Your Grad School Personal Statement: Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a four-part series. 

When explaining why you want to go to grad school, it’s natural to trace the relevant parts of your experience through time. Organized that way, the essay is chronological.

As a place to start, this structure is good because it’s pretty easy to complete a first draft.

The problem: it comes across as a mere list of experiences. “I did this, then this, and now I want to study this” isn’t the most interesting read.

Better to identify a theme that unifies these experiences. This can be hard to pinpoint at first. But here again is a reason to start with a detailed chronology: it provides the raw material that can reveal your theme.

Once identified, simply state your theme at the outset and develop it throughout your essay. You’ll have to reorganize your first draft, so give yourself plenty of time. Remember, there’s no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.

To recap my first two tips:

  • Focus on the motivation behind your past experience and your future goals.
  • Structure your paper around a theme that unifies both your background and ambition.

Putting these together, your motivation is the core drive (or drives) that explains the various things you’ve done as the foundation for the work you want to do after grad school. So when you look for a theme that unifies your experience and ambition, it’s right there in your motivation. Your theme and your motivation—your core drive—are one and the same.

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