Your Grad School Personal Statement: Part 4

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of the four-part series.

My first three tips urge you to use your personal statement to explain the depth and complexity of your motivation for pursuing your chosen field.

But what if a big part of your motivation is…money?

Don’t worry. Go ahead and draft one or two sentences that state as clearly and specifically as possible your real motives. You have to get that clear, if only for yourself, otherwise it will be hard to write even a rough draft. Because it’s easy to get tripped up trying to do two things at once: say why you are applying, and say what you think will get you accepted.

These two aims don’t have to conflict, but you might feel they do. Unresolved, the result is usually an essay with one or more problems:

  • Main focus on past actions and accomplishments
  • Lack of clarity and rationale for why you are applying
  • Writing style is stiff and abstract, grammar is overly complicated
  • Disjointed organization and puzzling flow of ideas

If you think revealing your ultimate goal is at odds with getting accepted, consider why you are choosing your intended program and career as the particular path to that goal.


If you’re applying to law school because you want a high-paying career, why are you choosing law over medicine or finance? Why grad school now instead of later? Keep asking yourself that type of question: why this rather than that or that?

In the final draft, the reasons that explain these specific choices are likely to make a good essay, with your ultimate goal or motivation left safely out.

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