Imposter Syndrome


Illustration by Catherine Vu

Many high school seniors are experiencing imposter syndrome amid college admissions season.

Anita Tun, Photojournalist

With college results coming out this season, students are enthusiastic about embarking on another chapter of their lives. However, some high school seniors have been “diagnosed” with a phenomenon called imposter syndrome. Although imposter syndrome is not an official diagnosis on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is a serious issue that people experience. According to the Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome is defined as a “collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” 

Individuals with imposter syndrome may experience feeling like a fraud, doubting one’s abilities, and not being able to accept one’s accomplishments. The main reason for imposter syndrome is not feeling good not enough, which may be triggered when students are accepted into prestigious institutions. Camille Khong (10) discusses how she has noticed “many students have lacked confidence in their abilities due to the high rigor of school” and due to students constantly comparing themselves with other classmates and “[she] has talked to many graduates and those applying to university and a common theme was that they all felt dissatisfied with themselves at some point in their school career.”

This phenomenon is especially prevalent in first-generation students of color due to their background and status, leading them to feel as if they do not belong. Also, first-generation students are more likely to suffer imposter syndrome in STEM environment classes, according to research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. 

There are several harmful impacts of having imposter syndrome. For instance, imposter syndrome makes people doubt their work resulting in them not seizing opportunities. Also, imposter syndrome may damage one’s mental health. Common feelings and thoughts resulting from imposter syndrome include, “I must not fail,” “I feel like a fake,” “It’s all down to luck,” and “Success is no big deal.” (Harvard Business Review). In addition, side effects one may experience include mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (American Psychological Association).

However, there are possible solutions to help overcome imposter syndrome. First, becoming aware of having imposter syndrome and tracking one’s thoughts and feelings is crucial. It is particularly important to note what these thoughts and feelings are and when they occur. Seeking support from peers and talking about what one feels is another crucial step towards overcoming this syndrome. Another important reminder for those suffering is that one can not know everything, and the progression of understanding this is a learning process. With failure results in learning opportunities and requires the reminder to not be too hard on oneself, and mistakes will eventually occur. For motivation, it can help to disregard imposter syndrome by visualizing success to help keep focused on goals. 

Amid college decision season, high school seniors that have been accepted into prestigious universities may feel as though admission officers have made a “mistake,” but it is essential to recognize that acceptees have earned and deserved their acceptance through their dedication from their four years of high school.