Imposter Syndrome: Am I a Fraud?

As a college student at a prestigious university, it is common for people to automatically think of you as a naturally smart, brilliant student. You hear things like, “Well you got into The Ohio State University, so you must be smart!” These phrases are especially common among students in majors that are infamously difficult, like engineering, any type of science, and so many more. When I tell people that I’m a math major, they often respond with, “Wow, you must be so smart!” or “I could never do that!” People assume that I am some sort of genius. What they don’t know is that I don’t feel like a genius at all. Hell, I don’t even feel smart. And neither do a lot of the people who receive these types of comments. People assume that if you are in hard major, it’s easy for you and you get As in all of your classes and don’t struggle at all. Truth is, I got a C- in my first math course that I took at OSU. Often times, this leaves me feeling like a fraud. Everyone thinks that I’m so smart, but I don’t feel smart. Am I lying to them? Letting them believe something that isn’t true? Do I even deserve to be here? If you relate to any of these feelings of inadequacy, you may be experiencing something called Imposter Syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is characterized by an inability to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It is extremely common among college students, and is often not talked about. But constantly second guessing all of your accomplishments and questioning your worthiness can have a severe impact on your mental health, and can lead to anxiety and/or depression. This is why imposter syndrome is important to be addressed, and it is important to realize that you are most definitely not the only one feeling this way. Imposter syndrome is something that can be overcome, and below I will list some tips and techniques I found from an article ( to overcome imposter syndrome and embrace everything that you deserve.

  1. Accept that you’ve had some role in your successes. You feel like a fraud because you believe that everything you did to get you where you are today was just pure luck, or chance. But it’s important to realize that you did do something to get you where you are. You wrote all the application essays, you passed all the necessary classes (even if barely), and you said yes to things when you could have said no. You got to where you are today based on your own decisions, not just chance. And that’s pretty freakin awesome.
  2. Remember: being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. The best basketball players miss most of the shots they take. Making mistakes and messing up sometimes doesn’t mean that all of your achievements have been fraudulent, or that you don’t deserve to be where you are. It just means that you’re human. Nobody is perfect, and it’s important that you don’t expect yourself to be either.
  3. Take action. Being actively aware of the negative thoughts that you are having and the impact that they are having on you can go a long way in not letting them have such a strong impact. Facing those thoughts and saying, “you know what, screw you, I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am today,” can be a powerful tool in overcoming imposter syndrome. Recognizing those self-doubting thoughts and stopping them in their tracks is a great way to take your confidence back.
  4. Find one person you can say, “I feel like a fraud” to. This can actually be really helpful, especially when the thoughts that are leading you to believe you are a fraud tend to be a bit irrational. Expressing this thought to another person and receiving their input, probably on how you are absolutely not a fraud, can be a huge help.
  5. Sometimes faking things actually does work. Ever heard of the phrase “fake it till you make it”? Everyone does it! No one knows everything about everything, so sometimes you just gotta fake it till you know enough. This does not at all make you a fraud. It makes you normal. It makes you eager to learn more and gives you a place to sit while you get there.

These tips may not be a cure-all for imposter syndrome, but I think they can be useful in leading to healthier thinking. Nobody knows what they are doing, and everyone doubts themselves sometimes. But it’s important to take credit for the accomplishments that you do make, and to learn to believe in yourself through times of strife. You will be ok. You are not a fraud, and you deserve to be here.


Counseling and Consultation Services:
Dennis Learning Center:
Career Counseling and Support Services: