Carson Huey-You wears his purple TCU Pride T-shirt with the same ease that he wears a grin.
Carson started college last week, one of the 1,935 first-year students tallied on the first day of classes at TCU.
Like many college freshmen, Carson entered his new surroundings hoping to get good grades and make new friends. He also emphasized that he doesn’t want to get lost on the TCU campus.
Unlike most college freshmen, Carson is 11.
“I am studying physics,” he said. “That’s my major.”
Specifically, he wants to be a quantum physicist, but first he has to get through a first semester complete with calculus, physics, history and religion. (That’s a typical course load for students majoring in physics at TCU.)
Classes got off to a good start, he said. Still, he got some attention when he walked into his classes.
“People definitely noticed,” Carson said. “There was definitely some whispering in the back of the class.”
The youngest student attending TCU, Carson shrugs off the attention with a smile. He said he’s used to it. He was 5 in the eighth grade. He graduated in May from the Accommodated Learning Academy in Grapevine, where he was co-valedictorian at age 10.
“It was actually fun graduating,” he said.
Carson was reading chapter books by age 2, his mother, Claretta Huey-You, said. Numbers and math simply came easy for him, she said. And he speaks Mandarin Chinese.
Carson has been starting his college days at 6:30 a.m. in his Southlake home where his mother helps him and younger brother, Cannan, 7, get ready each morning.
Cannan also has an affinity for math and science and is testing at an eighth-grade level even though he is in the second grade in Southlake, Huey-You said.
After dropping Cannan off at school, Huey-You drives Carson to the TCU campus and helps him get around campus. The 4-foot-7, 75-pound tween often finds that his backpack is too heavy for him to carry far.
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“It weighs more than he does,” Huey-You said.
Mother and son spent many hours trying to figure out which college Carson should attend. They considered several, but decided TCU was a good fit with a strong physics program. The school also gave Carson a scholarship and financial aid package,
C. Magnus L. Rittby, senior associate dean for administration and graduate programs in the College of Science & Engineering, said the school put together a group — Team Carson, if you will — of faculty and representatives from other areas of campus life to work out any issues related to having Carson on campus.
Rittby said one issue was making sure Carson would “fit” and be comfortable in school labs. He was also connected with the undergraduate chemistry club, which met for the first time this week.
Rittby, Carson’s academic adviser, wrote to his professors to let them know a young student would be entering their classrooms.
“We are trying to help make a good place for him here,” Rittby said.
Before Carson, TCU’s youngest student was piano prodigy Sam Hong who entered at 12 in 2006 and graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance.
As it happens, Carson has been playing the piano for about 21/2 years, he said. He taught himself at first.
“I’d actually heard about the piano and math,” he said. “They can relate and coincide with each other.”
Carson has time to just be a kid. He is a Star Wars fan, with Episodes 3, 5 and 6 ranking high as favorites. He likes to play a video game called Mine Craft in which he builds things using only cubes.
What about the other interests of a typical 11-year-old?
“I’m not really an athletic kind of guy — other than checkers and chess,” he said with a grin.
One very tall TCU football player jokingly promised that if Carson tackled him, he would land an automatic spot on the football team.
Word is spreading across campus about the 11-year-old physics major.
“I was shocked when I first heard it,” said Ke’Arrius Brunson, an 18-year-old freshman from Dallas. Brunson said he expects Carson will be treated just like any other student.
“We are all Frogs on the inside,” Brunson said.