I have to write a statement of purpose for a computer science graduate program. In high school I was in a different field of study (aeronautics), then I switched to computer science for my undergraduate course after attending a computer science course which I liked.

Now I can't lie about this, also because this university also asked me about which high school I attended. But is this a negative thing to write on a statement of purpose? Maybe I should just write it on the fly without giving it much attention. Or instead I should say it clearly and justify my choice?

I ask this because I see that many people on the statement of purpose say that they always liked their field of study, from when they were children. So I don't know if the admission examiners would consider it negatively or not.

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    I feel like this question deserves to be answered by someone with more relevant experience than me. But if I were on an admissions panel, I can't see that I'd think it was a bad thing for someone's interests to have evolved over time. Indeed, I'd see it as positive: it suggests you've thought about what you want to do, rather than just following the predestined route.
    – avid
    May 31, 2014 at 18:19
  • The edit was misleading: I studied (and I'm currently studying) computer science during my undergraduate course. I was in the field of aeronautics in high school, I would know if the fact that I started to like computer science when I was 19 years old could be considered negative or not. May 31, 2014 at 21:30
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    many people on the statement of purpose say that they always liked their field of study, from when they were children and many admissions committees find that kind of thing to be completely useless for admissions decisions.
    – ff524
    Jun 1, 2014 at 2:55
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    Nothing at the high school level deserves to be called "a field of study". Sure, there are magnet schools and such that have a theme. But the material is too basic, even if it includes some AP courses, to truly be considered a concentration.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 1, 2014 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


Short answer: It doesn't matter at all.

Particularly in the US, high school degrees don't have "concentrations"; you simply get a high school diploma. In certain circumstances, your school may have a special focus, but accreditation rules for high school diplomas typically specify some distribution of courses which all students have to meet to receive the diploma.

Moreover, the statement of purpose tells us what you want to do in graduate school, why you want to do it, and why you're qualified to do it. That's pretty much it—most people on admissions committees aren't interested in knowing what early pearl of wisdom some random relative imparted, or other "humanizing" anecdote that too many applicants include. In fact, many of them actively hate it.

Statements of purpose are not your life story, they're a summary of your past and future career. Tell us about your relevant experiences, and why you should be admitted to our graduate program.

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    Writing about what you wanted to do when you were ten is a sure way to write a CRAPPY statement of purpose. It's not called a "biographical statement," it's a statement of PURPOSE -- i.e., a forward looking statement of what you want to do when you grow up.
    – RoboKaren
    Jun 1, 2014 at 1:22

Most graduate programs will ask which high school you attended but this is can be a roundabout way to ascertain where you grew up (and perhaps to some degree your socioeconomic status -- i.e., did you go to a public school or attend an elite private boarding school,etc.). However, to be honest, most admin committees do not weight this information heavily. What you wanted to do when you were 17 has really little to do with who you are when you are in your twenties or thirties and going into PhD programs.

What is critical for applications is why you want to go to graduate school in computer science. What are the problems that intrigue you, what sub-specialty are you interested in, who do you want to work with, etc.

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