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Spinning cliche explanations?

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Statements of purpose have been asking why history.

Unfortunately, my answer to "why a graduate degree in history" seems incredibly cliche. I loved history as a kid, and it was always what I excelled at. Since I was little, I felt drawn to learning about what it was like to exist in the past. I wanted to be able to place myself in a point in the past, so I've always had a thing for women's history (which I want to pursue in grad school). When I applied to college, it was as a political science major with a pre-law concentration, but after one law class I realized that my heart just wasn't in it. I switched to history because I knew I loved it and was good at it, and I liked that it was a way to do the story-telling that I have an affinity for. I want to get my PhD in history because I want to be a professor, but also because I genuinely enjoy the way that you have to think and I love telling stories, especially ones that might fall through the cracks otherwise.

Basically, I want to do history because it's my passion and I've loved it since I was a kid, two SOP no-nos. Is there a way to spin this so it doesn't sound so cliche?

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First, just want to say that it's completely okay to be passionate about history/your field (in fact, it is a very good thing that you are!) and that it is okay to include this in your SOP. The main reason it's a no-no is that just stating that you're passionate about X doesn't get you very far and it wastes valuable space.

When students ask me similar questions about the field I'm in, I advise them to write about it from an academic perspective. So, for "why study exoplanets?", I would tell students to write the scientific motivation for their research area. For example,

I am interested in studying giant planets around other star systems because these systems allow us to put our own solar system in perspective with other planetary systems in our Galaxy. We can learn whether our configuration of planets is particularly unique. In addition, planet formation is an inherent chaotic and random process, and thus requires study of a large number of planetary systems around many different types of stars to observe all the possible pathways to planet formation.

In my opinion, framing your motivation in an academic sense will help your SOP sound more mature and it shows that you've done your homework to know the big questions in your field. This in itself conveys passion for the field. Passion is one of those "show, don't tell" things. As for statements like "I've always loved X since I was a kid", that fact in itself doesn't help you succeed in grad school. Usually people write that as a way to demonstrating passion for their field, which is okay. But I believe the example I showed above is a much more compelling way of demonstrating passion (as well as knowledge) to an admissions committee.

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