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imposter syndrome


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There's an active conversation about this in the history subforum right now, so I'm going to say that yes, other people feel nervous. There is always a learning curve whenever you do anything new. You aren't going to be expected to know everything right away but the information also isn't going to be spoonfed to you. It's going to be up to you to fill in some of the gaps in what you do and don't know, though your advisor and more senior grad students will certainly help point you in the right direction. 


Link to the history discussion, since there's some helpful information there.


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This is a totally normal way to feel going into grad school! I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people experience it at some point, but there's a lot of pressure to look like you have everything under control, so you feel like you're the only one.

I normally feel very confident in an academic setting, but my first semester in a clinical Ph.D. program, I was a mess. During lab meetings, people talked about research I wasn't familiar with and used acronyms I didn't know, and I just tried to look like I understood what they were talking about while praying that nobody would ask me for my opinion. I was too afraid to ask questions because I didn't want anyone to know how lost I was. Overall, I felt totally in over my head - nobody had ever expected so much of me before. I would regularly get so overwhelmed that I would go cry in the bathroom. It was really rough! But, once I got over the initial shock, I learned how to just throw myself in and do my best, even when I had no idea what I was doing. I also learned how to ask for help when I needed it. I was astonished to see how fast I could learn and how well I could perform when I had to. By the end of my first year, I was feeling pretty great! At least in my program, it was kind of a trial by fire, but honestly, my first semester of grad school was the most valuable experience of my entire professional/academic life so far.

At least in my program, the expectations for aptitude were high, but expectations for actual knowledge were low. I never saw anybody get shamed for asking a question or not knowing something, even something fairly basic. They will teach you what you need to know, but they will expect you to be smart and learn fast. It will probably take a little while to learn to trust yourself, but if they've admitted you to the program, then you can rest assured that you've got what it takes.

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I am specifically because I got a psychology minor basically in one semester (4 courses in my final semester of undergrad, 1 the previous semester) and so my coursework experience is not too in-depth. But, I'm planning on doing a terminal master's or a post-bacc program to take care of that (don't know if you're talking about PhD programs or all grad programs) so that I can be pretty confident come time for PhD applications. I'll be about 29 when I'm about finished, but I'm a nerd at heart and probably wouldn't be happy working a 9 to 5 job until then anyway, so now's the best time I guess. I'd also say, it might be really helpful for getting into a program if you have specific research that you'd like to do (and can articulate it enthusiastically during an interview). I think admissions has a lot to do with whether the school thinks you have the drive to be successful in their program, and couldn't hurt to be confident about what you want to study, even if you're dying inside from social anxiety during an interview or something (like I will probably be). Also, working in a lab will help TREMENDOUSLY AND IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE for admissions, even if it's volunteering. Get to know the PhD residents in a lab on a friendly basis and they can teach you skills and concepts (such as software and programming) that will be nothing but valuable in your future path in psychology. Best of luck!

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