Dan Murphy

Essay Specialist


  • Application Essays
  • Writing



  • McLean, VA


For the last ten years, Dan has taught English in a variety of educational settings and at different academic levels, including seven years of teaching first-year college writing. Reflecting his passion for media studies, Dan’s teaching has primarily focused on multimedia writing and rhetoric, critical thinking, and visual culture.

Dan most recently served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, where he also completed his Ph.D. in English in 2017. His scholarship concentrated on twentieth and twenty-first century American literature, film, and critical media studies. Outside of his academic work, Dan is a frequent contributor to PopMatters (no relation to PrepMatters), writing essays on movies, television, popular culture and the media industries. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, Dan will teach English at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria as well as continue to provide essay writing guidance to PrepMatters clients.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid trail-runner and hiker. Starting as an undergraduate at the University of Washington and continuing through graduate school (for seven years in total), he served as an EMT and volunteer firefighter for the Seattle, Bellingham, and South Bend Fire Departments. He continues to teach community CPR and fire safety courses. When he isn’t reading, running, or rooting for his beloved Seattle Mariners, Dan enjoys spending time with his wife and their mildly deranged cats.


The act of writing is itself a learning process, one that coordinates the creative, intellectual, and expressive dimensions of our thinking. Writing not only involves the clear communication of ideas but is itself an emergent site where meaning is newly discovered. For this reason, the composition process can be as challenging as it is rewarding. I think Thomas Mann was right when he said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

My aim as an Essay Specialist is to help students work through and develop their ideas in the course of an attentive and supportive exchange. In addition to helping with practical concerns – such as tending to grammar and spelling, syntax, and organization – my goal is to help students better elucidate their thoughts in a manner consistent with their interests, aspirations, and individual writing style. Let’s work together to craft the best, most compelling version of your essay.