First-generation students struck by imposter syndrome

By: Yaneira Rodriguez

Imposter syndrome fabricates the idea of self-doubt. It is a psychological pattern that causes people to question their success. They feel they may be discovered as a fraud. Feelings of inadequacy can occur to anyone; Many students have struggled with this. 

During this life period, students are experiencing a transition from childhood to adulthood. Adding to the overwhelming pressure to succeed, it is common for students to struggle with anxiety and depression as well. Most students endure these feelings in silence.

Research shows that first generation students are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome. According to research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, “First-generation college students comprise nearly one third of all college attendees; but they face a number of economic and social obstacles that make succeeding in and completing college more difficult.”

First generation students drop out at higher rates because they are not ready, lack financial stability, or familial support. Parents of first-generation students have a language barrier. This may deter parents from helping their children with school work or school related things. Students not receiving moral support will not be as motivated to continue their education. Having someone guide you through a process always makes any situation easier. 

At ELAC, 65 percent of students are Hispanic. About 66 percent are first-generation students. It is possible to assume that students at ELAC have at some point struggled with feeling inadequate. Feelings of guilt and self-doubt are present. The pressures are not limited to the classroom. 

Being low-income can add more pressure at home. Some students need to help provide financially at home. Which requires them to work more and spend less time in school. In Hispanic families, the eldest children are expected to help with younger siblings. Leaving less time dedicated to school work. These factors add to pressure and anxiety. With little to no financial help from parents, students rely on financial aid, grants, waivers, and scholarships. Something their parents cannot help them with. 

In the Hispanic community, there is a stigma around mental health. This could prevent first-generation students from acknowledging and talking about imposter syndrome. Other than the language barrier, there is also a culture barrier. First generation students were born and raised in a completely different country from their parents. Customs are different and parents find that difficult to let go.

Factors like these can be overwhelming to first generation students when the education gets higher. The student pool becomes bigger. First-generation students compete against students with parents who have college educations. Students who have significant pull because of their family name. 

There are steps to helping overcome imposter syndrome. It is important to recognize these feelings and address them. Talking to someone can help validate these feelings. Find a mentor. Remember what you do well. Realize that no one is perfect and no one is expected to be. Being human is being imperfect. Underline strong points and recognize skills. Take solace in knowing you are not alone. Believe in yourself. Accept your success and reward yourself.

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