After 12th please send your child away from home – preferably a hostel

If you have a child in 12th std, who will go to college this year, please do him/her a favor and send him/her out of the home. Preferably to a hostel. Preferably to a different city.

By making your child stay at home after 12th, you’re just holding him/her back. The only reason to keep them home is if you cannot afford a hostel.

The greatest increase in maturity, exposure, worldliness, and in general the skills needed to make it in the real world, happen when the child starts staying away from the parents. The values and culture of the parents are important for the child when the child is a child, but at the age of 17, it is time to let them experience what other people think like, that there can be thought processes that are different from their parents’ but are equally valid.

I would like to state here strongly that there is huge value in staying away from home. Trust me. Or don’t – instead take the word of Child Psychiatrist Dr. Bhooshan Shukla, who recently said this:

One sincere advice to students finishing their 12th std from Pune.

If you think you are any good, think beyond Pune. get out of this city and parental home and explore world.

Getting ALL of your educatuon in one city, entire life in one locality with same bunch of friends is a serious HANDICAP.

Globalization will chew you up, spit out the bones and you wont even know it, happily sipping coffee at Vaishali and eating Sabudana wada.

Wake up and run away….save your youth and your life.

Source

I’ve been preaching this to my friends/family for the last 15 years, and have heard a number of excuses from them as to why they don’t want to send their child away from home. Here is a sampler of those, and why I believe they’re wrong:

“But the hostels are so dirty!”

It’s the parents who’re often more squeamish than the children about such things. In any case, children adjust pretty quickly, especially when everybody else around them is in the same situation. And, let them go through a little hardship, a little inconvenience. It builds character.

And if you really, really want your child to be a 5-star-and-AC-only kind of a person, then go ahead the set them up with a posh apartment near college – you’ll find enough other children in a similar situation who’d be willing to share the rent. That’s still better than staying at home. (Although, I would still say that staying in a hostel is far better.)


“What will s/he eat? The food there is so bad!”

Are you kidding me?! You’ll withhold important personal growth from your child because s/he is too delicate to eat the same kind of food that millions of other kids eat? Please raise more resilient children.


“It’s so much cheaper if s/he stays at home”

It’s so much cheaper if s/he doesn’t get an education, but you don’t want that, right? Like I said right in the beginning, if you really can’t afford it financially, then staying at home is perfectly acceptable. But in many cases, this is not true. And the “so much cheaper” argument is simply a different way of saying that you don’t really see how much value is added by staying away from home.


“If it was a boy, I would consider it. But for a girl in a big city, I don’t know…”

Instead of protecting your daughter from the outside world and keeping her safely ensconced at home, you’re better off teaching her the basics of how to take care of herself, avoid shady situations, shady places, shady friends, and to take good decisions.

Also, most parents won’t say this to me directly, but I know that in some cases, clearly there is a concern that the newfound freedom will allow the girl to indulge in “inappropriate” behavior. The answer to this is:

  1. Accept the fact that times have changed, and this generation’s values are going to be very different from yours’. Trying to impose your values on your child will actually cause more problems than the “inappropriate” behavior itself will cause.

  2. Trust your daughter. You’ve taught her values for 17 years, and you have to hope that they’ve taken root. It is now out of your hands. If she’s gotten the right values, sending her to live by herself isn’t going to cause any problems. And if she has not, then keeping her at home isn’t really going to prevent the problems.

And, by the way, your child is almost guaranteed to have a girlfriend/boyfriend, whether you know about it or not, whether you like it or not, and whether s/he ultimately goes in for an arranged marriage or not. Just accept this fact, and things will be easier for everyone concerned.


And the worst mistake (which I’ve seen parents make) is to choose a not-so-good college near home, instead of a good college that’s away from home. That’s a double whammy – denying the child good formal education (academics & reputation & connections of a good college), and good informal education (staying away from homw).


Side note: If your child is considering engineering, and is confused about which branch/college, this older article I wrote might help

Should you encourage your child to take a gap year before college?

Should you (would you?) encourage your child to take a “gap year” before starting college (i.e. after 12th)? If no, why not? If yes, how would you suggest the child plan the year? What activities/experiences would you hope for the child to take up? Does your answer change depending upon whether the child is going to do college in India vs the US?

My friend Suvikas Bhandari’s daughter just finished a very successful gap year. And she has written about her experience. In addition, I wanted the opinions of others who have gone through this in the past, or are thinking about it.

So I posted this question on my Facebook page and got a bunch of great responses, some of which I’m reproducing below.

