He wasn’t your typical dropout. He was (is) gifted. He graduated at the top of his class and had an impressive high school academic career filled with science and math competitions. He was well read and an accomplished public speaker for someone his age. He’d even been accepted to an Ivy League school – one I’d be thrilled to have my daughter attend.
But he didn’t go to the Ivy League school. Instead, he chose the honors college at a large state university. It wasn’t one of those ivy covered colleges but still a very good school. I’ll probably be okay should my daughter choose to go there.
He didn’t make it through his sophomore year. There were probably several reasons about what why that is but here’s what he told me. This is what he wanted me to know about being a gifted child.
Learn how to study – college is too late
He never bothered to learn how to study because everything had come so easy to him in school. He didn’t have to work hard for his good grades and so when he got to college he didn’t have the tools to manage his time or school work. I’ve since learned this isn’t an uncommon situation for many college freshmen but it can be particularly devastating for those who’ve basically gotten through high school on autopilot.
Do things that are hard
Not stretching as a student can have serious consequences in life, not just in college. There is no challenge and therefore no real success in always taking the easy road. Sometimes the easy road of a gifted student includes AP classes or maybe advanced calculus (that was a breeze for this dropout) so it’s easy to believe that they’re being tested academically. Find a way to keep challenged. The payoff is that when difficulties present themselves – and they will – the skills needed to be successful are already honed.
Fail now; recover now
Failing out of college can be a devastating blow and recovery can seem almost impossible for even those of the strongest will. It’s much easier to recover from failing 3rd grade science. Let your gifted student – ANY student – experience failure while they’re young. The lesson of learning how to recover from a failure is invaluable.
Of course it’s simple to read these words and it’s another thing to put into to practice. How often as parents of gifted children do we simply assume that since they’re in the honors classes, have the high test scores, or have grade accelerated that they’re being appropriately challenged? It’s easy to fall into complacency. With potentially risky outcomes.
Don’t worry about this college dropout. He found his way back to college and will soon graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and a wisdom beyond his years. He’s going to be just fine.
How do you make sure to keep your kids challenged academically?
Two months ago I went back to college nearly 20 years after I graduated college the first time. The why I went back to school isn’t all that interesting or important except to say that I finally realized that there really is no time like right now to get on with life’s to do list. Here’s the list that helped me decide on this path.
I’ve learned a lot in the past two months: where the good parking places are, that a too heavy backpack can do considerable damage to a middle-aged spine, and that the most effective studying happens at the library away from the washing machine.
But one of the most surprising revelations is how scary it is to walk into a classroom where you don’t know anyone, don’t know anything about the subject matter and are unsure of your own capabilities.
Our kids do this on a regular basis and frankly, I think we forget that it takes a lot of courage to walk into a classroom for the first time. I know I was grateful for my underarm protection my first day.
I think of the kids of our military families who relocate so often and the skills they must develop to feel comfortable starting over again in new schools. Not easy.
I think of my own daughter who skipped first grade and left all her friends behind to accelerate to second grade. There were some rough patches but she thrived and it was the best decision we’ve made yet regarding her education. Remember that if you’re considering a grade skip for your gifted child.
So when I feel like I don’t belong in a college classroom at my age I think of my girl who boldly marched into second grade at age six like she owned it. Reason number 32 why she’s my hero.