Nerd Redefined: Who Succeeds Before and After College

Nerd. Bookworm. Egghead. Brain. Geek. Dork. We've all heard these terms, and we've all either known one or been nerdy ourselves. The Education Insider takes a look at the way nerds are being redefined as well as what it takes to succeed before and after college.

By Erin Tigro


According to Merriam-Webster, nerds are often extremely focused on scholarly or intellectual ventures. The dictionary notes that these individuals generally lack style and are not physically attractive. They also tend to lack social adeptness.

Nerd Traits that Tend to Drive Future Success

While many individuals who were popular in high school move on to bigger and better positions in their adult life, the same could be said about former nerds. These outsiders are sometimes among the most intelligent in their class. They may also be enigmatic and quirky, which often lends to unique, non-conformist personalities. Nerds typically possess traits that when carried into adult life can help them succeed. According to a recent book by Alexandra Robbins entitled The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, common personas of nerdy individuals include:

  • Courageous and resilient
  • Self-aware and self-confident
  • Passionate and original

The Ugly Duck Syndrome

After high school and college, unpopular kids and teens often become formidable and successful grownups. In fact, some of these outsiders eventually come out of the woodwork to become the people we all envy. They become the backbones of many organizations and in extreme cases turn out to be mega-wealthy, ultra-popular public figures. Robbins takes note of such swans as Bruce Springsteen and Angelina Jolie. Also consider billionaire techies like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. At such heights of achievement and triumph, nerds redefine themselves and the manners in which they are conventionally considered.

Where Are They Now?

Nerd stardom can be found in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street or Main Street. Regardless of the degree of success, somewhere out there, former jocks and cool kids may now be bragging about how they once shared the same classes as nerdy-teens-turned-renowned celebrities, authors, scientists, entrepreneurs or local heroes. So if you're a nerd now, just think about the person you could be in a fast-forward flash of five, ten or 15 years.

Continue reading to learn tips for how to succeed in college.

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