International Students

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10. Getting Informed

Overseas students preparing to study in Canada often neglect one important aspect: culture. While it’s impossible to eliminate all the unknowns, you can take steps to limit culture shock. Finding out about your future living environment may help you adjust your expectations accordingly — and avert any unpleasant surprises.

Polytechnique offers an array of services that are there to help you through your studies. Find out more on what each service can do for you.


The SEP covers a range of services to help students integrate, develop and succeed in their studies at Polytechnique.

The SEP is also the main resource for international students and new permanent residents, with special services for overseas students.

The SEP is located in second floor lobby (C-240) of the Main Building. Staff at the SEP are ready to answer any questions or help you in any way, the better to help you adapt to your new culture and new academic environment. So don’t be shy!

For more information
Phone: (514) 340-4711, ext. 4885
Fax: (514) 340-5964

Guidance and coaching

The SEP’s guidance and coaching service can respond to your concerns about organizing your studies and curriculum at École Polytechnique. The approach has three components: your personal needs, your academic/professional needs and your educational trajectory. Whatever the nature of your question — coursework, academic or professional leanings, personal progress — the team is there to listen and advise.

The SEP has also implemented a ‘virtual guidance’ site at (in French only).

This site is full of useful information to help you enjoy your time at Polytechnique. You’ll find tools to help you study more effectively, manage your stress, better organize your time, prepare for your exams, and much more.

Each year, the coaching team at the Student services Office launches a tutoring service to help you with first-year and preparatory courses. Having difficulty with a course? Don’t delay: ask for a tutor.

Psychological support

The SEP also offers counselling. This service is available by appointment only at 514 340-4711, ext. 4853. Confidentiality is assured.


The Registrar’s Office oversees every administrative aspect of a student’s file. In particular, the office takes care of admission, course registration, grades and student transcripts. It issues degrees, manages tuition fees, sends out income tax receipts, creates class and exam schedules and books rooms. The Registrar’s Office is also responsible for applying tuition policies.

You can contact the Registrar’s Office for the following services: course withdrawals – admissions – insurance – attestations – official transcripts and copies – student ID cards – changes of address – courses at external institutions – degree issuance – independent students – exchange students – registration – modifications to legal status – tuition fee payment – proof of Québec residency – grades reviews, and more.

Located in Room A-201 of the Main Building, the Registrar’s Office is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information:

Phone: (514) 340-4724
Fax: (514) 340-5836


You can access the Internet in each of the school’s computer labs, thanks to the access code you receive from the Service Informatique (IT Services) upon arrival. You’ll also be given a personal e-mail account ( You can check your e-mail online through or have your mail application download your messages from the server onto your computer.

For more information:

Room: C-539.8
Phone: (514) 340-4711, ext. 4499

To make the most of your time at Polytechnique, you need to familiarize yourself with a few basic regulations. This section also provides valuable tips on getting through the occasional rough patch.


At École Polytechnique, regulations are rigorously enforced. The academic calendar contains the full list of policies and regulations in effect at the school; it is your responsibility to read and remember them. The following section underscores a number of particularly important regulations.

Note: This information is provided as an indication only. In the event of a contradiction, the school’s academic calendar takes precedence over the information provided on the website.

Plagiarism, fraud and cheating

The school has a zero-tolerance policy on fraud. Fraud may take many forms, including plagiarism and cheating. Fraud may also consist of trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own (including content drawn from the Internet), talking during an exam or falsifying administrative documents. Whatever form it takes, fraud is severely punished at Polytechnique. Sanctions range from receiving a 0 grade to expulsion from the school.

Undergraduate program continuation

Students must have a GPA of at least 1.75 out of 4 to continue an undergraduate program. If your GPA falls below 1.75, you will still be allowed to continue your studies, but only on condition that you increase it to 1.75 and keep it there for the next two semesters. Failure to do so will result in expulsion. Now, 1.75 out of 4 may seem weak. Perhaps you’re telling yourself that this regulation doesn’t apply to you, since you’re a good student. Be careful! Plenty of good students find themselves in academic difficulty and facing expulsion! You are strongly encouraged to meet with the BAE coaching team the instant you sense trouble. The earlier you react, the easier it will be to head off any academic problems.

