The career gains of obtaining a graduate degree are well established, but those from lower socioeconomic status (SES) and underrepresented demographic backgrounds have persistently been disadvantaged in earning those degrees. We aim to contribute to research on enhancing access, diversity, and equity to graduate education by providing insights into what motivates individuals to pursue a graduate education across demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Using survey data collected from GRE test takers at two time points and exploratory structural equation modeling, we explore the factors that individuals consider to be important for pursuing graduate education and selecting graduate programs, along with subsequent application and acceptance outcomes. We identified three factors considered in deciding to pursue graduate school and six factors considered in selecting graduate school programs. Those who aimed to apply to graduate school for professional development considered an extensive set of factors in selecting programs. The factors considered varied by gender, ethnicity/race, and SES. These factors further varied in the extent to which they predicted graduate school application and acceptance outcomes.