Overcoming the feeling of inferiority

<p>Right before freshman year, I was accepted into a selective, accelerated program within my high school. This program involves taking AP classes (beginning at freshman year), researching culminating topics for multiple years, writing literature reviews, etc. </p>

<p>I remember feeling terrified to go into this program. I thought that I would be at the "bottom of the top." I knew everyone else in the program was just as smart, if not smarter, than me.
Fast-forward four years, and I'm the valedictorian of my class...I look back at my fear and feel silly for being so anxious.</p>

<p>Now that I've been accepted to Princeton, I'm starting to feel the way I did four years ago. The insecurity within myself is greater now than ever. I feel like my luck is going to run out and if I go to Princeton, I will truly be at the "bottom of the top." </p>

<p>What worsens my fear is the fact that a girl I know (who graduated a few years ago from the same high school program) went to Harvard (on a pre-med track, which is what I also want to do), studied for a year, and dropped out because she was failing. I have no idea what she is doing now, but I'm scared that I could end up "failing" at achieving my dreams.</p>

<p>Has anyone else ever felt this way and overcome it?</p>

<p>Princeton uses a strict grading curve so that only one-third of class grades are A’s. </p>

<p>All prospective college students should read Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath”.</p>

<p>There is a good chance that if your friend had selected a school that was a better fit (choosing to be a “big fish in a smaller pond”) she would be in medical school now.</p>

<p>Choose wisely. Elite school hype is a just that- Hype. Attending an elite school does not ensure the best outcome for students, and can often be counter productive. </p>

<p>The prestige of elite schools is intoxicating for students and their parents. My son has 800’s across his SATs and 5’s across his APs. I am encouraging him to pick the right fit and to avoid the Ivy’s.</p>

<p>Be honest with yourself. Nearly everyone is anxious about such a big step. And, of course, if Princeton is the right fit success will follow, just as it will anywhere else. </p>

<p>As, it is not where you go to college that really matters, it is what you do once you get there. Check the undergraduate credentials of Fortune 500 CEOs. In my professional field of surgery the most impressive, famous, and successful person I know in the world did his undergraduate work at Michigan State University.</p>

<p>Yes! My son had probably one of the worst cases of “imposter syndrome” (the pervading sense of having been admitted by accident that you are experiencing) that I have ever heard of. Princeton does an excellent job of describing this feeling to the freshman class, however my son was convinced that while others had imposter syndrome, he was convinced that he really WAS the imposter. Part way through the first semester he confided in us that he was quite sure he was one of the kids who would “fail out” if he didn’t turn things around. We encouraged him to go to office hours, ask for some peer tutoring and try to stay on top of the important things to the best of his ability. </p>

<p>By the end of the first semester he had a GPA higher than the overall average (even considering he is a BSE student and varsity athlete) and he has continued to do quite well. He has also had some tests and assignments where he did VERY poorly. The secret is to adjust your expectations (no you will not have a 4.0 at Princeton), prioritize, work consistently and ASK for help. It’s not high school any more…Princeton courses will be HARD. The students who get into trouble (and we know of some) are the ones who don’t take advantage of all the free academic resources Princeton offers. </p>

<p>Bottom line…what you are feeling is very common but if you were admitted, Princeton is convinced you can be successful.</p>

<p>@plastics - Are you a student or a parent? Your other posts ask from a students’ perspective so I am confused.</p>

<p>The “imposter syndrome” is a well recognized aspect of freshman life at a selective university. You could have the same feelings if you are selected to an honor med school track program at a state university. One reason that Princeton invites all students to participate in pre frosh Outdoor Action or volunteer work is so that you quickly develop friends in your freshman class. Friendship bonding helps relieve the initial stress.</p>

<p>Princeton has the resources in professor office hours and tutors to ensure that you will succeed. Princeton’s four year graduation rate is around 90%. The overall four-year graduation rate is 31 percent for public colleges. The six year graduation rate is around 96%. </p>

<p>My experience is that students that do not do well in college is because they used the freedom of college to date, party, and drink too much. If you are willing to apply yourself to your courses you can expect that Princeton will enable you to attend medical school.</p>

<p>The excitement of learning from great professors propels most students to over come the imposter syndrome. If you do not like your classmates, the social life, or your courses you will not achieve your potential at Princeton or any other university. </p>

<p>Choose to attend Princeton because you are excited about the opportunities to learn.</p>

<p>Impostor syndrome is an incredibly common experience, one that’s increasingly acknowledged by a lot of people (and backed up by tons of research). It sucks. I know it does. And it happens, even when intellectually you know it shouldn’t.</p>

<p>Good things to do re: mental calibration on this issue:
-Remember that other people might not talk about when they’re struggling, but that people like to brag. What you hear or see on Facebook isn’t representative.
-PrincetonFML is full of Princeton students believing that their lives suck. It’s also not representative, but it’s the other side of the coin.
-Don’t expect straight A’s.</p>

<p>Also, the girl you know at Harvard may have failed for lots of reasons. The most common reason people drop out is due to medical reasons (mental OR physical) or personal issues (family tragedy, etc). Sometimes, things happen that are out of your control.</p>

<p>Actual academic advice:
-Learn to study smarter, not just harder.
-Take advantage of office hours, free tutoring, study groups. Talk to your professors. Don’t blow off midterms. Don’t wait til the last minute to get help.</p>

<p>I dealt with impostor syndrome a lot as a freshman, too. In the end, the only thing that helped was realizing that I really loved my work, and my grades were pretty good. Also, I realized that other people who I thought were really smart were struggling too. One piece of advice that helped me – “fake it til you make it.” </p>

<p>Good luck! And congrats on being accepted. I hope you’ll like it here – or wherever else you choose to attend!</p>

