You’ve worked hard to craft a fantastic essay for your college application. The result is a draft that is genuine, clear, and that shows the admissions committee who you really are. But before you send off your application, we recommend that you let someone you trust (and whose writing abilities you trust) take a look. Why? The more time you spend with a piece of your own writing, the less likely you are to spot errors.

Grammar Rules

We know from working with colleges every year that when it comes to your college application, grammatical accuracy is key. In fact, admissions officers tell us that while grammar mistakes are distracting (and can even cast doubt on the amount of care you put into your essay’s composition), good grammar fades into the background letting your ideas and unique qualities shine through.

Before you submit your application make sure you proofread your essay from beginning to end, proofread it again, and then proofread it some more. Check out these six essential grammar rules to get started. Trust us: mastery of these grammatical pitfalls will help you succeed when you get to college, too!

CategoryWhat's the Rule?Bad GrammarGood Grammar
Misplaced Modifier A word or phrase that describes something should go right next to the thing it modifies. Eaten in Mediterranean countries for centures, northern Europeans viewed the tomato with suspicion. Eaten in Mediterranean countries for centuries, the tomato was viewed with suspicion by northern Europeans.
Pronouns A pronoun must refer unambiguously to a noun, and it must agree (singular or plural) with that noun. The golden retriever is one of the smartest breeds of dogs, but they would have trouble writing essays for college admission. The golden retriever is one of the smartest breeds of dogs, but it would have trouble writing an essay for college admission.
Subject/Verb Agreement The subject must always agree with the verb. Make sure you don't forget what the subject of a sentence is, and don't use the subject of a preposition as the subject. Each of the men involved in the extensive renovations were engineers. Each of the men involved in the extensive renovations was an engineer.
Parallel Construction Two or more ideas in a single sentence that are parallel need to be similar in grammatical form. To provide a child  with the skills necessary for survival in modern life is like guaranteeing their success. Providing children with the skills necesssary for survival in modern life is like guaranteeing their success.
Comparisons You can only compare like things. The rules of written English are more stringent than spoken English. The rules of written English are more stringent than those of spoken English.
Passive/Active Voice Choose the active voice, in which the subject performs the action. After months were spent trying to keep justdillpickles.com afloat single-handedly, resignation was chosen by me. After I spent months trying to keep justdillpickles.com afloat single-handedly, I chose to resign.

Bottom Line

It’s a good idea to edit carefully ALL portions of your application (even responses, such as your list of extracurricular activities, that you type directly into the online application form). But we highly recommend asking a counselor, English teacher, or another stickler for grammar to read your essay to ensure it’s 100 percent grammatically accurate. Our book College Essays That Made A Difference has more advice straight from admissions officers, not to mention examples of real essays that got living, breathing students into their dream colleges.

Want more essay tips? Check out our video on how to perfect your college essay:


We can help you write an incredible application essay for your dream school! Call 800-866-0445 to book your 1:1 Essay Review with a former Ivy League admissions officer.