Should you send your kid to study abroad in the US after 12th std?

Last year, I asked this question on my Facebook page:

After 12th, should you send your kid to study abroad (US, UK, France) or should you have them do undergraduate studies in India and consider studies abroad only for post graduate studies? Assume that finances are not a major problem. Assume that the kid will go to a “good” or at least “above-average” college abroad. What do you think?

This question sparked off a great discussion where lots of people chimed in with their opinions and experiences. You should read the whole page, but for the lazy, I have captured some of the most interesting perspectives here.

Starting with my own opinion:

There is no question in my mind that most good/above-average colleges in developed countries will impart better education than good colleges in India. However, there is too much of a culture shock, too much freedom, too many distractions abroad, and a significant probability of the kid not being able to negotiate them all safely.

There is a small fraction of kids who are very mature, and very “sorted” in life at the age of 17, and know exactly what they want out of their education and their life – they should be allowed to (encouraged to?) go abroad after 12th. All others should wait until graduation.

Update: After reading the comments of a bunch of my friends, my own views have now changed, and I’m generally of the opinion that if you can afford it, and your kid can get into a decent school in the US, then going to the US is worth it.

Dhairya Dand disagreed with me:

without a wink – abroad.

  1. Since when did not being sorted out at 17 become a bad thing?
  2. A cultural shake up is precisely what a 17 year old needs to form his world views, why wait till 22?
  3. Grad life at 22-24 is focused, she/he has already committed to an area without being fully exposed to all the options one could have had in undergrad.

Rahul Gangwal pointed out:

i must say one thing here … once you are alone irrespective of age – the person does goes wild initially but matures 100 times more quickly than if he was at home

And Vaibhav Domkundwar came out strongly in favor of the US education system:

Based on my experience of landing at UC Berkeley right after my bachelors in India + interviewing/hiring 100s of freshers in Pune over last 10 yrs, I’d say kids are better off doing undergrad in the US and perhaps high school too. A lot depends on “how you learn” IMO. The undergrad kids, “on average”, at Berkeley were far superior in academic as well as non-academic than the international students from China and India.

Most importantly, I feel the perspective that you get in a (good) US university is far richer & wider than what you can in India, even now. Lastly, based on my experience in India over the last year, it feels like the change in the education system broadly is still short of what it needs to be.

Ankesh Kothari came up with a slightly altered suggestion:

sending your kid abroad as early as possible is a good idea. If you think he is not mature enough, then don’t send him to a 4 year college – send him for a semester long study abroad program. But the more different and varied experiences they get early on in life, the quicker they will find their center. The more hustling they have to do, the more confidence they will be later on in life.

And Ravindra Jaju pointed out that maybe as parents we worry too much about our kids getting “spoilt”:

If you want to focus on good education and holistic development, send them abroad. Kali might find them in this yug, but that’s already shaped by their initial 17 years at home. If you’d still like to keep a close watch on other aspects, keep them in India. Kali might still find them, though.

Sameer Nene was less diplomatic. He pointed out that maybe they need to get “spoilt”:

If possible, the kid should get to explore the culture on his/her own. This is important from a development standpoint – how to judge what right is or wrong or okay to do etc etc. You don’t want them to look at the world through your prism – they’ve already done that until they leave home.

Dhananjay Nene points out an interesting in-between possibility:

There are other intermediate choices as well eg. FLAME or Ashoka

This is absolutely right. These are Liberal Arts programmes, which give you almost as much flexibility as US colleges in choosing your field of study and what else you learn during your degree, focus on getting high quality faculty, and have modeled their teaching and evaluation systems around those in the US. You don’t get all the benefits of being in the US (e.g. exposure to a different culture, work ethic, students from all over the world, etc.), but still, for many students (parents), they provide a choice that is not as expensive as, and not as scary as going to the US.

In addition, Pune also has SSLA which might not be in the same league as FLAME and Ashoka, but is still pretty good in my opinion, and worth checking out if you can’t afford or get into the others.

There were a couple of interesting tangents that also got discussed:

Neeran Karnik asked:

how different is it from a small-town or rural kid going to one of the IITs in a big city?

This is actually sort of true. I do know relatives in villages who wouldn’t send their kid to Bombay for the same reasons that we might not send our kid to the US.

And Vijay Bodele wondered:

If Indian kids are not able to mature at 17, who’s fault it is?

This is an extremely interesting question, with lots of interesting possible answers. Maybe we’ll leave that for a future blog post.

Also, my friend Kathryn Chomsky from Spain jumped into the discussion to point out:

My 12 year old son just came back from a year abroad in Wisconsin (living with my parents and going to school). He absolutely loved it and has matured in many ways. Apart from improving his English, I think he is now truly bicultural and has so much more self-confindence and autonomy. In Spain classes tend to be overly theoretical and exams focus on memorizing loads of material. In the states he particpated in chess, Lego Mindstorm competitions, sports and learned how to do research and give formal presentations in class. We think it’s been a positive experience all around.

