Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Study: 20 Percent of College Students Experience Impostor Syndrome, Talking to Colleagues Makes It Worse

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 26, 2019

A recent study from Brigham Young University found that 20 percent of college students experience impostor syndrome, and that talking about it to those in the same field, far from alleviating it, seems to make it worse. The study drew its conclusions based on 20 in-depth interviews and a survey of 213 people. 

Impostor syndrome is a condition in which individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud." Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. 

The researchers found that if students “reached in” to other students within their major, they felt worse more often than they felt better. However, if students “reached out” to family, friends outside their major, or even professors, perceptions of impostorism were reduced.

“Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture and recalibrate their reference groups,” said Jeff Bednar, a BYU management professor and co-author on the study. “After reaching outside their social group for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt they lacked in just one area.”