Directed Self-Placement at SSU

What is Directed Self-Placement?

Directed Self-Placement (DSP) comprises a set of literacy tasks that students complete in an approximately 1-2 hour working session online in Canvas (SSU’s learning management system). In the DSP process, you will

  • Engage in a series of college-level reading and writing tasks

  • Reflect on your reading and writing skills and experiences

  • Learn about first-year reading and writing courses at SSU

  • Choose your first-year writing course

The Benefits of DSP

Once students have experienced a typical college-level reading and writing assignment and have reflected on their skills as readers and writers, they are ready to make an informed choice about their first-year reading and writing  course. Studies show that when students make their own course choice, they are more motivated, more engaged, and more satisfied with their work than when they are simply placed in a course according to the results of a one-shot test. [Source: research studies from the University of Michigan and our sister CSU campuses]

Who is required to do DSP?

DSP is required of all incoming first-year students.  Students who have received or anticipate receiving a score of 3 or above on either the AP exam for English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition should still log into DSP to confirm their AP status.

Please note: Students who are exempt from the Early Start English program are not exempt from participating in Directed Self-Placement.

What are the 5 steps of DSP?

  1. In Canvas, SSU’s online learning management system, students print out, read, and annotate a challenging piece of college-level reading.

  2. Students write an argument that responds to the reading and upload it to Canvas.

  3. Students reflect on the reading and writing they have just completed in this DSP process, as well as on their high school preparation for college-level work.

  4. Students then learn about first-year reading and writing courses at SSU & view testimonials from students.

  5. Lastly, students choose their first-year reading and writing course (and they will have the option to add English 99T: Basic Composition—Tutoring). This course selection will be used to determine your enrollment options during summer registration.

How to access DSP

DSP is located online in Canvas, SSU’s online Learning Management System. You will also use Canvas to complete coursework for classes you are taking at SSU. To start the DSP activity, follow these steps:

  1. If you are a Hutchins Liberal Studies major, click here:

  2. All other majors and undeclared students should click here:

  3. Enter your SSU Seawolf ID and Password; then click on the Login button.
    Note: If you need password assistance, click on the Username & Password Assistance link located under the Username and Password fields; otherwise, contact the IT Help Desk at (707) 664-4357 or email

To complete DSP, you will need:

  • Connection to high-speed internet

  • Word processing software such as MS Word, Text Edit, or Notepad

  • Printer (recommended)

  • A space where you can work with minimal distractions.

First-Year Composition/Reading Courses and Tutorial Support at SSU

Students have a choice of two first-year writing courses at SSU, both of which satisfy the graduation reading and writing requirement (GE Area A2):

  • English 101: the faster-paced, more challenging first-year reading and writing course (one semester; 25 students per class) OR
  • English 100A-100B: the year-long course that “stretches” English 101 readings, skills, and assignments (25 students per class)

Please note: Students may also choose to add English 99T: Basic Composition—Tutoring, a Credit/NC one-on-one writing tutorial ideal for multilingual learners and those seeking extra writing support.

How Should Students Make Their Course Choice?

Students should consider what experiences they have reading and writing challenging texts, how confident they are in their reading and writing skills, and whether additional time and support from their writing professor might be useful to their development as readers and writers. College writing assignments often include locating and incorporating research into argument-based writing assignments, so if a student is not familiar with research-based writing, they might find ENGL 100A-B useful.

What Happens Next?

Once a student has selected their course option, it will be used to guide the student into the available course sections during summer registration. For students that select ENGL 100A, this will be the first part of the registration process and students will not be able to progress further into registration without selecting one of the ENGL 100A courses.


Please check out our FAQ or contact the English Department Analyst Kate Sims at