APU Careers & Learning Online Learning Original

Community Connections Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome

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By Melanie Conner
APUS Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison

Building community connections at a distance-learning university can help combat students’ feelings of isolation. These connections can also create a sense of belonging and boost students’ confidence and motivation. The university community provides students and alumni with a multitude of ways to connect and engage in meaningful relationships.

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“Imposter syndrome,” a common feeling of inadequacy or a lack of confidence, is a well-known psychological condition that is all too prevalent on college campuses. Students just entering college or returning after some time away from formal education are challenged with assimilating and finding a sense of belonging in a new community.

On a virtual campus, finding a sense of belonging relies heavily on interactions with faculty, university staff members, and peers inside the virtual classroom and through the various co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

Feelings such as “I am a fraud. I’m not good enough. I don’t belong here, and I am here by luck,” can create major barriers to academic and personal success.

Why Do We Convince Ourselves We Don’t Deserve Success?

Why is it that we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve the success we achieve? Why are we giving credit to luck or to chance instead of to our abilities? Because with imposter syndrome, fear of being exposed as a fraud causes students to believe they don’t deserve the success they achieve.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome on our virtual campus, in your workplace, in a meeting or in a social group? Building meaningful relationships and engaging in the university community can help combat those feelings.

The Office of Student and Alumni Affairs at APUS helps students, alumni, faculty, and staff engage in the community through opportunities that support academic success, professional development, and personal growth.

AMU alumna Elizabeth Harris reflected on her connecting with her peers. “The best way to make real change is to offer help to those around you,” she said. “Most of the time those around you will end up helping you, too.”

Get Involved in Community Activities to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

One of the best ways to learn is to get involved with a campus community. APUS offers over 70 clubs, organizations and honor societies for students and alumni. These campus communities provide an opportunity to learn about a new field, find a new passion or interest, and get involved virtually.

Some of our clubs and organizations go beyond the virtual connection to actual face-to-face meetings that connect peers.

For example, members from the African-American Learning, Inclusion, and Guidance Network (AALIGN) recently met in person to honor the birthday of Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, civil rights activist and founder of a private school for African-American students in Orlando, Florida. The AALIGN members also toured the Mary McLeod Bethune House, a national historic site in Washington, D.C.

The Association of Women in Science (AWIS) and the Women of STEM (wSTEM) officers had the rare opportunity to conduct research in Belize with faculty member Dr. Kristin Drexler, who serves as the chapter advisor for both organizations.

Phi Alpha Delta will participate again in an annual mock trial competition in November.

AMU alumna and current student Nina Rivera-Nunez said of her new connections: “Besides feeling more confident, I have learned an immense amount of skills that have and will help me in the real world. I have learned so much about leadership and social media. I feel I am ready to be a leader out in my professional life.”

Learn From Your Peers

Consider connecting with a mentor in your profession, field of study, or for motivation to pursue your goals. Also consider sharing your experiences with others. Feelings of belonging and connection come from simple interactions and the ability to share challenges with someone a few steps ahead of you.

We also offer mentoring through ClearPath, a platform that connects mentors and mentees. AMU alumnus Brandon Halaychik said, “Mentoring is important as it allows me the opportunity to share the experiences I have learned over the last 19 years in my current field with those that are interested or currently serving in a law enforcement field.”

Speak Up When Imposter Syndrome Strikes

When you find yourself saying, “I feel like a fraud. I’m not good enough. I don’t belong here. I am here by luck,” speak up. Whether it’s talking to an academic advisor, career coach, chapter advisors, student organization officers, mentors, your professor or a peer in one of your courses, sharing your imposter syndrome feelings will help to relieve them.

The person you are sharing your feelings with may be able to echo the sentiments, and offer suggestions to overcome them. Spend time with those around you, for your own development and theirs. A little “We’re In This Together” dialogue can make a huge difference in overcoming challenges.

Start a degree program at American Public University.

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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