Do I Belong Here? And Other Questions about Impostor Syndrome

From Kaila Hamdani

Assistant Director of Admissions & Coordinator for Access and Equity

 

The first semester of college is an exciting time – everything is new and opportunities seem endless – but many first-year students also experience an overwhelming sense of apprehension as they try to adjust to college life. For some students, especially those at selective institutions, the feeling of excitement is joined by a sense of surprise and concern – surprise that they were selected out of a number of applications and concern for their academic preparedness to succeed. Students may feel intimidated surrounded by other successful, highly capable students. This is known as Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is the feeling you do not belong and question your own ability to succeed.

We know many students struggle with Impostor Syndrome, especially First-Generation and other underrepresented students. If you or a student you know struggles with Impostor Syndrome, we want to help. Below are some common remarks we hear and our responses.

“The Admissions Office made a mistake.”

We do not make errors in our decision process. During our holistic admissions process, we review every component of your application so we can have the best picture of who you are academically and socially. Admissions Officers do this to ensure the institution is a good fit for you and you are a good fit for our community. We value diverse voices and experiences. When you are admitted, it is for a reason.

 “If I ask for help, they’ll think I don’t know anything.”

Many college students have trouble adjusting to their new academic environment. Students may feel uncomfortable asking questions in the classroom or seeking outside support because they think they are the only ones who are struggling. This is not true! Colleges know that the transition can be tough and they want to help. Professors, Deans, Peer Mentors, and many others are amazing resources to talk about your courses and any other goals you have. Never feel bad about asking for help.

“I don’t identify with that group, so I can’t attend their club meeting.”

Participating in organizations is a great way to make friends and take a break from schoolwork. At Bryn Mawr, we have over 130 organizations for students to join ranging from club sports to service groups to multicultural organizations. Our Alliance of Multicultural Organizations (AMO) welcomes students from all backgrounds and helps to foster community for those who identify with the background, as well as students interested in supporting and learning more.

Impostor syndrome is NOT an uncommon feeling!  We understand many students experience this so use the variety of resources a college campus has to offer. If your emotions ever become overwhelming, Counseling Centers offer one-on-one and group support. College is a new experience for all, so step out your comfort zone and talk to others and you’ll never know what you may learn about yourself!

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