Build self-confidence to get the most from your college education

Growing up, I was always quiet and reserved, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, I lacked the self-confidence that is essential for success. As a first semester college student, I didn’t make it a point to be seen or heard. I sat in the back of the classroom and would rarely ever speak out. Because of my lack of self-confidence, I was not active in my education. I slowly began to realize that while I was doing the work and making the grades, I was not growing because I would not allow myself to move outside of my small comfort zone. 

Starting small

I soon realized that in order to gain the confidence that I needed to go to the school of my dreams or to reach my full potential as a student and as a contributing member of society, I would have to allow myself to settle in discomfort. With the encouragement of my professors, I began small by talking more in class. By engaging in class discussion, I began to become a little more open to being heard and I realized that I had something to offer both inside and outside of the classroom. 

Gaining speed

I gained just a tiny bit of confidence, but that was enough and I continued to push myself to become more engaged. After breaking past the initial discomfort, I began to seek out opportunities to grow and become involved on my campus. I started working with the Phi Theta Kappa chapter on campus, initially volunteering to staff a sex trafficking awareness event for Alpha Iota Chi’s Honors in Action Project. I witnessed the impact that their involvement had not only on campus, but also throughout the community. I immediately knew that Phi Theta Kappa would serve an incredibly important role in my development as a scholar and a leader. 

Full speed ahead

The following semester, I successfully ran and was appointed as the secretary and treasurer for the Alpha Iota Chi chapter, as well as Vice President East of the Tennessee Region. I was beginning to grow not only as a student, but as a person. Outside of Phi Theta Kappa, I became heavily involved in the Northeast State Honors Program and presented at Northeast State’s Undergraduate Honors Research Conference. I also was organizing honors program recruitment efforts within local high schools and was chosen to serve as an Honors Ambassador on the Honors Advisory Board. During the fall of 2019 semester, two of my peers and I presented a research paper at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. 

With the encouragement of faculty, I became engaged and active in my education, and this has made all the difference in my success as a student and a leader. I went from being a student who almost never spoke to a presenter and I transformed from a passive student into a student leader. I now feel prepared to continue my education, and I have all the confidence that I’ll ever need to succeed. Let go of your insecurities, break down your personal barriers, and allow yourself to grow. 

Pearson Students: How do you overcome your discomfort in college? What has helped you gain self-confidence?


Kaytlin Stout is a sophomore majoring in Philosophy and Sociology at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee. She will graduate with her Associate of Science in May 2020, and then transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a degree in Journalism. She serves as the secretary and treasurer for the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, as well as Vice President East for the Tennessee region. She also holds two mentoring positions. In one role, she is a trauma-informed mentor for a local alternative school, and in the other, she serves as a mentor for first-year students on her campus. Kaytlin is a recipient of the 2019 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education.


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1 Comment

  1. Lana 6 months ago

    Hey, Kaytlin. Great article, thank you for sharing your experience.
    I have an almost similar story. I’ve always been very quiet and humble. I was afraid to ask my teacher if I didn’t understand anything, didn’t participate in any school events, and so on. But at university, I felt that my isolation prevented me from making new contacts and learning. I understood that I was losing many opportunities (which would never happen again). So I started working on myself, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I made a few friends on the course and also built a trusting relationship with my teachers (I began to answer questions and prepare reports more often). And I feel great now. And I fully agree that self-confidence really helps me learn better!

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