Can anyone here would be able to extract some hope from the following scenario? I began my undergraduate coursework in physics in 2000 at a top-20 school at the age of sixteen, and did quite well--earning four fellowships, TAing an upper-division particle physics lab course before reaching 18, and having several quarters with straight-As. Things were really looking up, until the summer of 2002. I was selected for a 10-week summer research program in high-energy physics at LBNL. The work was interesting until about the third week, but then I started to lose interest to the point where I would show up for work one or two days per week. The graduate student who was looking after me got angry when we were scrambling to produce a minimally-acceptable summary of the "work" that I did in those 10 weeks, in the last week of the program. I started taking graduate courses the following fall, and got mediocre marks. The subject matter no longer seemed fun, and on top of that, I (naively) thought five graduate courses were going to take the same amount of preparation as five undergraduate courses. I took the qualifying examination for the master's degree the following year, and failed it, with a class rank of 26/27. This meant taking an additional six months' coursework while waiting for the next opportunity to take the exam. By this time, I had sent off 10 graduate school applications and got 3 acceptances--one from a top-10 school. This meant a small boost to morale, but the mediocre grades from my last two years doing graduate coursework still lingered. Fast forward another eight months: I'm a first-year graduate student at a top-10 school (not the wisest choice in retrospect; keep reading), and have chosen particle physics as a research area and a project. No more than two weeks passes by until I discover how uninterested I am with the project, not to mention the 5-to-8 year completion timetable for the Ph.D. My first quarter of graduate school was a disaster: the first time I've failed a course or taken an incomplete. For some reason, I decide that playing Yahoo! blackjack is more important than working on the Ph.D., and I find myself playing this and other computer games hours on end instead of studying and working hard. My second quarter was worse--I didn't even pass half my classes or make appreciable progress on my degree. But in spite of all this negative turnover, I try to convince someone to give me money to supplement my GRA funding, and succeed. A major fellowship agency decides to give me a fellowship with multiple years of support (based on my work as a undergraduate--the graduate school grades weren't released yet). Now that computer games have gotten me on the fast track to success, I would think that coasting, not showing up for classes, asking for constant extensions, and showing up for work 10% of the time would guarantee a bright future. At this point, I am doing everything to sabotage my career as a graduate student and am not thinking twice about it. What a mistake that was: A few months later, my case was brought up before the committee that selected me for the fellowship, and the fellowship was taken away. Another year passes, and I'm at the end of my rope. The school encourages me to take some time off, and I do. Unfortunately, the time off was spent in mostly menial jobs--ranging from breaking down cardboard boxes for myspace.com and doing reception in a doctor's office, to driving an 18-wheel truck. It was amazing how little a master's degree in physics got me at the time (your mileage may vary)! Fast forward another year: I'm back at school, and am "unattached," which means basically taking classes without a research advisor or project. Again, I became enamored of everthing except the coursework and research that would lead to the Ph.D., and ended up squandering plenty of time and money--thousands and thousands of dollars that I managed to save from my "better days"--on nonsense. My grades were really in the toilet and well below the minimum for satisfactory progress (a 1.7 GPA), and my first advisor had to argue the possible merits of my continuing in the program to the graduate committee. After all this took place, I was starting my fourth year as a "G1", and had almost nothing to show for my time there. An old biophysics professor (the oldest in the physics department) was sympathetic to my situation, and decided to let me work under him as a student. Again, my fascination with the work was short-lived, and after about three months, it was "anything but this." I wasn't making much progress, and my new advisor knew it. He (we) also knew that the school had given me four chances to get my act together, and that the school was operating at a loss, having already invested close to the tune of $100,000 in computer gaming, gas for my car, and other frivolities. So here I am, at the end of a terribly unproductive four years of graduate work, with little to show for it. I withdrew from school last June, my finances have been depleted, and I'm on my last hundred dollars. I still haven't been able to find a full-time job, and the ultimate kick in the teeth was when McDonalds declined my application! I've basically become the canonical example of "burnout" to several professors, some friends, and plenty of peers, and, well, that's just not how I thought things would end up. If anyone would care to offer some suggestions for getting out of this hole, they would be welcomed. My graduate academic record is effectively destroyed--is there any chance of returning to graduate school some time in the future?