Note: I am NOT talking about taking an year off to “study for the JEE.” The gap year is not about studying and academics. Studying in an Indian college becomes all about just the subjects, and that too, often theory. A gap year is about taking an year off so the child can travel alone, take up one or more jobs/internships, learn some out-of-the-way skills, and generally get life experience. A gap year helps with giving a sense of perspective, a sense of responsibility, and most importantly, an idea of what matters in the real world (which can help a lot in college to make you focus on the right things).

Gap is Good – But should it be well planned or not?

In general, most people felt that a gap year is good – but many qualified the statement by saying something like “gap with proper guidance for a limited time frame would be really productive” or “gap year but should have full plan on hand before u decide on it”.

On the other hand, Rujuta disagrees:

However, I am against having a detailed plan – I would say have a plan but be prepared to throw it out of the window when you think it isn’t working or your experience along the way takes you in a different direction. Plan to be out of your comfort zone…plan to do things you have never done before….don’t preplan what you want to learn….don’t get demotivated if all of the year wasn’t ‘productive’. I wish I had the opportunity to do this.

First Hand Experiences

The best comments I felt were first-hand accounts from my friends who themselves took a gap year (intentionally, or forced due to circumstances) and wrote about that.

For example, Idea Smith shared her own experience:

I don’t know if this is relevant but I’ll share something. I had a gap year of sorts just before I graduated (long story involving science-vs-arts battle with family, low attendance and ATKTs). In that time, I worked out, lived in another city for 3 months, interned with an ad agency, did a life program called the Landmark Forum and found my first boyfriend. Having that year really changed the course of my life because it gave me a chance to think and explore outside the rigid social construct I was in. After I graduated, I actually worked for a year alongside preparing for CAT. I didn’t need a gap year that someone like me normally would have, because I had had it the year earlier.

It also helped me discover that I would always need periodic breaks of that sort to collect my thoughts and refocus my attention. That’s what kept me from getting desperate in 2003, after the recession and when jobs were scarce. It’s also what allowed me to take a sabbatical in 2005 at a time when people were holding on to their jobs. And finally, all these helped me quit my corporate job in 2009 to do other things – knowing that it was okay to stop running, think and even do something else, without always having a 10-step plan and bulletpointed details down.

That was 15 years ago and I know a lot of things have changed. It might be good if the family/parents did not impose a lot of activities on their child. Instead, if possible it might make a lot of sense to encourage the child to think about what interests him/her and then help him/her find activities that let him/her explore it.

And Ankit Saxena had a similar story:

I have my own interesting experience on this one. I was forced to take a gap year in between my engineering because of attendance shortage, which meant I had to lose an year and also a complete 9 months free time without college.I was an electronic engg. student but always wanted to learn computer science (as I was good at it since childhood days) , but you dont necessarily get to choose the college and branch at your will.

So in my “gap” months , I had the best time of my life. I joined a tech startup based out of my college E-cell and learned how to write bigger softwares and not just palindrome programs. We implemented ERP for a Bangalore based company and made a POS solution for the hospitality sector – with Windows Mobile App for stewards in restaurant to take orders and implemented the system in a couple of big restaurants in Mumbai.

I learned about softwares, startups, business, execution and everything about sustaining chaos. Six months later I was leading software development for the company with a team of 6 engineers. All before I turned 20.

PS: I went back to studies after 9 months and topped my branch that semester and did my own startup from the same E-cell a year later.

So in hindsight, according to me, its always good to take a break from the social norm stream and explore what you like.

In Depth Reading on this topic

Manish Kumar suggests a couple of books that you could read, about Indian kids who took a gap year and wrote about it:

I have taken such break myself and I recently wrote about my experience here in a note. I also know many people who have taken “gap year” for various reasons…

If you’re curious, I would highly recommend 2 books by Indian kids who have taken “gap year” long ago.

(1) Free From School by Rahul Alvares.
(2) Learning the Heart Way by Samyukta

The printed copies are not available for these books, but I guess Gutenberg project has soft copies. Both are highly recommended for older children – maybe 8th standard & up!

(Manish also points out that Marathi hardcopies of these books are available from BookGanga.com)

Avinash Punekar pointed out one possible downside of a gap year:

BTW, most Indian companies tend to reject candidates with education/career gap automatically.

Note, however, that some companies do it, not all or even many. Also, if a company has a stupid policy like this, I am not entirely sure of whether you should be joining this company.

There are many other interesting comments which I’m not reproducing in the interest of keeping this short, but please check out the original discussion.