Directed Self-Placement (DSP)

The 2015 Wake Forest Directed Self-Placement (DSP) for writing will be due on June 12, 2015, at 12 midnight EST. The 2015 DSP prompt will be posted on this website on June 1, 2015.

This website will be updated throughout the summer, and you can find additional information by clicking on the links available on the left menu: “Tips for Completing the DSP Process,” “DSP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),” “What writing courses are available?

For information about the importance of DSP: DSP Video

For questions about the DSP process, please contact Laura Denlinger,; 336-758-5768 or

For problems with your WFU ID or password: please call the Wake Forest Service Desk at 336-758-4357

WFU DSP in more detail:

At Wake Forest University, you, as students, have the opportunity to decide which first writing-intensive course is most appropriate for your skill level. The DSP process helps you make that decision in light of a university-level reading, writing, and reflection task designed by Wake Forest professors, which may be different from the kinds of assignments you experienced in high school. For the 2015 DSP, you will read three short articles, write an academic essay in response to a writing prompt, submit your essay online, and answer 10 reflective questions about your experiences as a reader and writer. Because writing is essential to a university education, Wake Forest University requires all entering, first-year students to complete the DSP process before enrolling in their first writing-intensive course. Students with AP and IB credit are exempt from WRI 111, but they still complete the DSP for guidance vis-a-vis other writing courses and support. All newly enrolled students should submit the DSP essay and reflective questions by June 12, 2015. The prompt and reading links will be posted on this website on June 1, 2015.

As its name indicates, Directed Self-Placement (DSP) is especially useful for your own reflection and self-assessment. The essays and reflective question responses are not used to evaluate you or place you in a course; and you will not receive formal feedback on your essay or questions. Rather, the DSP process simulates a college-level reading and writing task through which students self-reflect upon their preparedness for college-level writing. You will receive a course recommendation based on your answers to the reflective questions before the first round of course registration in July, 2015.  You are invited to consider this recommendation alongside your other writing and reading experiences as you make the important choice about your first writing-intensive course. After you have finished the process and registered for your courses, your DSP essay will be sent to the professor of your first writing-intensive course so that they can see some of your writing before the start of the fall semester.

Below, you will see the 2014 DSP reading and prompt. The 2015 prompt will be posted on this website on June 1, 2015.

Summer 2014 Prompt

Civility and Free speech on College Campuses
One of the most exciting aspects of university life is that students and faculty from various backgrounds come together to wrestle with a wide range of ideas. Even in a world in which popular debates and mainstream media might polarize or point fingers, universities are places that strive not to do so. Instead, the notion that college campuses are spaces where diverse people with diverse perspectives can coexist and learn from one another is a vision at the center of modern higher education and Wake Forest University.

Of course, this vision comes with its challenges, especially the challenge of balancing the individual freedom to express one’s views with the community goal of civility and coexistence. One specific challenge is how to respond to incidents in which individuals are insulting toward particular groups or beliefs, incidents often referred to as hate speech. Even in campus communities that are overall very caring and civil, these incidents can occur, so universities all over the U.S. are considering how simultaneously to honor free speech and respond to hate speech. Hate speech is generally defined as verbal assaults and use of hateful symbols or language, often directed at groups or individuals designated by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Free speech is defined as the freedom of thought and expression, even when that includes hateful and offensive ideas.

A principle question in these discussions is whether colleges should have campus speech codes which condemn hate speech. Some people advocate campus speech codes as a way to maintain a civil, safe community for many different types of students. Others view campus speech codes as an infringement on free speech and advocate alternative ways to ensure safe and respectful campuses.**

In the two articles linked below, both perspectives are represented. In the first article, Deanna Garrett responds to an incident of hate speech at the University of Vermont by explaining the history of campus speech codes and arguing that they are a step in combating hateful incidents. In the second article from a 1994 statement (article no longer available online), the American Association of University Professors opposes campus speech codes in favor of other measures for creating civil campus communities.

Read and analyze these perspectives. Then write an essay in which you articulate an evidenced-based argument for how Wake Forest can best promote a civil campus community—a place where people with different backgrounds or beliefs can come together, express themselves, respect one another, and learn from one another. Offer a well-reasoned position that includes evidence from the two source texts.


Your essay should be an 800-1000 word academic essay in response to the prompt. By academic essay, we mean an essay in which you clearly articulate a position and support that position using evidence; by evidence, we mean reasoning, ideas, and/or examples from the two source texts. Your essay should include the following:

  1. Focus: your essay should be developed around a clear, thoughtful, and compelling thesis or argument. This focus should be clear toward the beginning of your essay and should be directly related to the central prompt (how Wake Forest can best promote a civil campus).
  2. Evidence: the claims in your essay should be supported with well-chosen examples and/or statements from the articles, and your essay should explain how these examples connect to your argument. Be sure to consider evidence that supports and/or challenges your argument.
  3. Structure: your essay should be organized in a way that supports and elucidates your central argument. Individual paragraphs should be cohesive, and your reader should be able to follow the logical progression of your ideas from one paragraph to the next. For example, try to explicitly state how different examples and paragraphs relate to one another, and use transitions to lead readers through your ideas.

**Note that the Supreme Court has not clearly ruled for or against campus speech codes vis-à-vis the First Amendment and also that Wake Forest is a private university and therefore can have speech codes if it chooses regardless of the options available to public state actors.

For students as they register in July:

  • Because Wake Forest offers various writing resources–-from a range of writing-intensive courses to individual support at the Writing Center–-students’ self-reflection is especially valuable before their first year so that they can think about and take ownership of the kinds of writing support students need from the start. As students prepare to register in July for their first writing-intensive course, they are encouraged to reflect on their experience of  the DSP process as they review the course descriptions (
  • Most students who felt they understood the DSP task and were prepared to create and develop an argument supported by evidence from both readings will find that either WRI 111 or FYS is an appropriate choice for their first semester. Usually these students have some experience reading expository texts and writing argumentative essays but will also gain more practice and hone their skills by taking these courses.
  • Students who felt the DSP task was very challenging or unfamiliar will benefit from WRI 105 because it provides more one-on-one support and an additional semester of critical reading and writing practice to help students transition successfully from high school to university level writing. WRI 105 is an elective course.
  • Students with AP/IB credit who also felt prepared to write college-level reading and writing tasks like the DSP task should find their FYS a stimulating introduction to college-level reading and critical thinking. Students who earned  AP/IB credit and want additional writing instruction and feedback before major-level courses will find that WRI 210 or WRI 212 affords them the opportunity to sharpen their research and writing  at an advanced level. WRI 210 and WRI 212 are elective courses which also serve as the gateway courses for the Writing Minor. These courses can help students solidify a strong foundation in writing for future college courses.
  • No matter which course you take, you can also gain writing guidance and feedback outside of class, by meeting with your professors (e.g., to go over assignment expectations) and visiting the Writing Center. These are two excellent habits to establish early in your coursework at Wake Forest.