By Liz Dennerlein, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent
According to a study conducted last April, female seniors studying at Boston College left the university with lower self-confidence than when they entered as freshmen.
The study, administered by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment at Boston College, examined two surveys: the first of which was taken by students during their freshman year, and the second of which was taken by students exiting their senior year.
Despite reports of high academic achievement, most female students gave themselves weaker self-evaluations in the second survey.
Abbey Clark, a senior and founder of the Boston College chapter of I AM THAT GIRL, a female-empowerment community, says the finding is "startling."
Clark hopes to change the trend by creating an open community that will ignite confidence and empowerment in young women.
I AM THAT GIRL, a global community which aims to help girls turn their self-doubt into self-love, is all about celebrating women's unique selves, Clark says.
"I AM THAT GIRL helps girls turn their stories of struggle and adversity into stories of connectedness and empowerment and feeling good about themselves," Clark says. "I think that all high school girls at one time or another can relate to the feeling of not being good enough."
To help young girls overcome these feelings, Clark says I AM THAT GIRL at Boston College, which boasts 100 members in its first registered year on campus, holds weekly meetings offering a "safe space" for college students in which they can discuss topics like body image, relationships, family dynamics and finding one's passions.
Maria Pascucci, the founder of Campus Calm, a national organization that aims to help college women lead healthy, happy lives, says females feel the pressure to be perfect on a regular basis. She added that the media sends mixed messages to young girls, advising them to be the best they can be while simultaneously persuading them to buy more and strive for more.
"In our society, being a perfectionist is a glorified and socially acceptable form of self-abuse," Pascucci says.
Pascucci, who was teased as a young girl and suffered self-esteem issues, says her main message to young girls is to let them know their sense of worth comes from within.
"When we begin to compare ourselves to others, especially when we're vulnerable, that can do a lot of damage to our self-esteem," she says.
Clark echoes Pascucci's point, saying it's important to let young girls know that their physical appearance is only "one slice of the pie."
"Girls have a lot to bring to the table," Clark says, "and that's looking past physical beauty and just celebrating something unique within yourself that isn't so apparent."
Liz Dennerlein is a senior at Pennsylvania State University.