The Gifted Kid Burnout

I was in the gifted program as a child… and it ruined school for me forever. 

Alright, that was probably an over-exaggeration, but sometimes it genuinely feels that way. 

When I was in the fourth grade, I was placed in the Extended Curriculum (E.C.) program, which was a fancy way of saying that I had above-average intelligence at my age (aka “gifted”). And it was actually fun. I had friends in the program, I loved the teacher and the best part was that I got out of my normal class for a little bit. While my normal class was fun as well, I was bored. The material we learned was easy for me, and I wasn’t being academically challenged, hence why I was in the gifted program. 

School was easy back then; it was fun. I excelled in class and was pushed to use critical thinking and problem-solving techniques in E.C., broadening my skills and intellectual capabilities. Back then, I didn’t have to study for anything, and if I didn’t know something, then it was OK because that meant it was too advanced for my fifth-grade-brain and I would be able to do it eventually. 

Then I went to middle school, and suddenly I was placed in classes that were meant to match, if not exceed my skills. And I was completely lost. 

The problem was, I had never actually learned how to study. Sure, I’d heard all of the tips and tricks to help you study and remember information, but I had never actually applied it to myself. I didn’t have study habits and I had no idea how to start developing some. But this was middle school, so if you struggled in class, teachers immediately noticed and gave you many opportunities to improve your grade; they can’t have middle schoolers failing, so I did the best I could without really studying and managed to get good grades and stay in the honors program. If I struggled with the material, it was OK because that meant it was challenging me and preparing me for the future, where I would be able to do it eventually. 

Then I went to high school and fell into a mess of standardized tests, Honors and AP classes and the daunting idea that maybe I don’t have the skills necessary for this.  

I was thrown into more challenges than I had ever faced before. I was learning to navigate a new school, meet new friends, try and find activities to join and handle the pressure of being a freshman in classes with upperclassmen. And to top it all off, I still didn’t know how to study for these tests that were only getting increasingly more difficult. 

Up until that point, I either didn’t have to study the material or somehow figured out a way to pass tests by memorizing half the information and using strategic guessing skills. That method wasn’t great for high school. I still didn’t know how to take notes and the idea of using materials besides the given study guides to prepare seemed completely foreign. 

Here’s the thing: because I grew up always knowing how to do everything, the idea of not knowing something was scary. I would rather give up right away than be faced with the fact that even after trying, I still might not understand. It seemed easier and I could project my insecurity onto other things, such as, “He doesn’t know how to teach this class, how am I supposed to understand it?”, “Well the study guide is optional and I just don’t have time, so I’m not gonna do it,” and “She never mentioned this in class, why is it on the quiz? What do you mean it was in the book?”, along with countless others. 

I was in a position where I had been in advanced classes my whole life, so teachers assumed that I had developed great study habits and skills that contributed to my success. And yes, while I did do well in high school, I suffered a lot from it. Constantly staying up late to finish homework, looking up the answers online and completing many extra credit assignments when I just gave up on studying for a test and did poorly. 

Now, I’m in college and I’m realizing that I’m completely burnt out from school. The majority of my time is spent reading and taking notes and trying to figure out how to study for these tests. While I think my study habits are improving, I still don’t really know how to do it. It almost feels too late for me to learn how to take good notes and how to set aside time for actual, productive studying. And I know that I’m not alone. I’ve had countless conversations with friends and peers that are in a similar situation where they grew up not having to study, and now they don’t know how. 

I wish this could end with me explaining how I finally figured out the key to successful studying and time management, but honestly, I’m still figuring it out. All I know is that I’m not gonna give up anymore and that if I don’t immediately understand something, it’s OK. If any of you are also experiencing the “Gifted Kid Burnout”, just know that you’re not alone, and we can all get through it.