For students, the transition between secondary school and higher education can be problematic. Their prior knowledge may be insufficient, they may lack the right attitude or not have enough skills for university. Especially gifted students often lack challenges to remain motivated. Moreover, it is not easy for secondary school students to get a good picture of a variety of further studies. For their teachers, it is difficult to keep students informed about actual research in science and technology, as they are not in touch with this research on a regular basis. In this paper, we report about experiences of more than ten years at Utrecht University, offering pre-university students opportunities to be involved in lectures, workshops, laboratories and research at the university. We report on students' motivation to register for this programme, and their experiences afterwards. Important categories of motivation and experience are: raising interest in science; the choice of, and preparation for, further studies; working with a group of similar, motivated students; the wish to be challenged; and the experience of doing research at the university. University lecturers involved in the programme like to work with these students, and are motivated to share their research experiences.