So, it appears that it’s not just Indians who have these issues.

So anyway, read the full post and all the comments, I’m sure you’ll find it worth your time.

20 thoughts on “Should you send your kid to study abroad in the US after 12th std?”

  1. I’m not a parent. Neither have I studied abroad…still throwing a few thoughts in the mix:
    • Why abroad? Maturity gained by living outside of your comfort zone, by yourself, (may be in a different city), getting a part time job … can happen in India too.
    • Also, I think that the Indian education system isn’t that bad. For me, 50% magic is in the course content and rest of the 50% is what you do with it/make of it.
    • There are so many of us who have studied one thing (India or abroad) and are doing something completely different (and may be even better). So, let’s take the pressure off the three years. Let them explore.
    • I know a few students whose parents took loans to send them abroad for further studies. They didn’t enjoy the course and then they have this tremendous sense of guilt…not fair on the parents or the kid.
    • May be the decision can be made based on: What the kid wants to study? What would they like to do? What can you afford?

  2. I think the main question to ponder upon is Financing the edu abroad. US undergrad or Grad prog r the most expensive. Albeit the Edu loan one could manage, one needs to hv enough money to live safely and conveniently. Secondly, I personally believe that a 17-yr.old boy’s or girl’s maturity – at this age of electronics, etc. – is much at higher side than that of ours time (I’m 50 +) and s/he is more focused and career oriented. Hence, a longer year’s of study in abroad is definitely beneficial to them.

    1. @Kavita, what I meant was: If finances are not an issue, would you still send your child abroad?

      Of course, if finances are a problem, then don’t send your child abroad. The situation in India is not so bad that you need to mortgage your future.

  3. I just want help in deciding to send my son abroad after grade 12 he wants to study aerospace engineering , the only problem and worry i have is where my son will stay and is it safe ?

    1. He should stay in the dorm (aka hostel) of the college that he goes to.

      Safe really depends upon what you mean by safe. I think it largely depends upon whether your son is mature enough to resist inappropriate influences (like drugs, etc), but otherwise it is safe.

  4. Check your kid’s actual strengths in theoretical, practical means and rather their subject interest. IQ and EQ are concerned when approaching abroad for further study. Your investment in him or her needs to be double checked with possible returns gained afterwards. Although it sounds fussy at present, it is must.

    Excitements that flaunt the market with foreign education must be replaced with genuineness. Understanding of what your kid is going to study would rather mean their success in real sense. Long-term career can keep your kids ever happy with more stabilized and thriving career; just ensure you guide them with realness – Academia in India is flourishing too!

  5. I am currently in 12th. I’m confused whether should I go abroad for studying the undergraduate course or to stay in India and go abroad for the post graduate thing. I don’t really know what course should I opt for… But I’m interested in medicine and want to go forward with the same. But the questions here are firstly what field in medicine? secondly studying medicine abroad or in India? Can you help me with that?

    1. Shruti, for medical, doing it in India might be better. First, MBBS takes 4.5 years (5.5 with internship) in India, whereas equivalent in US would require 8 years. Also, the number and variety of patients you see in India is much higher compared to that abroad. And finally, it will be cheaper in India.

  6. Hi
    Im in 10th grade right now, going to attempt my IGCSE boards in March. I’ve lived in the US for 10 years and came back when I was in 6th. Now after 12th grade, I want to go back abroad. Finances are a problem, but i can take student loans etc. the only problem is saftety. lots of indian students suffer abroad. and living without parents for 4 years is a big thing

    1. Anjali,
      I don’t know what you mean by “only problem is safety. lots of indian students suffer abroad.”
      Lots of Indian students go to US every year, and the vast majority of them have absolutely no problems at all. What are you referring to?

  7. Hi Uncle! Came across this post and thought the view points were really interesting.

    I completely agree: studying here in the US for undergrad has certainly expanded my worldview, and been an amazing experience (but let’s wait till I graduate…till then jury’s still out!).

    A lot of the comments seem to be preoccupied with the financing of US undergrad education. I think (from what I gathered when talking to people during my application process) that there’s a common misconception that it’s nearly impossible to attain funding as an Indian citizen for undergrad education in the US. I don’t have too much information on this; only from my experience of applying to US universities. But I think that if students do thorough research and apply to the right universities, they’ll be surprised by the amount of financial aid available out there. It’s more about applying to the right colleges, and often those colleges don’t advertise the fact they have financial aid for international students (specifically, lower ranked liberal arts colleges are a great source).

    Anyway, I thought that that might be an interesting point of discussion for your blog since many many people deter from applying to the US because of financial constraints. Also I’m currently finding creative ways to procrastinate before my final exams in 10 days, so I’m glad I’m productively procrastinating right now. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the update Nishchala. You’re right – there is definitely a perception that you have to finance the entire undergraduate study in the US by yourself; so what you’re saying is definitely new and useful information for most people in this situation.

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