The Myth of “Gifted Kid Burnout”

Vinay Khosla, Staff Writer

In fourth grade I was placed in Baltimore County Public School’s Gifted and Talented program, which has since been dubbed with the new moniker, Advanced Academics; regardless the program has inherently remained the same. The GT/AA program is one which according to BCPS’s webpage is specially designed to extend, enrich, and/or accelerate the standard school program in order to meet the needs of students.”. As such, beginning in elementary school, the course load is usually heavier by comparison to non-GT/AA classes while the pace at which content is introduced and taught is also increased.

Across the country, similar programs to this, initiated in elementary school, admit millions of students every year. However, recently, across social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, current high school students have complained of long-term adverse effects of such gifted programs. The common argument goes something like this: 


  1. I was placed in the gifted program and told I was smart and capable 
  2. I found the work I did easy and I got good grades as a result
  3. This reinforced the belief I was smart and capable 
  4. Because I found assignments easy, I never had to work hard and thus developed little to no worth ethic 
  5. When I got to high school, I found the advanced classes I was on track to take to be challenging and my natural intellect was no longer enough to succeed 
  6. I also lacked the work ethic to make up for this gap in natural intelligence  
  7. Thus, I have no motivation to succeed in school, because I can’t, and my grades and potential suffer as a result


Essentially, most students who cry “gifted kid burnout” attempt to connect early gifted program enrollment with a later absence of a work ethic. Obviously, the ability to work hard is crucial to succeed in school and beyond but the fallacy lies in blaming an accelerated educational program for the lack of such an ability. 

Gifted programs are not meant to teach students work ethic but rather adapt an educational curriculum to those with a natural predilection for understanding new material. Thus, these students are not especially endowed by the education system with an intense work ethic and neither are standard track students. Yet standard track students who find themselves struggling in high school don’t blame the system, a fact I find highly ironic as gifted programs imbue students with an extremely high degree of self-efficacy. Meanwhile, “standard” students are afforded none of the same self-belief systems and their self-efficacy is actually damaged by being made to believe they are less than “gifted” kids. 

It is simply not the burden of the American education system to develop a student’s work ethic for them. A hard work ethic can come from many things: namely intrinsic motivation, but also, parental pressure, cultural expectations, playing sports, parenting style or any number of other sources. Finding assignments easy and working hard on said assignments are not mutually exclusive, so the premise of gifted kid burnout is moot. Furthermore, the realization that one can do the bare minimum and still receive high grades is not a valid excuse for failing to develop a work ethic but rather indicative of a failure to make the personal choice to work hard. Finally, a lack of motivation to succeed in school on the basis of having no work ethic to do so is a paradox since it is a choice to work hard. 

Supporting these claims, there are innumerable students who are products of gifted programs that go on to succeed with rigorous course loads, become involved in their academic community, and then attend prestigious universities. Thus, the argument of gifted kid burnout, as a result of early placement in gifted programs, fails to hold true across the entire population, suggesting individual tendencies are more to blame for this largely over-dramaticized phenomenon. An obvious remedy to the burnout that students are experiencing, is to remove themselves from the gifted track once the program becomes too difficult. Course load and difficulty is left to the discretion of the student at nearly every high school nationwide, and as such, the burden to manage one’s workload in the context of one’s work ethic is the students’ to bear, not the system’s.

It’s past time for former gifted kids, who were ingrained with a sense of self-efficacy from a young age, to stop victimizing themselves as collateral damage of an educational program that in reality was actually working largely in their favor at the expense of non-gifted student’s own confidence. While students in the gifted program were being told they were smart and capable, those excluded from such programs dealt with the unspoken belief they were not smart or capable because they were not “gifted”. Yet the supposedly gifted population admonishes this fact as opposed to recognizing the privileged status of their educational career thus far. 

I’ll say it one more time: “gifted kid burnout” is. Not. Real.