not, they also said that co-op looks good, but isn't a dealbreaker either because internship positions are ALWAYS available for those who want them bad enough. It does add to your resume which is always helpful, and it never hurts to get your foot in the door... 

Now, maybe this is just one employer's opinion. But as so many people say: your school won't make or break your career.  

Another "famous" quote from Mr. Wonderful himself - Kevin O'Leary - is as follows (from his book Cold Hard Truth): "Though I like to say an MBA beside your name, I'll hire a moneymaker over a scholar any day". While O'Leary is far from the golden boy of businessmen, it's another perspective from a successful employer.

To summarize: At the end of the day, schools with the top reputations may indeed open up some doors for you, and if their program is known to be a great for your area of choice (Brock Accounting, etc), absolutely consider going there. But, attend the school where you will learn the material the best depending on how YOU learn.  

*Disclaimer: I agree that the highly regarded programs are fantastic, and those who attend those schools should be very proud of getting into them and learning from them! If they're what you're looking for, awesome for you! Just here to prove that employers hire who you are, not your degree.*
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15 replies
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There are business magnates that exist with no high school diploma, let alone university degree. It's literally one of the worst majors you could attend school for.
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^only if you don't attend on of the top schools like queens comm.
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I agree. My father and all of his friends have no college/university degree; most didn’t graduate (that said, this was a different time). They are all very successful - one dropped out after grade 10 and now helicopters himself to work each day. Pretty cool if you ask me! Some careers do require university degrees though.
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Hi Carter,

I would be extremely wary of taking advice from a Financial Advisor at a major bank. This is not as impressive as the job title may seem. Many of my friends are FA at major banks, and they make around 14-20/hr and all have university degrees that range from arts, sciences, and business. You won't find students from the top business schools, or even strong students at average business schools, taking on a mediocre role as an FA at a bank. Mediocre business students become financial advisors at the banks, and people with non-employable degrees tend to flood it for opportunities as well. 

Think of it this way. There are around 7 levels at major banks. Financial Advisors fall under Levels 3-4. They're viewed as bottom feeders and you don't need a university degree to get such a position. I do know of people with just high school diplomas who became FA at major banks. It is not a recommended career path for a university educated business student. You may have been misled by this one FA you were speaking with. Keep in mind that I am a professional student who has sat behind the hiring desk as well (prior undergraduate degree was in business). Do not be misled by the prestige of a bank, because the level and role entirely do matter. 

Reach out to people in upper management, fortune 500 companies, and the Big 4. You want to be talking to the people who are actually doing well, and not just creating the image of success. Don't take advice from anyone working at the major banks who has the title of fraud analyst, bank teller, financial advisor, mortgage advisor, credit card advisor, or whatever. These people are somewhere in Levels 1-4 and making peanuts, and don't have great qualifications, to begin with. 

For example, a Financial Services Representative at TD makes 30-40k on average, and a Financial Advisor makes 40-45k on average. I can attest that these are accurate figures (entry level is far lower in my experience). Even an investment consultant, which sounds mighty impressive in title, only makes an average of 45k at TD. I know someone who got a job as an FA at Scotiabank with just a high school diploma, and he quit the job to go into insurance at Manulife as that compensated him better. So, make sure that the people you are speaking to are credible. If making 40-50k and staying at the lower levels of a major bank is your career goal, then that is perfectly fine too, but just know that you can do better with a business degree. 

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Hi there! Thanks for the detailed reply. 

I suppose I could have specified that I also inquired about their take-home salary, and the fact that they are mostly dealing with the investments of wealthy clients, at a wealth management firm (under the name of a bank). Their salary was “in the low-mid six figures” and dealt with about $150,000,000 of client wealth. Quite successful in my eyes.

I’ve read posts that a lot of students are looking for the position that this FA was in, so I figured I would assure them that their choice career WAS feasible without Ivey, QC, etc.

Thanks again.

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In some ways I agree with your post but in anothers I have to disagree. If where you go didn't matter in the work place there wouldn't be rankings in the first place. I am a strong believer that with hard work anyone can achieve the feats they want to, but going to a specific schools make achieving those feats easier.

With the right education and basic fundamentals climbing up the corporate ladder is easier and going to a top ranked school gives you a superior education experience, and the opportunities to help you learn in other ways which lesser schools cannot. Certain curriculums are more rigorous than others and obviously the harder ones produce better students. Two students may get hired one from a "top school" vs "lesser school", the student from the top school who had the more rigorous curriculum will probably advance way faster than the individual from the other school. 

