‘20–21 Common App Identity Essay: “Nerd”

4 min readDec 14, 2020

Date Last Edited: Dec, 15 Indochina TimeZone


Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (Source)

Key (pls read this):

[…] = additional somewhat relevant statistics/facts but can be omitted

Note that I define nerd using the denotation from the most commonly cited dictionary: Oxford languages. This is different from one of my personal best connotations of what it means to be a nerd by Susan Cain, one of my many favorite authors of a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. You should do this in your 650-words essay if you have a lot of spaces left!


1. Quote

2. How was I a “Nerd”

3. Thesis in the format of a Rhetorical Questions

4. Thesis

5. Additional Thesis that I have to prove since a “Nerd” is smart and also bad at communicating

6. Summary

Bill Gates once said:

“Rule 11 — Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”

(To be deleted meaning not counted towards the official word count at the bottom: from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Gates, written in a section called Misattributed, there is actually no digital evidence of Gates ever saying this and it is believed to be said by Charles J. Sykes.)

Ever since I was a student at RIS and Stanford, I was, and have been always be the “biggest” nerd among approximately 980 high-schoolers [140 per graduating class x 7 since any HS freshman will have walked past upperclassmen from at least 3 graduating classes and similarly true for a senior as well as my graduating class] and 200 Stanford undergraduates that I have conversed with.

For my official Common App in 2013, I portrayed myself as the best physics high-school researcher. I also presented myself as entrepreneurial because I created a static website using my research by hiring a web developer using JS and WordPress lib. The reasons why I had to hire one were that there was no such thing as NYSE:WIX and that I cried after wasting ~$100 to buy a personalized WordPress lib even though I had absolutely zero experience in creating a web application.

At Stanford, I started as a political science major (my official major as a rising junior) but somehow ended up with a Mathematical and Computational Science degree in December 2019 having completed a total of 219 credits. I chose this major because of my high inclination for calculus and R programming. Despite this, I was sure to not major in CS because of my low grades in some of the CS courses but later on, did well in CS 220’s courses.

One may ask:

Can a nerd at any college have low grades? Namely, could someone who gets “B” or “C” instead of an “A” claims to be a nerd denoting that he or she is boringly studious?

My succinct answer is that although I always understood that in the short run, a high cumulative GPA is useful, history has shown that some of the most successful individuals on this planet also dropped out of college. That is, in many most-highly-viewed commencement address videos, these speakers would congratulate all graduates for taking the “formal” route to become successful. Yet, these speakers ironically encourage high-schoolers to take a gap year to initiate their very own project before graduating.

Therefore, before I sleep every day, I convinced myself that my path was not “wrong”. Rather it was an extremely arduous and nonlinear path up one of the highest mountains in the world.

Additionally, I argued that in 2017, I used to be someone who lacked social skills; during that year, my parents secretly paid so much money without my explicit desire to be taught to learn “communication” (pretty insulting — isn’t it to be forced to believe that you cannot ‘communicate’ effectively with others?) from a Thai institution called “John Robert Powers” whose aim is to improve your “personality”. Obviously, I was angry, but in the end, I was honored to meet this person who does not wish to be named and learned the following: what I wish others would do to me by showing signs of respect in an Asian American way was “unrealistic” in my Bangkokian environment. Lastly, I needed to be taught that my love of “weird” color combos aka wearing red shoes, blue pants, and green shirts at the exact same time was unfashionable and how to select perfumes, etc.

Therefore, because I spent one year outside of the “Stanford bubble”, a space filled with numerous overly ambitious Asian (+ Asian American) undergraduates trying to squeeze 20 credits in a quarter to graduate in 4 years with a bachelor's and master's degrees, I became less nerdy. Yet, I still consider myself a nerd in 2020 because I might have just been an “introvert” who has been “trained” by Stanford to be able to think and speak seldom eloquently and sophisticatedly.

Hence, I hope that I am “successful” at disproving very loosely and not rigorously one theory: a nerd should get 4.0.

Word Count: 649

Phathaphol K.




Stanford Data Science Researcher under Chuck Eesley. Passionate about EdTech, Poli Sci, and mentoring. See http://stanford.edu/~phatk