Failing the same course three times results in expulsion from the school. Expulsion in this case is non-negotiable. If you are having serious difficulty in a course, seek immediate assistance from your professor, a tutor, or the BAE coaching team. Don’t wait until you’ve failed the same course twice before asking for help; by then, it may be too late.

Graduate program continuation

To continue a graduate program, you just have to be sure not to fail any of your courses. If you fail a course once, you need to obtain permission from your research director to continue your studies. Should you fail a second time, you will not be allowed to continue.

Graduate students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.75 out of 4 after completing 9 credits.

For more information, refer to Regulations 58 and 78 in the graduate calendar regarding master’s and PhD programs.


Mastering French is absolutely necessary to study at École Polytechnique. All students, with the exception of those holding a high-school diploma from France, must pass the French proficiency exam administered by the school. You will receive notification of the exam in March of your first year. Students who fail the exam must then take a French course at École Polytechnique, and must have passed this course before they have completed 45 credits. Note that, while English proficiency is not a requirement, knowledge of the language is useful, since various reference works are available in English only.


Take time to adapt to your new surroundings

Even if you’re a good student, you should give yourself enough time to adapt to your new environment. The school lets new students enrol on a part-time basis for their first semester. To do so, you need to meet an advisor from the Academic Affairs Office (Bureau des affaires académiques – BAA) before the course change period is up (see calendar for dates). You may want to talk this decision over with a BAE coaching consultant. You can also discuss the best approach that applies to your particular situation.  

Invest in your studies from the start

The level of difficulty is high, but it’s entirely possible to succeed at your studies at École Polytechnique — provided you put in the necessary effort. First and foremost, you must maintain a high attendance. Attending every class is unquestionably the most important step on the road to academic success. Keeping on top of your coursework is just as vital. We strongly discourage last-minute “cramming” for exams: even if this method has worked for you in the past, experience shows that it doesn’t pay off at Polytechnique. What matters most is understanding course content; and understanding the content to any degree of depth takes time.

Don’t hesitate to consult your professors

The North American student-professor relationship may be different to what you’re used to. Here, students who need help commonly phone or e-mail their professors, make appointments or simply go straight to the prof’s office. If this is surprising to you, you’ll soon see the advantages. Meeting your professor outside of classroom hours can clarify certain concepts and even help you prepare for your exams. Professors are available for consultation at set times; these will be indicated at the start of the semester.

Consult your course outline

At the start of the semester, the professor will hand out a course outline that covers the entire semester. Read it carefully, since it contains important information about course content, exam dates, assignments, grading procedures, the professor’s rules and those of the course, stipulations, and so on. A careful reading of your course outline will give you an idea of what you need to learn as well as the work you’ll need to do to succeed.

Consult the academic calendar

The calendar lists Polytechnique’s regulations and their application, as well as information on tuition fees and programs. Since programs are prone to change, you must be sure to obtain a new calendar each fall or consult Polytechnique’s website. The latter part of the academic calendar lists the various program streams. N.B.! Hold onto the calendar you received when you arrived, since this is what determines what courses you need to complete to obtain your degree.

Respect deadlines

It is vital to comply with the various deadlines imposed by the school, whether regarding course selection, course withdrawals, absence justifications and so on. No exceptions will be made for missed deadlines. Polytechnique adheres strictly to its deadlines, which are non-negotiable. Forewarned is forearmed!

Seek help QUICKLY

Don’t wait until your personal or academic situation deteriorates before seeking help. Many students who experience problems during their first few semesters believe they can deal with them on their own, or that the situation will take care of itself. Sadly, experience shows that this is rarely the case. The school puts an array of resources at your disposal to help you succeed. Why wait? Avail yourself of these resources at the first signs of trouble. Your professors are there to help you, as are the education committees (CETC) and the Programme d’Intégration des Nouveaux Étudiants de Polytechnique (PINEP) new-student integration program. There’s even a mentorship committee (ComMent) that will pair you with a senior student in your field. There’s a tutoring service to help you in any areas of difficulty with your courses. A host of professionals is on hand to advise you on any number of topics: come and meet them at the BAE and BAA.

Don’t know where to look for solutions?

