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I am applying to CS graduate programs, coming from a background in mathematics.

As an undergraduate I developed research experience and a strong background in mathematics and was accepted into math PhD programs upon graduation. However, I decided for financial reasons to turn down the offers and instead work as a software engineer, which I have done for 2 years. I am still academically motivated, and as my interests are now focused on very specific areas of active CS research, and as I am now in a better financial situation to be a graduate student, I am applying to CS graduate programs.

However, I do not know if I should mention my acceptance into math PhDs in my applications. On one hand,

  • Getting accepted into math PhDs doesn't really mean that much for a CS PhD. Therefore, I may unintentionally appear as arrogant for even bringing it up.
  • For all they know, I could very well be lying (which would obviously be ridiculous).

On the other hand,

  • It feels like I am omitting a somewhat important event in my academic journey.
  • Perhaps the individuals reading my application might (very fairly) wonder: Why didn't he apply to math PhD programs? This is fair because that is typically what an undergraduate with my kind of background in math would do.
  • It could provide evidence that I really am academically motivated to do research. At least, I was able to demonstrate possible success in math research to graduate committees.

Overall, it is difficult to ascertain whether or not mentioning this fact is a good idea.

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I would suggest that it is best to focus your cv on completed outputs. In your case, your maths research portfolio and your software engineering work experience are both desirable attributes. A prospective supervisor wants to find a capable candidate, who is enthusiastic and ideally pleasant to work with. They are very unlikely to decide not to interview you on the basis of you not having declined previous PhD offers. Seeing that you have previously declined other offers doesn't say much for capability, but it may be interpreted (without the context) as being indecisive about or uncommitted to your applications. They could reasonably decide not to interview on the basis that they think you wouldn't accept an offer, and that you would be therefore wasting their interview slot. They may ask you in the interview, in which case you have a valid reason fir previously applying, being accepted and declining other programs. However, I would take advantage of mentioning your work experience, which gives you greater practical experience and perspective which you can now apply in the CS subject, which you have decided you are most enthusiastic about

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    That makes sense, especially your point regarding the fact that declining adds evidence of possible indecisiveness, which is something that did not occur to me. Thank you!
    – user148768
    Oct 10, 2023 at 6:43

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