When I first learned of my admission to Dartmouth, I slumped in the leather commuter rail seat, dumbfounded by the words displayed on my phone. I could not believe it. The rest of the way home from school, I kept reopening the portal, making sure my eyes were not fooling me, or that the Dartmouth administration did not send a message apologizing for a glitch in the system. Fast forward to first-year trips and a heavily programmed orientation week, and I still could not believe it.
When you are an imposter, your existence becomes one of a mask–a fragile one. It had to be protected at all costs, so I dodged questions from strangers and friends, and I preemptively eschewed social situations in which I could be interrogated. This resulted in me floating through freshman year, timid and unsure of who I was, my purpose on campus, and if I could ever be myself.
Dear ‘24s, this does not have to be your story.
If it is now, it certainly does not have to stay this way. I have compiled a list of five things I needed to accept to overcome imposter syndrome.
Accept your acceptance
You are wanted. The people in admissions wanted you because they believed in you. You are supposed to be a member of this community. It is easy to pin your acceptance on pure chance or other factors. The truth is, colleges like these do not select candidates willy nilly.
Accept the challenge
College is hard. It is not supposed to be easy. The classes you take are going to challenge you one way or another. In fact, if there is no challenge, I would argue there is no growth. Dartmouth can sometimes exacerbate this feeling of having to be a perfectionist. The truth is, we are meant to struggle academically. The difference between failing and succeeding is how much you learned after. For people who struggle with imposter syndrome, coming across a challenge can bring up the thought that maybe you were never meant to be where you are. No. You are. Admissions would never have chosen you if they thought you could not practice meaningful perseverance. So have grace with yourself as you go through the term. There will be bumps. There will be steep hills to climb. There will be times when you feel like you cannot figure things out, and sometimes you will need help. That is okay. It really is the beautiful process of learning that turns the student into a scholar.
Sometimes we do better than we thought we were going to do. Usually, it is because we worked super hard on something. Oftentimes with imposter syndrome, you can start to doubt your own capabilities– even if you have already proven yourself. When you succeed at something, be proud of yourself. Take time to acknowledge the hard work that went into your work. Do not try to explain away that A+ or the compliment your professor gave you regarding your term paper.
Accept other people’s success
This is a hard one. The truth is, when you have imposter syndrome, seeing others’ success can be hard. It can make you feel worse about yourself. At an institution like this, you are bound to run into some amazing peers who have some amazing accomplishments under their belts. The sense of competition can be exacerbated tenfold. Instead of beating yourself up about others’ success, be inspired by it. Of course, that is easier said than done, even for people not struggling with imposter syndrome. All I can say is that this becomes easier when you cease measuring your success up against others.
Accept the beauty of your own unique journey
We all are unique. Naturally, our walks of life would be varied too. This is beautiful. No matter where we came from (state, country, type of neighborhood, etc.), we each were strategically picked by admissions to fulfill a certain aspect of which they felt the college was missing. Together, we make up the student body, a colorful myriad of experiences and backgrounds that, when fit together, form a beautiful mosaic. It is easy to feel like you do not quite fit the mold. Maybe you are a first-generation student. Maybe you are a legacy. Whatever it is, you belong here.