<p>Thanks all. I know a lot of other students are probably feeling the same way so I’ll try to keep that in mind.
I will try my best wherever I go, but I guess I’m scared I may be overestimating my abilities. I don’t know if I should play it “safe” and go with an in-state school or take a chance on my dream school.</p>

<p>Hey Perfectionist,</p>

<p>I had the very same anxieties at the beginning of my freshman year. At the time, I didn’t know what imposter syndrome was (I’ll admit I didn’t know about it until reading Cantiger’s post about 2 minutes ago, haha), but the feeling is most certainly shared by a lot of incoming freshmen. In my case, I was afraid that I was admitted for being a legacy, and that brought a lot of emotional baggage in the form of both guilt and insecurity.</p>

<p>My advice is this:
Scenario 1: You find that you are excelling at Princeton academics - great! You are naturally gifted.
Scenario 2: You aren’t. Does this mean that you should have gone to state school? Hell no. For everyone who does not fit into scenario 1 (and that is MOST people), I argue that the most valuable part of the Princeton education is not the transcript, but the struggle that comes along with it. If you don’t challenge yourself during college, then that degree with which you graduate doesn’t really mean much. You didn’t really change. If Princeton thought that you might drop out or fail, then the admissions committee would not have accepted you. Take the opportunity to learn from peers - you’ll make great friends and be inspired by them too.</p>

<p>Imposter syndrome is a healthy sign of humility.</p>

<p>If one wants to obtain a specific goal such as attending medical school, then one needs to be pragmatic. </p>

<p>The key metric is what percentage of a given caliber of student (high school grades, SATs, etc.) entering freshman year will achieve her goal upon college graduation? Compare this across colleges.</p>

<p>Princeton claims to have a greater than 90% medical school acceptance rate. But, that is the wrong metric, as the college seniors applying are the ones that have excelled through three years of college. No doubt, many capable students washed out well before senior year. These same students may have excelled in the same classes elsewhere with less stiff competition and been fine medical school applicants.</p>

<p>Malcolm Gladwell shows this concept relative to STEM fields in his book. Though his analysis might not be iron-clad, his book does provide food for thought.</p>

<p>What level of college should one attend? Who knows- it is such a complex and personal decision. I agree with Gladwell that the rote answer is not necessarily the best, and can even be detrimental.</p>

<p>Have a read here</p>

<p><a href=“http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/columbia-university/1586196-ivy-league-fear.html[/url]”>http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/columbia-university/1586196-ivy-league-fear.html</a></p>

<p><a href=“http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/yale-university/1589411-how-do-i-prepare-yale.html[/url]”>http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/yale-university/1589411-how-do-i-prepare-yale.html</a></p>

<p>Not OP, but thanks for the links T26E4.</p>

<p>To OP, you’re not alone in feeling this way…</p>

<p>@ plastics</p>

<p>I agree that choosing the right college, both for personal and for pragmatic reasons, is a difficult decision. There is truth in what you say about underclassmen, who initially want to pursue medicine but eventually drop out due to “weed out” classes. However, if you (not you, per se) are genuinely committed to this path, then there are enough (more than enough) academic resources to help with these courses. Furthermore, HPA (Health Professions Advising) will not turn you away if your GPA is not high enough for medical school. After all, the GPA is but one factor in medical school admissions.</p>

<p>For the record, I’m also a pre-med at Princeton.</p>

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<p>Try about 95% of everyone who has ever graduated from Princeton (or Harvard, Yale, etc.).</p>

<p>Of the rest of the people, some felt that way and couldn’t overcome it – maybe that’s 1% – and the rest are split between people who should have felt that way, but didn’t, and the really small number of people who for whatever reason never felt inadequate.</p>

<p>Of course, you don’t have to go to Princeton and risk feeling inadequate in that special, top-of-the-heap way. And there’s no complete guarantee that you won’t be among the tiny group of people who can never get over that feeling if you go there. But, for the most part, what you are feeling now is the near-universal reaction that everyone Princeton just accepted is feeling, too. And all it probably means is that you are the kind of person who will do fine at Princeton.</p>

<p>Trust me, OP, a lot of students at Princeton, including myself, have felt and, from time to time, continue to feel a sense of inferiority. It’s extremely hard not to when you’re surrounded by so many intelligent people, in conjunction with your grades not being as consistent as they used to be in high school. Over time, however, you learn that many of your peers are experiencing exactly what you are, and that you are where you are for a reason.</p>

<p>Ehh. Stanford all the way yo. #nerdnation</p>

<p>Come to Princeton! I’m a freshman and a ton of people from all grades that I know, including myself, still sometimes can’t believe we got into Princeton. There’s no way for anyone to predict whether you’ll find academics here intuitive or overwhelming until you get here, but I encourage you to take the opportunity to grow and learn in an environment that really presents fantastic opportunities to you, and, most importantly to me, amazing people to spend your journey with.</p>

<p>(If it helps, I personally in high school didn’t have straight As and was pretty bad at time management, and I’ve found my classes very manageable. There’s a huge range of experiences with academics, but you’ll figure it out, and even if you can’t get good grades, I think you’ll find Princeton an incredibly rewarding university.)</p>

<p>Also: You probably will feel inferior at points if you attend any top university because your classmates are by definition among the smartest and most talented people in the world, but that’s okay. Everybody goes through the process, and it would be a shame if you turned down all the benefits of an outstanding education for the sake of avoiding a change in perspective.</p>

<p>Wow Marita, you’ve really alleviated my concerns. Thank you!!! If you don’t mind me asking, in the time that you have been at Princeton, do you feel as if you can still get a competitive GPA? I hope to apply to med school, which is why I am asking :)</p>