Academic Penalties & APEX

Students of StFX are expected to maintain a certain academic standard, and when that standard is not met, a student falls out of "good standing" at the university. For a student in their first year of study, that means entering academic probation. For a student in the upper years, it may mean either probation or dismissal from the university for a period of time.

The Standards

A student's average grade, calculated from September to April, determines their standing. Spring and Summer term courses do not affect your average, either to raise or lower it. The current minimum average required to maintain good standing is 55% (more details can be found in the Academic Calendar).

Certain programs and degrees may require grades and averages of a higher standard for their own purposes, but 55% is the requirement for good standing.


A student on probation registers and takes classes as normal. There are no additional fees, and there are no services from which you are barred. Probation means two things: 1) you must complete the APEX program in the Fall and Winter terms, and 2) you must achieve an average of 55% in the academic year during which you are on probation. If either of these two conditions are not met, you will be dismissed the following May. If both conditions are met, you return to good standing, also in the following May.

The APEX Program

The rationale of the APEX program is simple: the result of a bad year on probation is severe and undesirable -- dismissal from the university -- and regardless of the specific reasons for the current penalty, raising the level of academic achievement can prevent that happening.

APEX is mandatory for students returning to StFX on probation. It runs for an entire academic year, but most of the content is delivered in the first half of the Fall term, when it can have the greatest effect on the year. Students in APEX must attend a minimum number of 1-on-1 meetings with an instructor in the Academic Success Centre, complete tasks in an online lesson before those meetings, and possibly attend an in-person workshop.

The content of the program focusses on time-management and effective study strategies, but the 1-on-1 meetings with your instructor may reveal other areas of weakness that can be strengthened, such as writing and critical thinking skills. There are better and worse ways to conduct the business of a student, and improved habits produce improved results.

Students are automatically registered in APEX and receive a notice in mid-August, naming their instructor and inviting them to book an appointment during the first 2 weeks of the Fall term. Course materials are available through Moodle and can be accessed by mid-August. APEX does not take up a formal course slot and does not count toward your course load, so there is no concern for course conflicts. Completion will be indicated by a P/F grade on your transcript at the end of the academic year.


A student who is dismissed may not register at the university for 2 years, at which point they must re-apply to study. Students are removed from any courses registered but not yet begun, at the point of earning a dismissal. The university recognizes that there are many possible reasons for a student to score poorly, and that dismissal is a serious consequence; therefore, an opportunity to appeal the penalty is given.


Appeals are submitted online (here) and are considered by a committee of academic administrators. The firm deadline for appeals falls in mid-June. Students making appeals have two tasks: write a letter explaining why your dismissal should be reduced to probation, and collect any necessary supporting documents. Once submitted, appeals usually produce answers in or before early July.

Consultation on an appeal letter is available from the Manager of the ASC (@email)

A good appeal letter has three parts:

   1) An explanation of what happened (over last year certainly, and maybe longer):

The committee starts with your transcript and little else; they need to hear the context of your appeal first. This is often the longest part of the letter, and it can describe anything from personal tragedies to errors of judgement, or many possibilities in between. It should be honest -- this is not the time to conceal your faults -- and it should show that you have spent some effort to consider the various causes of your outcome.

   2) An explanation of where your own responsibility lies in that story:

This can be difficult to write, when your story includes things that happened to you or around you, but it can help to think of it as what advice you would give to yourself last September on how to handle what is coming. This needn't be a long passage, but the committee needs to see that you are thinking about what you can do for yourself.

   3) Your plan:

This is the most important part. The committee is looking for a reason to believe that next year will be different. For each cause and circumstance that you raised in your story, tell them what has changed. Tell them what plans you have made to produce a different outcome if things continue to be difficult (or if something bad happens again). Ideally, tell them what you have already done to remedy your problems. The more specific and concrete you can be about your plans, the better; name the people you are seeing/will see, the services you are using/will use, and the actions you are taking/will take. Show them that your solutions can go into a calendar as tasks with measurable success.

Just feeling bad or wishing for things to be different is not grounds for appeal. Determination to work hard is a good quality, but neither can it form the basis of an appeal. If you must include a statement of your feelings about the penalty or the university, close the letter with it briefly. The appeal itself, though, is the evidence that things will change.

Supporting Documents:
You may wish to include letters attesting to medical treatment recieved or letters of support from professors familiar with your capability to be successful in class. None of these are as important as the evidence in your letter that you have thought carefully about your plan.