Remedying imposter syndrome through meaningful collaboration, community

Overcoming a negative mindset, self-deprecation by getting involved in extracurriculars

“How did I get here?” This was the question that ran through my head every couple minutes for the first few weeks of September.

My story is a little different from most students’ on campus. Coming out of high school, I did not feel ready to take the massive leap that is going away to a four year school. It didn’t help that my grades were average at best. I ended up making the decision to go to community college. After two years of getting my associates degree, I found myself staring at an acceptance letter from RPI.

In this moment, everything made sense. I had worked hard toward the goal of finishing my degree, and I had done it. But something felt wrong. I felt like I had been admitted by mistake. Or that, for some reason, the admissions office had let me in as a part of some cruel joke.

This feeling of fraudulence is what I later learned to be known as “imposter syndrome.” I was convinced that I had only gotten into this school because I had somehow played the system by going to community college. I felt that, after my first rounds of tests, I would just fail and be found out as someone laughably unqualified.

This fear is something which most students can probably say they have felt at least once. Whether you’re a first year transfer student, freshman, upperclassman, or even graduate student, I’m sure you can point to a time when you’ve questioned the legitimacy of your value by writing it off to stupid luck. This is obviously a detrimental mindset, however, it can be difficult to break.

While this may sound cliched, I believe that the most effective way to deal with imposter syndrome is to get involved in something other than schoolwork. Instead of perpetuating the self-fulfilling prophecy by constantly studying yourself to exhaustion, inevitably ending in you having “just scraped by again,” you might want to consider something that is more accessible and engaging than your classes. For me, this was joining The Polytechnic. Joining a club gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I could succeed in a place that expects so much while simultaneously being easily accessible and accommodating. It also opened a door for me to start connecting with people who I would have otherwise felt alienated by. The Union soon became my second home where I would spend time studying, interspersed with a healthy amount of club activities.

While I still sometimes catch myself wondering how I got here, I no longer worry that I don’t belong. The Union’s ability to bring students together to work on things which they feel passionate about is truly unique from any other part of campus. Its ability to empower is why it is absolutely necessary. It ensures the mental health and cooperative nature of the student body, and provides a welcoming environment.