Introducing the ‘Big Fish, Little Pond’ effect at university – OurWarwick

Introducing the ‘Big Fish, Little Pond’ effect at university

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Abigail Booth | English Language and Linguistics with Intercalated year Contact Abigail

In this blog, I’ll be talking about what the Big Fish Little Pond effect is, my own experiences with it, and some ways to cope with this feeling.

So, you’ve just gotten into university – congratulations! You arrive there, meet your flatmates, discover what courses everyone will be studying, and soon enough, your first day of lectures arrives. You meet your department and fellow course mates. You consider yourself to be intelligent – after all, you got into university! However, soon enough, you may start to feel intimidated by other people’s intelligent seminar contributions, or their essay grades. This confuses you, as in your previous school you were considered one of the top students, but now you meet lots of people who you perceive to be better than you! Suddenly, you don’t feel as clever anymore. This is the ‘Big Fish, Little Pond’ effect.

I definitely experienced this in my first year, and I won’t lie to you, there were parts of me that did this in my final year too! I was always considered an ‘academic’ person who got top grades. Then, I came to university, and met so many people from different educational experiences, and the grades and abilities of some people really intimidated me! Throughout my university experience, I have come up with some strategies for dealing with these feelings of not being good enough.

Just because someone else is clever, it does not take away from your intelligence and abilities – This is a really important thing to keep in mind. I initially thought that another person being clever meant that I was no longer clever. The truth is, everyone at university has strong abilities, which is why you’re all there!

Focus on YOUR own progress – Following on from the above point, constant comparison with your peers will not take you very far, and will only worsen how you feel about yourself. Focus on your goals, your achievements, and don’t get engrossed with how others are doing. I used to ask classmates what grades they received, only to feel downhearted if it was miles higher than mine. Now, I try to focus on my own grades and not my peers. This is a much more fulfilling approach.

Realise your own strengths outside of academia – You might not be top of the class anymore, but what else do you have to offer? Maybe you’re a great people person and possess excellent interpersonal skills. Maybe you have great organisational and time-management capabilities. Perhaps you excel in a non-academic hobby. All of these things are relevant for your future aspirations!

Realise that, actually, you are not alone in feeling this way – I soon came to realise that so many other students felt this way. I found that whilst I was comparing myself to others, some people were comparing themselves to me, etcetera! We are all guilty of self-comparison, but it is what we do with these feelings that matter. So I’d really encourage you to talk to your peers if you’re feeling this way, it can be very comforting.

I hope that this blog has been helpful, and, as always, feel free to reach out with any comments or queries 🙂

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Abigail Booth | English Language and Linguistics with Intercalated year Contact Abigail

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