Example of a High-Scoring AWA Essay

Sample AWA Prompt (Fern Valley University)

The following appeared as part of a recommendation from the financial planning office to the administration of Fern Valley University.

"In the past few years, Fern Valley University has suffered from a decline in both enrollments and admissions applications. The reason can be discovered from our students, who most often cite poor teaching and inadequate library resources as their chief sources of dissatisfaction with Fern Valley. Therefore, in order to increase the number of students attending our university, and hence to regain our position as the most prestigious university in the greater Fern Valley metropolitan area, it is necessary to initiate a fund-raising campaign among the alumni that will enable us to expand the range of subjects we teach and to increase the size of our library facilities."

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

Understand the argument

The financial planning office of Fern Valley University recommends that the university raise funds from among the alumni to expand the range of subjects taught at the university and increase the size of library facilities, all to increase the number of students attending the university and improve its reputation. This recommendation is in response to the fact that there has been a decline in enrollments and admissions applications at Fern Valley University for the last few years. The department feels that the reason for this decline is that some students have been dissatisfied with the quality of teaching and library facilities at the school.

Faulty assumptions

  • Poor teaching is connected to the range of subjects taught
  • The students citing these reasons are representative of the other students in general
  • No other factor has contributed significantly to the decline in enrollments or admissions applications
  • No other factor is significantly responsible for the dissatisfaction expressed by students

Missing evidence

  • Proof that the quality of teaching is directly related to the range of subjects taught
  • Data on the students who cited the mentioned reasons
  • Details about other possible factors that can affect enrollments or admissions applications
  • Specifics about other factors that can cause dissatisfaction in students

Counter-examples

  • What if quality of teaching is not significantly affected by the range of subjects but by some other factor?
  • What if only a small portion of students are dissatisfied with the quality of teaching and library facilities while the majority are quite satisfied with these things?
  • What if some other factor has led to the decline in enrollments and admissions applications?
  • What if some other factor has caused dissatisfaction in students?

Sample high-scoring essay

The financial planning office of Fern Valley University suggests that a fundraising campaign be initiated in order to increase the range of subjects taught at the university and to expand library facilities. The goal is mainly to halt the declining number of students and admissions by addressing these two issues. While the suggestion seems valid initially, a deeper investigation reveals that key facts are missing and important questions are unanswered, leaving the claim dubious.

To begin with, the department recommends that to remedy the declining number of students, the university should expand the range of subjects and improve library facilities. While both tasks are important and admirable goals in general, the department's reason for these goals is that students expressed dissatisfaction with the teaching and library facilities. Two questions beg to be answered before this suggestion can be evaluated. Are the students who cite dissatisfaction representative of all the students in general? If they are not, this move will not necessarily help to increase the number of students because it would appear that some other factor is responsible for the declining number. The second question that comes to mind is that even if the students are representative of all Fern Valley University students in general, how exactly is poor teaching connected to the range of subjects? If poor teaching is indeed the reason for the dissatisfaction and ultimately for the declining number of students, then the resolution would be to improve the quality of teaching, possibly by improving the curriculum, the manner in which it is taught, and the training of the teachers. Simply expanding the range of subjects taught will not affect the quality of teaching.

Aside from addressing the assumptions made, the department should determine all the possible factors that might have resulted in the declining number of students and admissions, factors such as more and better universities, negative feedback from students, a booming job market, etc. When such factors are determined, then a proper course of measure should be charted to deal with those issues. Additionally, the department should also ascertain whether the students who express dissatisfaction speak for the majority. If they do, then measures should be taken to improve the quality of teaching and the library facilities. Finally, as a natural progression, the range of subjects should be expanded and library facilities improved after conducting a thorough survey of students and the market to determine the specifics of what subjects and what facilities would be best added.

To conclude, to simply assume that students expressing dissatisfaction is the primary reason for the declining number of students without specifically ascertaining so is illogical. Further, to use those assumptions and provide a cosmetic solution invites further trouble. Thus, the department should refrain from reactionary measures and take into account the aspects discussed above, after which the recommendation will be more well-reasoned and logical.