Imposter Syndrome

One of the challenges of college is for students to find their sense of belonging. This is not limited to incoming students, but students of all years. A facet that can hamper a student’s sense of belonging is Imposter Syndrome. As described in Time Magazine, Imposter Syndrome is “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications.” This can manifest in a number of ways in college:

Everyone else seems smarter than me – I must have gotten accepted by mistake (or ‘Everyone else in my major seems to know so much more than I do – people will realize I am a fake’)

Everyone else in my [fraternity, sorority, club sport, student org] seems [better, stronger, faster, more committed, prettier, whatever] – why did I get in here?

All the other students hunting for jobs/internships are so much more prepared than me – why did I get one and [name] hasn’t yet?

These are moments of reckoning when high achieving students doubt themselves and their capabilities. It is normal to have some doubts. When they begin to control you is when they might become problematic.

In the summer, while you have time, you could talk about Imposter Syndrome: if you have had it, how have you dealt with it? What strategies might your student put in place to combat it when it happens to them? Encourage your Deac to be open to talking to a trusted resource (University Counseling Center, Chaplain’s office, RA, etc.) if they need to.

Imposter syndrome - reminder that you deserve to be in the places and spaces you occupyAnd remind them above all, that they are worthy and deserve the places and spaces they occupy.

Here are a few resources:

Chronicle of Higher Education

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in College

Scientific American

And for a tongue-in-cheek take on it, remember the eternal words of Stuart Smalley 🙂


— by Betsy Chapman ’92, MA ’94


Categories: the daily deac


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