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We all have Imposter Syndrome

 Written by    November 6, 2017

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First thing’s first, if you don’t know what imposter syndrome is, let me define it: it’s the fear of being exposed as a fraud, e.g., you’re not as smart/put-together/competent as people think you are.

This happens a lot the first year of college. You probably did well in high school; you got all A’s, even in AP or CCP classes. You were the smart kid. Maybe the “most likely to be successful” kid. But then, you get to college, and you’re average. You got a C (or D, or E) on your chem midterm. Your GPA wasn’t what it was in high school. No one wants to copy your homework, because you’re probably wrong along with them. Suddenly, it seems, you aren’t as smart as everyone thought you were. And you don’t want anyone to think that they were wrong about you, or worse, that you were wrong about you.

College students everywhere deal with this, but I see it especially at Ohio State. Many of the students around me were a valedictorian or salutatorian or some other super-great thing, and here, they’re just at the same level as everyone else. And it comes as a shock. It’s like, everyone told you you were going to excel in college, but it seems you’re scraping along like any run-of-the-mill kid. You’re a fraud. An imposter. Not what they said you’d be.

Well, here’s some comforting words: literally everyone else feels like that. You aren’t alone or isolated, you’re feeling a common feeling among college students. It’s a quick adjustment to suddenly be at a university and do things you’ve never done, and you should expect to feel new fears and have questions. It’s okay.

I felt like an imposter in a slightly different way. I was a salutatorian too, and I decided to major in English. Once I got to college, I felt like if I truly deserved my high school rank, I should be an engineer. Don’t all the real smart kids go into STEM majors? I mean, a bachelor of arts sounds pretty elementary. If I’m a pretty smart gal, shouldn’t I be in a smart major?

A very good friend of mine talked to me about his experience with this, too. He graduated Decem Decori, perfect GPA, ridiculously high ACT score. He is pre-med here, and just switched his major from biomedical engineering to health sciences. He feels like he doesn’t deserve his reputation since his major is no longer in the school of engineering. It isn’t quitting, not by a long shot, but he feels like it. He feels he isn’t as smart as everyone originally thought.

Guess what? There are no “dumb” majors. Switching majors is not a failure. Failing an exam isn’t failure either. It’s all just college. If you go to OSU or some other school with a good academic reputation, you’re gonna face challenges, you’re gonna feel small, and you might even feel like a fraud. Like you don’t deserve your reputation or to even be at this place. I want you to know that that’s just a natural mental reaction that pretty much everyone has dealt with. Not only that, they’ve overcome it!

Hang in there, little one. remember that you really are smart and important and worthy. It may take time or tears to learn it, but you are.


Academics, Author, Stress

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