Imposter Syndrome on College Students


A study by the University of Law shows that 43% of college students experience imposter syndrome. To put this into perspective, two out of five students experience imposter syndrome. Second-guessing, mistrusting, and self-doubt are examples of the most frustrating psychological conditions students can encounter. These conditions gravely affect how students view themselves and effectively influence their academic performance negatively.

Schools have a general approach to ensuring students’ all-roundedness and refining them to be better people for themselves and society. Therefore, school organizations must be engrossed with students’ well-being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Schools need to devise techniques that may help students to overcome imposter syndrome. This article seeks to explain imposter syndrome and how to overcome it.

FAQ- What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological experience that makes one feel like a phony or a fraud and not experiencing success despite being high-performing. Feelings of anxiety and depression can also characterize the syndrome. For students, imposter syndrome is experienced when they feel they do not deserve their academic excellence; their good grades were attained by chance, and internal feelings of being incompetent even when they are.

What causes imposter syndrome among students?

Studies conducted on imposter syndrome cannot confidently pinpoint the causes of imposter syndrome. However, there are several possible reasons for its occurrence among students, and they include:

  • Pressures of perfectionism.

Imposter syndrome mainly affects individuals who seek perfection in all their endeavors. Failure to reach their level of perfectionism leads to the individuals criticizing themselves and discrediting their performance, even when high.

The pressures on perfectionism can also be imposed on students by parents, teachers, and guardians. Due to the high bar of perfectionism, students may invalidate their performance and feel like frauds since the performance was unexpected. Accompanied by the fear of disappointing family and friends, students may suffer the consequences of imposter syndrome. Fear of other people viewing students as dumb may render them to pressure of perfectionism and may cause students not to seek guidance or ask questions in class due to the apprehension. 

  1. Social comparison.

Directly or indirectly, students often end up compared to other students or families. Guardians and teachers often do this. In some cases, the parents and guidance compare their students to motivate them to achieve higher or point out a role model for them. However, due to the need to impress their teachers and guardians, students try to live up to the individual they are compared to. A slight under-achievement from the expected brings about imposter syndrome among the students. This causes the students to feel insufficient and experience low self-esteem and anxiety for failure to impress their guardians.

  • High expectations from various environments.

One of the most significant dreams students experienced while in high school was joining prestigious colleges to pursue further education. It was a leap of joy for most students who made it to their dream schools. However, in some cases, students may feel insufficient and inadequate in their environment, thus leading to them doubting themselves. This is common among smart students who get slots in high-performing and prestigious colleges, only to feel they do not deserve academic excellence. Fear of failure and stress on impeccable achievement from family may further amplify imposter syndrome

Signs of imposter syndrome.

The following are examples of signs of imposter syndrome.

  • Negative self-talk and criticism.
  • Lack of self-confidence.
  • Anxiety.
  • Comparison of self with other people.
  • Dwelling over mistakes of the past.
  • Constant obsessing and having unfounded dreads over the future.
  • Feelings of inadequacy.

How to overcome imposter syndrome among students

Imposter syndrome among students can be gravely detrimental to their academic process. Therefore, rooting it out as soon as it is noted is essential. The following are examples of ways to overcome imposter syndrome in college students.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others.

Comparison to other students can sometimes be an effective motivating factor, enabling one to push themselves to higher lengths. However, in most cases, the comparison is the burglar of bliss. Most students end up comparing themselves to others, not considering each student’s unique character. Once you compare yourself to others, you will find countless faults in yourself, thus fueling the imposter syndrome.

Students must also speak up against comparisons made by parents and guardians. Merely innocent comparisons from the guardians and teachers may cause feelings of inadequacy and hence an effective feeling of students feeling like frauds.

  • Distract yourself to get out of your head.

The brain has an incredible capacity to perceive thoughts into reality after adequate repetition. Since your confession may be your reality, it is important to feed your brain good thoughts, thus boring impeccable fruits.

Study shows that the human brain perceives 45 thoughts per minute. People suffering from imposter syndrome spend most of their time feeling insufficiency, self-doubt, and criticism. It is dangerous to have such thoughts since excessive thinking leads to the brain’s perception of negative things, thus causing the constant growth of imposter syndrome. Students can distract themselves and avoid negative thoughts from occupying their brains. Vigorous activities such as body exercises and walks may be an effective distractor. Working on your academic essays under the guidance of writing services such as ThePensters can also be an effective distraction. Listening to music may also be efficacious in calming down the brain and causing relaxation.

  • Extend yourself some grace.

There are countless scenarios where individuals are their own greatest enemies. Self-sabotage through negative thoughts and self-talk is often pitiful, and it fuels negative psychological issues such as low self-esteem and imposter syndrome. As aforementioned, imposter syndrome causes one not to experience success even on high performance. Most people experiencing the syndrome have remarkable performances but fail to acknowledge their good work.

Students may develop a character of congratulating themselves on their small achievements. Once this becomes a habit, the student’s self-confidence gradually improves, and imposter syndrome becomes a bygone. Affirming and gifting yourself are also examples of techniques students may employ, allowing them to extend more grace to themselves.

  • Talk out your feelings.

Apprehension is one of the greatest challenges experienced by people encountering imposter syndrome. The fear of looking stupid and sounding dumb throws students suffering from imposter syndrome off-balance, thus causing them to refrain from speaking up about their issues. However, some students underestimate the quote, ‘a problem shared is half solved.’

Talking things out allows students to vent their feelings and acquire help from other students. Speaking up also makes students suffering from imposter syndrome realize they are not alone and that many others also suffer.

  • Develop a support system. 

In almost 85% of situations, two brains are better than one. Sharing and speaking out your feelings may enable an individual to gain a trustable community that may closely monitor their progress in overcoming imposter syndrome. Students suffering from imposter syndrome may form a small community to help each other and act as a safe space to disclose their problems.

Students may inform their support systems of various ways they would prefer to be used in breaking their imposter syndrome. The support system is an accountability system that helps the students be dragged out of imposter syndrome. This can be done through constant affirmations to people who fall back to habits of negative self-criticism.

  • Reframe and restructure your thoughts.

In some cases, imposter syndrome is caused by a personality trait. Breaking the monotony of negative thought processes as a personality trait is formidable. However, it may be fairly easy to restructure thoughts with the right motivation and consistency.

Restructuring of thoughts involves a very conscious and intentional process to allow the breaking from the shackles of negativity. Students must practice positive thoughts and train themselves to shut out all negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

  • View failure as a learning experience.

To a healthy degree, perfectionism may be an admirable trait. However, the fear of failure unwarrant is a fascinating trait. Success is often relative, and a rigid fixation on the type of success expected may cause dissatisfaction with any results outside the expected.

Students with imposter syndrome must change their outlook on failure. Mistakes and failures should be viewed as learning experiences that allow students to develop skills that may be useful in the future. Moreover, they help in professional development and futuristic goals. 


Imposter syndrome has robbed many students of opportunities to enjoy their academic process without internal feelings of inadequacy. However, with the above steps, imposter syndrome will significantly reduce among students, thus improving their self-confidence and learning and grasping capacity in academics, making them remarkable individuals. 

Haps Staff
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