Our son has always loved college campuses!  He started going to UH when he was 2 to participate in language development studies.  The students would take him to other cognitive study labs after he finished the experiments because he was so fascinated by the students and what they did.  Then we started attending special events and open houses at UH, UT and A&M starting when he was 5.  He loves A&M’s Physics Department to the point that he will not let us skip Physics Festival weekend.  And, thanks to being part of TPPG our son gets 3 days of special activities, lectures, and tours for Physics Festival.

His love for universities has completely expanded to the point that he asks for university tours.  For his 10th birthday, he got a private tour of Marquette University’s engineering building and computer science department due to his Aunt working for the university and having friends in the department.  He was only supposed to be there for one hour but he was there for 2.5 hours!  For his 11th birthday, he wanted to go see MIT & Harvard.  Since we had friends nearby, we made a trip to see them along with the universities.  And they suggested adding Yale to the list.  We also planned to be MIT for the solar eclipse.  So in lieu of a birthday party this year, he got to go to his favorite university!  He absolutely loved MIT and did enjoy both Harvard and Yale.  But, MIT won him over.

Here is the list of colleges we have visited thus far:

  • Harvard (self-guided tour & their museums)
  • MIT (self-guided tour, their museums, & solar eclipse activities)
  • Yale (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • Rice (individually guided tour of Engineering, self-guided of campus, & their museum)
  • University of Houston (participated in several language studies, group guided tours, self-guided, and open houses)
  • University of Houston – Sugar Land (self-guided tour, local library on campus)
  • University of Texas – Austin (UT Explore day, group and individual guided tour of labs, & self-guided of campus)
  • Texas A&M (Physics Festival, Chemistry Open House, group guided tour of labs, private lectures, lunch with math & physics department, & self-guided tours)
  • Marquette University (individually guided tour of Engineering & self-guided of campus)
  • Houston Community College (open houses & individually guided tour of labs)
  • Baylor University (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • University of Otago (self-guided tour)

We will obviously continue to visit UT, A&M, Rice, and UH quite frequently due to where we live and the activities we pursue at these campuses.  Soon he will be taking classes at HCC.  However, we plan on continuing to visit more universities, even when in foreign countries.  Our son absolutely loves being able to go into buildings and get lab tours.  But he also appreciates the building designs, safety analysis, and their architecture.  He is always hoping for private lab tours or a chance to talk with either students or professors.

College tours are something more people should consider doing with their children of any age and for children who are gifted or not.  It is true that not all students will go to a 4-year college.  However, that doesn’t mean they should not go visit colleges.  Any student should go and tour colleges.  Young children seeing a college campus may inspire or motivate them.  They may learn about additional career options that they were unaware of.  They may learn what fields require more than 4 years of college and which only require a trade school certification.  In addition, many colleges (both 4 year and 2 year) offer open houses that are filled with hands-on activities for childrens of all ages and tours of the buildings.  Some universities even offer a variety of camps that college students run.  And, many universities have museums on site, some of which are free.

There is another perk of college tours, even at young ages, a tour allows your child to see the environment first hand.  Even young children can get a feel for a college.  It is important to determine if it is the right place for them and if they feel comfortable.  I know our son was turned off by some of the colleges he toured because he did not like their labs, thought the campus was “cold” or “unfriendly,” or did not like some other aspect of the campus.  Some campuses were a hit immediately because of the friendliness of the students and professors regardless of his age. As with high school students, even younger children will either love a campus or not upon arrival.  Thus, experiencing the trip involved to get to the campus is important.  In addition, meeting the people who are there and seeing the actual learning environment are great experiences that can help with future planning.  College tours give you the opportunity to start the conversations about colleges, future education choices, and planning for the future.  Consider adding college visits as a fun activity to do with your child!