Mallory (third from right) and Her Friends Outside the Chicago Field Museum over Spring Break

Hey everyone! My name is Mallory, and I’m a first year MRADS student studying Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity. Today, I’ll be talking about something you might hear a lot about coming into college: I’m going to tell you how to deal with imposter syndrome and the feeling of falling behind. It’s definitely not a fun part of university life, but if you can talk yourself through it, you’ll be great. 

If you’ve been on a campus tour yet, you’ve probably heard about the imposter syndrome most people at Michigan experience at some point or another. Many of you were probably in the top percentiles of your high school, so when you’re thrown into an incoming group of ~7,000 overachievers, it can feel like you don’t fit. Maybe this person can code like they were born doing it, maybe this one was a national debate champion, maybe this one knows five languages – but remember that you all went through the same admissions process. You’re going to hit a point where you question yourself, and ask if you really belong here (for me, it was calculus that did it). You have to remind yourself that you are here for a reason: if you couldn’t hack it here, you wouldn’t have been accepted. Everyone is different – you have talents and knowledge that they don’t, and vice versa. Your brain is smart enough to get into Michigan. Don’t let it trick you into thinking otherwise!

Next, at some point early in the second semester, you’re going to start thinking about next year. I know that seems far away now, but I’m going to tell you this so you don’t worry later: life will not end if you don’t get an internship after your first year. You will be fine, I promise. You may see people going around the country to research over the summer, studying abroad, or being offered fellowships in Ann Arbor, and if that’s what you want, go for it! I would never say summer programs aren’t fantastic opportunities. They’re amazing for networking, building your resume, and figuring out what you love to do. But if you aren’t accepted to one, it’s really not the end of the world. You are not falling behind – many programs aren’t even open to freshmen. You always have the next few summers to pursue summer internships and opportunities.

Ultimately, one of the most important things you need to keep in mind your freshman year is that everyone is faking it until they make it. Everyone is figuring it out and making it up as they go. Some people may strike gold before you – that’s okay, just keep digging. Ask for help when you need it, work hard, and talk to people. Everyone will know something you don’t, but remember that you have valuable knowledge and experience to offer too. 

Thanks for reading. See you next year!

- Mallory