Secondly in terms of entry level, a lot of big firms only hire from specific schools for certain positions. Instead of sending an application and hoping that you get called for an interview, for some top schools in fact a lot of top firms actually come to the school to hire and interview. 
For example, McKinsey on their website has a list of schools of which it recruits from specifically for its entry level positions and its list correlates well with what is considered a top school (Ivey, queens, rotman) 
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Hi there, thanks for sharing your opinions!

I agree with your points as well - having top firms coming to your school to recruit is a really easy way to get an interview and that’s all one needs. As I said; top schools open doors and they are ranked as the best for the reasons you specified. 

However the point of my post wasn’t to prove that those degrees are worthless or a waste of money - the furthest thing from it actually. It was simply to give students who don’t have the opportunity to attend these top schools (whether it be financial need, lack of classroom smarts, etc), a bit of reassurance that their degree will still get them good jobs.

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For those of you who may consider Schulich as an option, there's a Facebook group with over 2000 people, mostly of Schulich alumni/current students, but also lots of Queens/Ivey/Waterloo/Laurier/Degroote/Ted Rogers students in the group too.  

Aimed at students accepted and asking questions prior to picking their school, as opposed to questions on how to get in. I used it when I was deciding between Waterloo & 
Schulich so thought I'd post it to recommend to others


Good luck to everyone!
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I appreciate what you're trying to do but I don't think you should be telling other students what to do based on the advise of 1 financial advisor (which isn't a very esteemed position anyway). I'm going to assume you're not in any post-secondary program for business yet because if you were I doubt you would have still made this post.

1) No one ever says that your program will make or break your career, people advise prospective business students to go into certain programs because it gives you a significant advantage. If the name truly didn't matter everyone would go to schools like Lakehead, pay virtually nothing for undergrad, and get a good job. Going to schools with a higher ranking will open doors for you that you may have never been able to open for yourself, certain schools have great connections with hard to reach employers and as a result you'll have an easier time getting your foot in the door. Sure, you might still be able to do well if you go to Lakehead, but it might take you 8 years to do what someone from Queens did within a year. Trust me, I have seen firsthand the difference between going to a  highly regarded business program and going to a program no one has ever heard of. 

2) I think you are greatly underestimating the usefulness of coop. Yes internships are available, but have you ever tried to get one? There are often times hundreds of people competing for 1 spot (if there are applicants from highly ranked programs they'll usually get priority over people from other programs). Also, many companies ask applicants not to contact them unless the company itself contacts them first. Having coop often times makes it much easier to get your foot in the door and  means you have connections and valuable experience in the field . If an employer is presented with 2 applicants the one with legitimate work experience will always be higher on their list (especially when they come from a highly regarded school).

3) Your quote from Kevin O'Leary is nice, however I doubt even he would be eager to give someone a chance when they come from a no-name school and have little to no experience. You would have had to do something truly amazing that is evident in the first 10 seconds of reading their resume in order to have a shot. 

4) You do know that employers higher up on the food-chain don't sit down for hours in order to thoroughly examine everyone's resume right? Often times they'll only quickly glance over 1/3 of the first page of your resume. If your a new graduate or haven't been in the work force that long they're looking for your program and your work experience. If you didn't go to a highly ranked program and have little to no experience often times they won't give your resume a second glance. Doing well at a lesser known business program isn't impossible, but you are greatly underestimating the difficulty based on only 1 person's opinion.
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Thanks for sharing all of this knowledge and detail on interviews/resumes - it's definitely going to be useful to the readers of this post. I personally am a huge believer in co-op and if it's an option for anybody, they should take it. But as the post's title says, just because you don't have it doesn't mean you're screwed. The information I gave was from - as stated - just one person's opinion. Having a lot of perspectives (like yours!) is really insightful for everyone. Thank you.
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Great points from everyone. At the same time, I would say that you're not paying for the education per-say, but rather, you're paying for the alumni network and the connections you get post-graduation. Those connections become so crucial when you're looking for a job. I've only a first year at QComm but I can already see this as being helpful as I've had the opportunity to reach out to recent grads and ask them about their experiences and they've been super helpful.
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A business degree is practically useless and you'll learn everything you need to know on the job. It's a fluff degree, really. You're paying for the BRAND NAME and alumni, peer, and faculty connections. Anyone who does not understand this, like this Carter guy who started this thread, really does not understand the purpose of a business degree and has not worked in the business profession. It definitely matters to most business employers for well-paying positions that have strong career mobility. It does not matter for some useless Financial Advisor position. You don't even need a degree to become a FA. I know people with just high school/college diplomas who do these kinds of jobs.
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I appreciate all of the help and points everyone has brought up! Thank you for adding your advice and input on this topic - it will definitely help some prospective students to see what they're getting into from many perspectives, not just the one I shared.
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