Courtney Riley

Essay Specialist


  • Application Essays
  • Writing



  • Bethesda, MD
  • Remote (Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime, etc.)
  • Tenleytown, DC


College Essay Specialist Courtney Riley’s recent pursuit of her Master of Education degree in Student Affairs, at the University of Maryland College Park, has brought her back home to the DMV area. Having spent her youth in Arlington, Virginia, she went all the way to the Cheese State to study sociology and education policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Courtney arrived in Madison as a recipient of the national full-tuition academic and leadership Posse Scholarship. Through her engagement with the Posse Foundation, an organization committed to providing college access and building tomorrow’s leaders, she discovered her interests in higher education policies and reform, student affairs, and community engagement.

At UW-Madison, Courtney was a Writing Fellow where she was assigned specific courses to tutor students on their writing process. She also served as a volunteer writing tutor with Madison’s Odyssey Program, which was a community-based learning program for adult learners who were trying to gain access to higher education. While a graduate student at UMD, Courtney provided services through the University Career Center, focusing her work there on reviewing students’ resumes, cover letters, and personal statements, for those applying to graduate school and scholarships.

Currently, Courtney is continuing to show her commitment to expanding access to education by working at an educational non-profit, CollegeTracks, an organization that focuses on helping students from low-income backgrounds, immigrant families, and/or are first in their families to go to college. As a College Success Coach, Courtney prepares students to excel in college and graduate successfully by targeting four distinct areas: academics, finances, personal life, and career goals. Her work as a PrepMatters essay specialist is a perfect complement to her background and life philosophy.

In her spare time, Courtney enjoys engaging in volunteering and community service, mentoring, reading, spending time with her family and friends, and going to concerts.


“I don’t believe in the creativity of the curator. I don’t think that the exhibition-maker has brilliant ideas around which the works of artists must fit. Instead, the process always starts with a conversation, in which I ask the artists what their unrealized projects are, and then the task is to find the means to realize them.” —Hans Ulrich Obrist

What really is the purpose of the quintessential college essay? Well, honestly, it serves multiple functions; namely it provides an opportunity for others to learn more about the applicant, understand why the applicant has selected a specific school, and lastly allows the applicant to demonstrate strong writing capabilities. However, I believe that the college essay writing process can be about a lot more than just checking off boxes on the “college essay criteria” checklist.

The college essay writing process can be an explorative and reflective journey during which the writer’s primary focus is not necessarily centered on presenting some contrived story that hopefully pleases the admissions board but more on crafting a story that features an aspect of life that is authentic, personal, and captivating. That is how, as a college essay specialist, I believe that I can be of most help: guiding the identification of the story topic and bringing it to life.
In short, I aim to meet students wherever they are in the writing process and help them fully realize the piece of work—the well-written college essay— that is already within them.

Recent Writings