Directed Self-Placement (DSP) for all incoming first-year students: Summer 2013

Course recommendations will be emailed to all students who have completed the DSP on June 24, 25, and 26, 2013. Students who have enrolled late have one week after their enrollment date to complete the DSP prompt (see below). For any students who have not completed the DSP, please email All students are required to complete the DSP, including those who have earned AP or IB credit.

Part I:

Read the informational article from the National Journal entitled “The Scary Truth about How Much Climate Change Is Costing You” and the argumentative piece entitled “Paying for it” (links are provided below). In “Paying for it,” Elizabeth Kolbert asserts that it is time for a carbon tax as a way to help mitigate environmental problems discussed in the National Journal article. Analyze both texts and then write your own essay in which you support and/or challenge Kolbert’s argument for a carbon tax using evidence from the two articles.

Your essay should be a 800-900 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 articles. Your essay should include the following:

1.  Focus: your essay should be developed around a clear, thoughtful, and compelling thesis or argument.

2.  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.
3.  Evidence: the claims in your essay should be supported with well-chosen examples from the articles, and your essay should explain how these examples connect to your argument.

Reading links:

(1) “The Scary Truth About How Much Climate Change is Costing You”:

(2) “Paying for it”:

Part II (Once you are ready to submit your essay): DSP essay submission and 10 reflective questions


Information about Wake Forest DSP:

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 Directed Self-Placement (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 very different from the kinds of assignments you experienced in high school. For the 2013 DSP, you will read an informational article and a short argumentative piece, 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. The 2013 DSP prompt will be posted on this website on May 20, 2013; all newly enrolled students should submit the essay and reflective questions by June 10, 2013.

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 2013. 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.

 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?

Best wishes with the DSP, and we look forward to seeing you in the fall!

The DSP Team

For information about the importance of DSP: DSP Video

For questions about the DSP process: email

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

For questions regarding writing courses and college writing expectations, you may contact one of the following faculty:

Dr. Zak Lancaster, Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program:

Dr. Anne Boyle, Associate Dean for Student-Faculty Academic Initiatives and Director, Writing Program:

Dr. Laura Aull, Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program:

Dr. Ryan Shirey, Director, Writing Center:


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 (formerly Eng. 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 would benefit from WRI 105 (formerly Eng. 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.
  • 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 (formerly Eng. 210) affords them the opportunity to sharpen their research and writing  at an advanced level. WRI 210 is an elective course, and it is an excellent choice for an elective that 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.