The team of counsellors and international student advisor are there to direct you quickly to the appropriate resource. They will help you identify and adopt the best approach that applies to your studies and situation. Don’t hesitate to contact them.

Student life at Polytechnique is rich and stimulating. A multitude of activities are organized through the school’s many associations and committees. With so much on the go, there’s something for everyone!


The Student Association (Association des étudiants de Polytechnique – AEP) represents the school’s approximately 3,600 full-time undergraduate students.

This makes the AEP the largest engineering student association in Québec, and the third-largest in Canada.

The AEP is also known for its exceptional range of student activities, its negotiating strength, and for the diversity and relevance of its services.

Founded in 1963, the AEP has greatly evolved. Today, the association oversees the school’s photocopy services, printing services, food services and cold drink sales. As a member of the FEUQ (Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec), the COFIQ (Coalition des facultés d'ingénierie du Québec) and the CFES (Canadian Federation of Engineering Students), the AEP also wields external influence. The AEP co-ordinates five student education committees that represent the interests and rights of students in each Polytechnique engineering program. What’s more, the AEP is an active part of student life, as witnessed by its 16 clubs and internal committees. In this capacity, the AEP is responsible for numerous festivities, the student radio station, and the many shows and other activities that make Polytechnique student life so scintillating.

The AEP is located in the second-floor foyer (Room C-215) of the Main Building and is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Your student representatives can be reached at 514 340-4711, ext. 4710 or through the AEP website:


Established in 1970 and incorporated in 1976, the Association des étudiants des cycles supérieurs de Polytechnique (AECSP) is the school’s graduate student association. The AECSP’s role is to defend the rights and interests of all registered students, represent them on the school’s various committees and offer a range of activities.

In fulfilling its mandate, the AECSP is represented on various boards and committees, both internal and external. At Polytechnique, representatives are appointed to the Academic Council, the Education Committee, the Research Committee, and the Committee for the Efficient Use of Material Resources, along with many task forces and advisory committees.

AECSP members also have access to a student lounge (Room C-418) — a quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation. Students can borrow magazines and also book the lounge for private events.

The AECSP, located in Room C-419, is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The secretary can be reached at 514 340-4711, ext. 4925. For more information, visit the AECSP online at


There are numerous student committees at Polytechnique, all of which are described in the AEP and AECSP student agendas. Whatever your interests, there’s something for you! Student committees are one of the high points of student life at Polytechnique. They let engineering students try their hand at theatre, radio, sports, singing, 3D animation or video editing, to name but a few. You can also join one of the many technical societies and develop your engineering skills as you work on projects like a solar-powered vehicle, a human-propelled submarine or a concrete canoe. The activities are there: it’s up to you to choose where to put your energies.

At the undergraduate level, there are education committees for mechanical engineering students (CEGM), chemical engineering students (CEGCh), computer engineering students (CEGInfo), and so on. Mandated to defend the rights of the students in their associated engineering specialty, these committees also liaise between students and their departments, and set up meetings between professors and students. Visit the AEP committees online at

THE pinep

Among the many student committees, one in particular stands out: the integration program for news students (Programme d’Intégration des Nouveaux Étudiants de Polytechnique – PINEP). At the start of the fall and winter semesters, the PINEP organizes activities to help new students adjust to school life. Each new class, grouped by engineering specialty, is assigned a co-ordinator who monitors the group for the entire semester and serves as their resource person. The co-ordinator is a 2nd-, 3rd- or 4th-year student who shares the benefit of his or her experience and provides tips to help the newcomers adapt. The PINEP also organizes an “integration day” and a week of festivities at the start of the semester. Getting involved is by far the quickest way to make new friends and feel at home.


There is no shortage of student activities at Polytechnique. About twice weekly, meetings are held to discuss a chosen topic — and to have some fun. These meetings are commonly known as 5@7 or cinq à sept, referring to the 5-to-7-p.m. timeslot known in English Canada as “happy hour.” Each Friday also brings “pub night” in the second-floor lobby. Added to the mix are two to three student theatre productions per year; various parties (including the famous biennial Beach Party); student radio programs, sports leagues and plenty more. These goings-on let you discover other areas of activity, make friends and balance your studies with enjoyable extra-curricular pursuits.