Your Grad School Personal Statement: Part 3

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

In my previous posts, I suggested that you structure your essay around a theme not a timeline, and make the theme your core drive or drives that explain specifically your experience and goals.

A key word here is core. It’s not enough to say that you want to pursue a master’s in mathematical finance because it’s a way to apply your economics degree. Why did you choose economics in the first place? What explains both your study of economics and a career in financial analysis?

The other key word here is specific. What motivates you to go for this particular field and not that one? “I like science and I want to help people” doesn’t explain a master’s degree and career in Speech-Language Pathology, because it applies to many other fields.

So dig deeper. You’ve hit bottom when you can no longer explain why you have a certain motivation, as though there were a prior cause that produces your motivation as a consequence. Rather, you can only elaborate it, pointing to the aspects of the field of study that speak to you. As to why that is, you’re just wired that way. It’s what makes the motivation intrinsic to who you are.

And dig wider, as well. In the Speech-Language Pathology example, your interest in science is one tunnel, your desire to help others another, but you’ll need another tunnel or two to get at why you are interested in the science of speech or why you chose speech therapy rather than mental health or physical movement.


The story of your motivation is deep and complex. Write it up in direct, simple language and your admissions committee will be happy to read it.


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