In training, we learned a lot about Imposter Syndrome. It is a psychological phenomenon that takes place when a group of high-achieving people are all placed in an environment close together. Generally, these high-achieving people are in numbers of a handful, but in environments like Pre-College programs, handfuls turn into hundreds of handfuls, and the unique sense of belonging associated with the identity of being high-achieving begins to become blurred.
With such an intense and vigorous program like Harvard’s Pre-College program, these kids are exposed to hundreds of kids just like them: High-achieving, well-rounded, and excited to explore. One thing we as Proctors are tasked with doing is making sure that the residents are not going through Imposter Syndrome. For most, a lack of belonging occurs in any new situation, so it is quickly resolved with social interaction and intentional efforts to create a sense of community. For the rest, feeling a sense of belonging is a priority that masks other initiatives the resident is making. Imposter Syndrome can affect socialization, academics, and the overall perception of the program.
With about 1.5 days of their session already gone, these residents are surely feeling the emotions we felt almost more than a week ago. Empathy goes a long way when dealing with Imposter Syndrome, and having someone who understands the personal reasons for being in the program rather than the expectations of the outcomes can truly make a difference in how a resident acclimates.