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. Don’t do this unless you can’t afford to send them away.

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.


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 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.