Recognizing Impostor Syndrome

Let’s be real for a moment: Entering a college-level class for the first time can be straight-up exhausting! You may have concerns about being unsuccessful or that somehow there was a mistake when you were selected as being eligible to register for the class. Maybe you view your friends as having it all together or you simply feel like you don’t belong.

I want to validate you and tell you that I understand. The first time that I set foot on the community college campus where I started before transferring to the University of Minnesota (U of M), I thought to myself, “What am I doing?” 

The feeling continued at the U of M. I was literally surrounded by thousands of students, attending classes with hundreds of people in large lecture halls, and everyone around me seemed like they had it all figured out. People’s ideas and opinions filled the classroom and the norm of taking everything at face value was brought into question. I was encouraged to provide a different perspective. It was something that I had started to experience in the latter part of high school, but amplified. In short, critical-thinking and varying degrees of debate were integrated into every class that I took. The more I experienced this type of learning, the more out of place I felt. 

I’ve read blogs that explore this feeling, which has a name: “Impostor Syndrome,” also known as “Imposter Phenomenon.” These blogs talk about how you can feel like a phony even though you meet all of the requirements of the job or in this case, the class you’re taking at school.

Discovered by clinical psychologists Dr. Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, Impostor Phenomenon, occurs when a person achieves success in their career or life, but continues to experience self-doubt or feels that they have not legitimately earned the success. 

In college courses, it may translate to acing the test but thinking that you only passed because it was an “easy test,” it must have been “graded wrong by mistake,” or the “teacher was taking it easy on me.” These are all thoughts that I have had myself after earning a high grade, and they are thoughts that may plague many of you from time to time as you continue on your college journey.

You may have seen the U of M’s “We all belong here” posters in your high school classroom. These posters are telling you what we all want you to know. You do belong here and it wasn’t a mistake that you were able to register for a dual-credit U of M course through the College in the Schools program. You were able to register because you met the requirements by the grades you earned or your class rank, or because someone at your high school believed that you are capable of succeeding at the college level.

If you are interested in learning more about Impostor Phenomenon or you would like to take the Impostor Test, visit Dr. Clance’s website.