On Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome, or How Oliners Underestimate Themselves, and Why You* Belong Here

 *Yes, you, the prospective student reading this!

Hi OLINsider! My name is Mads. I am a first year at Olin and therefore a member of the class of 2022. I am from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I have no idea what I want to major in, but since arriving at Olin I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to within the realm of engineering. I’ve made so many friends and I feel really comfortable here, which rarely happens so quickly when you’re a visible minority like me. I think Olin just has that effect on people.

The possibilities are endless and exciting… But I’d like to talk about something more serious in this post: Imposter syndrome at Olin.

Imposter syndrome is the state of doubting your own accomplishments and fearing that you have somehow tricked or lied your way into your position. In this case, a student feeling that they somehow tricked Olin’s Admission team into admitting them, and that they do not truly deserve to be attending Olin. Through a very scientific and accurate Facebook poll, I would say that around 80% of our class currently has or used to have imposter syndrome.

As a quick aside, let me just say that everyone at Olin deserves to be at Olin. Heck, everyone at Candidates' Weekend could go to Olin! The Admission team here does not make mistakes.

I think that my class knows we all deserve to be here. There’s no way that, with such a small pool of applicants, any of us were able to slip past the Admission team to be falsely accepted to Olin. Yet such a high percentage of us feel inadequate in relation to our peers! It’s an interesting phenomenon that is important to talk about. I haven’t done any official research on imposter syndrome at Olin, but I think a lot of it lies with our desire to not seem unknowledgeable.

Personally, it can be hard for me to talk about my mistakes, because I don’t want others to see me as less intelligent. Thus, when I talk about myself, I often don’t include my failures and mistakes. When you have a lot of people like me in a class, there is a lot of talk about impressive accomplishments, but little about the failed activities that led us to success! In an environment like that, it can seem like no one ever makes mistakes.

I feel it is especially important to make prospies (prospective students) aware of imposter syndrome because a lot of times prospies are not very confident! I know that I wasn’t, for many reasons; depression, self doubt, the general effects of being a young woman in our society. I mean, heck, Olin is super selective as well! All of the Oliners I talked to before applying seemed so put together and smart. I couldn’t see them ever making mistakes or failing!

Through an informal lounge poll—just asking the first-years walking through the residence hall lounge—I found that about 60% of my class did not feel too confident about their chances of getting into Olin, either. This is not to say that confidence is bad, because it’s not! I just want you, the prospective student reading this, to know that Oliners are human. We fail-early and often-and we make mistakes and are imperfect. We are Oliners because we took our respective shots at Olin, and those shots paid off. Believe in yourself! If you think Olin could be for you, please consider applying. Every Oliner has been in your shoes, and we wish you the best of luck as you go forward in your college journey!

Posted in: Mads '22, Class of 2022