Answer by Ben Y. Zhao on Quora.

Obviously, a question of this type has many valid answers. Here are a couple that come to mind in terms of importance and prevalence:

A weak variant of the “imposter syndrome”
In today’s social media driven world, students often see the “best side” of all of their friends lives, not just in academic performance, but also in fun activities, general happiness, etc. Students at top schools see all their friends seemingly doing great at everything, which in turn makes them doubt their own ability and whether they were an “admissions mistake.”

People tend to give overly positive impressions of how they’re doing to their friends/acquaintances, both online and offline. Your classmate sitting next to you might inflate the numbers a bit when he tells you about his midterm results, and your roommate might cover up a bad breakup with a cover story. All…

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