The Directed Self-Placement for Writing (DSP) gives you a chance to learn about the types of academic writing most often assigned and valued at the University of Michigan. The DSP will help you judge your own readiness for and comfort with college writing, and assist you in choosing your writing courses at the University.


Do I have to complete the Directed Self-Placement for Writing?

  • All first-year students in LSA (except Honors & Residential College), Art & Design, Kinesiology, Music, and Nursing are required to complete the DSP.
  • All transfer students who have not completed an approved First-Year Writing Requirement course at their previous college or university are required to complete the DSP.
  • First-year students in Engineering, LSA Honors, LSA Residential College are exempt from the DSP.

When you meet with your advisor during Orientation, you will consider your experience completing the DSP essay and questions, as well as your prior writing experiences. Based on these considerations, you will choose a writing course that will enable you to become more proficient and confident in academic writing. Once you have registered for your first writing course, your course instructor will read your DSP essay to familiarize him- or herself with your writing.


To complete the Directed Self-Placement for Writing, find a time during which you can devote several hours to reading the article, drafting and revising your essay, and answering the survey questions. Take the essay and the questions seriously, so that you can make an informed choice about your first writing course at the University of Michigan.

The Directed Self-Placement for Writing must be submitted five business days prior to the start of your orientation. If you fail to meet this deadline, you may lose your seat in your first writing course at the University of Michigan.

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Tips for completing your Directed Self-Placement.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while you are completing your DSP Essay and Questions

  • We encourage you to read the article carefully, making notes as you read.
  • Take as much time as you need to create a well thought-out, polished argument -- including time for revision. This is not a timed writing test.
  • As you prepare to write, think carefully about what the prompt is asking you to do. You may find it helpful to rephrase the prompt in your own words. Think about how you want to organize your response, and come up with a rough plan before writing.
  • In asking you to write a academic essay, we are asking you to develop a clear position and to support that position using evidence. Therefore, we suggest that you keep the following guidelines in mind.
    • Focus: Your essay should be developed around a clear central thesis or argument, integrating your own views with material from the article.
    • Structure: Your essay should be clearly organized in a way that elaborates on and supports your central thesis. 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.
    • Evidence/Analysis: Make sure that you support your claims with well-chosen examples from the article and your own experience, and that you explain clearly how these examples support your points.
  • Proofread your essay carefully before you upload your file. After submitting your completed essay, you must answer ten follow-up questions about your experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Directed Self-Placement (DSP) Process?
The DSP asks students to read an article, write an evidence-based argument in response to the article, and answer ten questions about their experiences as writers.

How long will the DSP take?
Students who have completed the DSP report that it takes an average of two hours to complete a draft, which does not include time taken to revise. Of course some students take longer and some finish more quickly.

Who should take the DSP?
All entering first-year students in LSA (except those in the Honors Program and the Residential College), Art & Design, Kinesiology, Music, and Nursing complete the Directed Self-Placement. All transfer students who have not completed an approved First-Year Writing Requirement course at their previous college or university are required to complete the DSP. First-year students in Engineering, LSA Honors, LSA Residential College are exempt from the DSP. 

When should the DSP be completed?
Students should complete the DSP at least 5 business days before their Orientation date.

What are the goals of the DSP?

  • Enable entering students to introduce themselves as writers to instructors in their first writing course
  • Convey to students the importance UM assigns to writing well
  • Give students first-hand experience with the kind of writing expected at UM
  • Provide students with substantial information about how their writing skills compare with those of others at UM

How will the results of the DSP be used?

  • Information from the DSP will be used by advisors to help students select a first writing course that will serve their needs best
  • Essays written in response to the DSP will be forwarded to each student’s first writing course instructor and incorporated into the course
  • Data gathered from the DSP will be analyzed to learn more about students’ strengths and weaknesses as writers and to improve writing instruction at UM

What happens to students who do not complete the DSP?

  • Students who do not complete the DSP before Orientation will receive little guidance in selecting their first writing course, and they will be given a date by which they need to complete the DSP after Orientation
  • Students who do not complete the DSP by the assigned date may lose their place in their writing course