Fake It Until You Make It
Any kind of life transition puts your confidence to the test. The transition to Dartmouth, where it seems like every other person has created a business or cured a disease, is especially trying.
“[My confidence] has gotten significantly lower because everyone at Dartmouth is much more impressive than everyone at my high school, so in comparison, I am worse,” Riley Gordon ’22 said. He cited an example of this random impressiveness: “There’s a guy on my floor who just knows Ancient Greek.”
Learning more about classmates is intimidating as you realize how “impressive” they are.
However, Gordon pointed out the opposite is true as well.
“Learning more about people and finding out they have flaws is going to be helpful,” he said.
Ali Safieddine ’22 had the opposite experience upon entering Dartmouth.
“[My confidence] really got better because before, I was concerned that everyone would be so much smarter than I am and that I wouldn’t fit in, but so far everything’s been alright,” he said.
“Everyone is obviously really smart, but I don’t feel like they’re that much ahead of me,” he added.
Emma Staiger ’22 sees the new environment as a chance to be a new, better version of herself.
“Dartmouth is an opportunity to explore different aspects of my personality,” she said. “Having people not really know who I am was kind of a blank slate to be unabashedly who you are. That gives you confidence, just to be able to be whatever and know that people will completely accept who you are.”
This accepting environment is an important part of Dartmouth — the student body can be intimidating, but these ’22s feel comfortable around their classmates.
“There are a lot of people on campus, which is a good thing, because everyone is very different and no one takes the time to judge other people,” Safiedinne said. “The spotlight effect is so true — you judge yourself more than other people judge you.”
A big part of the difficulty of a new environment is the absence of the friends you’ve grown up with.
“When I’m around my friends from home, I’m confident with myself and don’t care what other people think,” Safieddine said. “If you find a good group of people, it’s very good for your confidence.”
Finding this group at college doesn’t always happen easily. Chloé Puddifant ’22 is grateful for her ice hockey team for facilitating this process.
“I’m part of the hockey team, so it’s been easy to make friends,” Puddifant said. “There are a lot of seniors who can help out the freshmen who want to get a role on the team and want to feel like they belong.”
One’s teammates aren’t the only source of support.
“Our coaches are really confident in our abilities on and off the ice,” Puddifant explained.
Puddifant’s teammate Lotti Odnoga ’22 felt similarly about the hockey team, but she has a unique experience because she’s an international student from Hungary.
“Sometimes my teammates make fun of my grammar and language barrier,” she said, laughing. “But it’s not putting my confidence down, it’s just funny.”
More seriously, Odnoga commented on the Dartmouth programs she participated in before orientation: the First-Year Student Enrichment Program and the International Student Pre-Orientation Program.
“I was mostly with FYSEP and [the] International [Student Pre-Orientation Program], kind of jumping around,” she said. “It definitely helped. I met other people who were the same as me, international, even from Europe.”
Two weeks ago, she met an upperclassman from Hungary.
“She told me how she got into Dartmouth and how she got used to this school and the sports here,” she said.
Meeting people who are similar to you in certain ways helps create a sense of comfort and security — but meeting people is tough if you aren’t confident.
“Fake it til you make it, for sure,” Staiger advised. “For the first couple of days, just try to be as confident and outgoing as possible, even if you’re not, because either that will cause you to meet people who are confident and you’ll make friends, or you’ll start to embody that and decide that you’re going to be more confident in college.”
But even the best friends in the world can’t always help with academics, and grades are a huge source of confidence for most Dartmouth students.
“When I’m in the classroom and one on one with the teacher, sometimes I feel uncomfortable,” Puddifant said. “I’m scared I’m not going to answer the right questions.”
Staiger is hoping to maintain her confidence by having realistic expectations.
“I’m definitely expecting [less-than-perfect grades,]” she said. “Being at such an impressive school makes me feel way better about getting lower grades or test scores because if it’s a lower score here, it’s still here, so it’s still good.”
Patience is a key theme with confidence; these ’22s recognize that the transition to college takes time. Gordon remembers how long it took for him to feel confident in high school.
“It took a couple years to find a voice, but once that was established over the course of a couple years, by the end, I had a pretty good sense of what I added to the school,” he said. He thinks he’s back to square one here and that it’ll take just as long to become stable. “But that’s alright.”
Safiedinne remarked on how upperclassmen seem like they don’t care as much what people think of them, which he admires. He recognizes that this attitude takes time.
“I definitely hold back sometimes in public from being one hundred percent myself,” he admitted. “[Confidence] will just come naturally. Eventually, you just find your place, and you’re more comfortable and confident with yourself.”
Although Safiedinne isn’t quite totally confident yet, he’s optimistic.
“I feel like I’m supposed to be here,” he said.