By Angela Guerrero
As their high school days come to an end, high school seniors begin applying for universities with the fear that they will not be enough for an acceptance. The feeling of doubt grows as they wait for an acceptance letter in the mail and for some when that envelope arrives the doubt ends. However, for many college students the feeling of never being competent enough for what they decide to study festers through their years and develops into imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is described as feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence despite all the accomplishments that have rewarded you these opportunities. This feeling is not only limited to students, but even professionals already established within their careers. However, for minorities and first generation students attending four-year universities, imposter syndrome strikes a lot harder and a lot faster for them.
With 39.7% of Hispanic students on campus, 11.1% African American students and 42% White students, Texas State has a diverse set of students. Amongst these students, there lies the 46% of first generation students on campus that vary in race and ethnicity. Without much assistance these individuals are bearing the weight of completing their degree, navigating a system not set in their favor and most importantly keeping their sanity despite it all. Many students begin feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated to continue their studies because they feel as if it was a mistake that they were even accepted to the university.
Being the one in the family that builds the bridge between higher education and their family can undoubtedly be a lot of pressure. When four times as many first generation students drop out compared to those whose parents have a higher education it is a raise for concern and for immediate action to find a solution.
Although with first generation students there were no major differences in the mental issues they faced compared to other students, The Journal of College Student Psychotherapy did discover that the level of academic distress these students faced was significantly higher. There is an overwhelming desire to achieve everything laid out in front of them.
” Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong…”
Esmeralda Fuentes is a first generation Texas State University student majoring in Dance. She works two jobs, participates in multiple organizations and does it all with a smile. Although she loves the major she is pursuing, sometimes she feels as if there is no point in continuing school anymore, like it has become a chore rather than something she wishes to pursue.
“ I work so hard to pay for my bills including tuition and it has become so exhausting and difficult to see that this will all be worth it,” Fuentes said, “ It’s so unfair seeing other students being able to swiftly move through the hoops thrown their way and some don’t even have to jump through any hoops. Seeing others not have to work so hard makes me feel like maybe I’m just doing it all wrong.”
Although the academic burden is enough to carry, Texas State students also face mental exhaustion while in school. In a study published by Psychiatric Services, it was notable that students of color were facing a lot more mental health issues but were least likely to be diagnosed. Imposter syndrome only heightens these anxious and depressive issues that some students may already be facing.
” I didn’t deserve them…”
In an interview with a Texas State University student Cory Perez, the student was able to distinguish a connection from their lack of work symptoms of depression. They felt that despite all the accomplishments they had and all the hard work they were putting in that it was not enough and that they were just undeserving of it all.
“I felt like I had all these things going for me, but I didn’t deserve them,” Perez said, “ I had no idea what I was doing, and I was so sure everyone was smarter and more qualified than. I felt everyone had faith in me to accomplish so much, but I felt like I was lying to everyone and putting on an act.”
These two students reflect the frustrations that many first generation and minorities at Texas State hold, no matter what classification. Feeling like they are not doing enough to academically perform well and feeling like they are “putting on an act” only holds them back from performing as well as they could.
By providing more, and better, resources to these students Texas State could create a better environment to allow for these individuals to grow. Imposter syndrome makes these students feel as if there is nothing they deserve, rather things they pretend to earn when in reality they are hardworking and worthy. Eliminating, or at least diminishing imposter syndrome within this demographic can ensure that Texas State students keep returning and finish their degrees.
Getting students to accept their place in the world won’t be an easy task, but it sure will be worth it. They can only feel like they are faking it until they make it for so long.