To My Freshman Buddy, You Are NOT an Imposter

Dread. 

It was the only emotion flowing through my system on that first day of orientation when I joined my group. Now, I had been told before that the STEM field was male-dominated. You’d think I’d be ready, but hearing someone talk about it and experiencing it first-hand is very different.

Needless to say, being one of three girls in a group of twenty guys, give or take, was a first for me. After all, for seven years straight, I’d only ever been around girls. Doing a complete 180 on the situation put me in an awkward position, making me feel like I didn’t belong.

And then there’s the Honors College. I guess when I first applied, my mind didn’t fully make the fairly obvious connection that honors = smart people. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the bus on my way back from Retreat and two of my group mates were having an intense and complex argument about politics that I realized that I was surrounded by smart people, and, again, I felt out of place.

It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, one I’m sure many of you can relate to—especially my fellow female STEM majors. It’s the kind of feeling that comes after you get the best grade on a test in your class this one time when everyone’s commending you for being so smart and all you can think about is how lucky you got.

You feel like, eventually, they’re going to realize you’re not as good as they make you out to be. You feel like some sort of imposter.

 

High school felt like a breeze to me. I was the kind of girl who rarely studied for her tests and still mostly passed them, or the one who worked on a project last minute and still managed to receive a decent grade. I explained it to my best friend as “winging my way through high school.”

And it worked. I mean, I graduated, didn’t I? But what now?

I gravely underestimated just how stressful the first week of classes would be. I’m talking about the ‘breaking-down-in-front-of-a-professor’ kind of stressful. It’s just all kinds of overwhelming.

“Please read the first four books of the Odyssey over the weekend and make sure to buy the other six books that we’ll be reading this semester.” “Your quiz and two tests are already posted online so make sure to get them done before the deadline.” “Talk to all your professors on the first week even if you have no idea what to say.” “Here! Let me just hand you this stack of flyers with a bazillion organizations and programs for you to look into.” “Your grade is made up of 85% tests and 15% homework, so study!” “Oh, by the way, these $200 online books and access codes are required... and you must have read the first chapter by the first day of class.”

All sorts of alarms are blaring inside your head as you go through your planner, and it seems like everyone has everything under control. Except you don’t!

So you just act as if you do, and lo and behold, people actually buy it! And what they don’t tell you is they’re literally going through the same situation.

It seems like a cycle of ‘fake it till you make it.’

But it really isn’t.

Even though it feels like you’re nothing special or like everyone is just making you out to be better than you are, there’s a reason that they see something in you.

You made it through high school. You made it through the college application process. You managed to get into your major for a reason. You were good enough for all of it. And now you’re here, worrying about everything that you have to do while your friends might be out partying late at night before a school day.

You are not an imposter.

You are not “faking” your success. Every accomplishment that got you here is real. It wasn’t all just a matter of luck. Don’t compare yourself to others, because I assure you they’re probably doing the same thing themselves.

You’ve succeeded before—the moment you walked across that stage during graduation. There’s a good reason why admissions chose you over someone else: someone believes in your success.

Though this might be a bit hypocritical because I struggle with Imposter Syndrome on the daily, take it as your daily reminder to pat yourself on the back because you’ve gotten this far due to your own effort and abilities. Now it’s just a matter of keeping it up.

And if you really don’t believe me, then I recommend you read this story as motivation.

Just remember the most important thing: you’ve got this!