Imposter syndrome in college

instagram makes college students feel imposter syndrome

When you started college you probably imagined your experience going a certain way. Now that you’re here, your family and friends are constantly asking about it and you likely feel pressure to say you’re having an amazing, painless transition — even if you’re not. Add social media and your phone filling with friends from home sharing pics and experiences, and it gets hard to know what's real and what’s hype.  

“Living my best life”

Why does it feel painful to see your friends from home “living their best life” at their school with their new friends? You understand that people are cultivating their feeds, and that not every second of their lives is shiny, bright and filtered, but in the back of your mind you’re wondering why you don’t have pics like theirs, with friends like them, at parties like them.

“Am I doing college wrong?”

You start asking yourself: am I doing college wrong? Should I even be here? Am I unlikeable and it’s only just now coming out? No. Yes, you should. and No, c’mon. You, and likely your friends posting all of those pics, are experiencing imposter syndrome (keep reading).

“What if these aren’t the best years of my life?”

When you feel like a fake posting a selfie at the football game when you’re super nervous that you did the last cheer wrong and everyone can tell — that’s imposter syndrome, a state of fear that you are not really who you appear to be and that others will figure it out soon.

What’s tough to grapple with is the fact that many people are acting based on their feelings of imposterhood. So your feed is full of people’s reactions to feeling like they don’t fit in or are doing college incorrectly in some way (newsflash, there’s no wrong way). But you can never truly know someone else’s experience, how much they struggle or how much effort they’re putting in, especially when they’re trying just as hard as you are to hide it. So it’s nearly impossible to make an accurate comparison.

Here’s a more in-depth look at imposter syndrome, how it affects you and how to handle it.


We can tell you to ignore social media, check your screen time and limit it. And while that’s a good idea, it is unrealistic to think you won’t still be affected by imposter syndrome and its backlash. What we recommend is sharing your truth without worrying about others’ opinions.  

And just like this video of a student who felt like she didn’t fit in in college, sharing those feelings could end up being the thing that shows you how common those feelings really are.

Bottom line: these feelings are normal. Your path is your path, and there is no right way to experience your life. Talk about your feelings, your college adjustment and your challenges with friends, family or a counselor from ASU Counseling Services


Hey Sunny

A library of helpful advice, tips and answers to questions from students to Sunny.

ASU’s chatbot, Sunny, has been helping students get adjusted to college life for a few years now. The questions from students year after year, rarely change. Sometimes it helps to see what other students are asking to stay informed and realize you aren’t the only one trying to figure it all out.

Welcome to the Hey Sunny blog – a library of advice for students from Sunny and the team supporting the bot.

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