Heather E. Ashley


Presentation: 5:00-6:30, LTC Studio



Download Project (5.7 MB)


First-generation students experience a number of barriers in higher education, including imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of doubt in one’s perceived achievements and abilities as it relates to their career and/or education (Clance & Imes, 1978; Peteet et al., 2015). This phenomenon impacts many facets of student wellbeing. An aspect of imposter syndrome that has not yet been explored, save for a few studies (Holden et al., 2021; Mikell & Davis, 2022), is the perspectives of first-generation students as they experience this phenomenon. This qualitative study focuses on first-generation students' experience with imposter syndrome and how such experience intersects with social location and social identities. This research uses a qualitative constructivist approach (Creswell & Creswell, 2023) and semi-structured interviews to answer: How are first-generation students impacted by imposter syndrome? How do first-generation college students perceive imposter syndrome? How do issues of inequity and systemic oppression contribute to the challenges facing first-generation college students? The findings of this study demonstrate a complex relationship between success and pressure on first-generation students that seemingly fosters a mindset of imposter syndrome.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Graham F. Hunter

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education and Human Services


Stander Symposium, School of Education and Health Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals

Scholarship; Community

“Why Me?”: An Exploration of First-Generation Students Experiencing Imposter Syndrome