DR. WALLACE: Recently, I graduated from high school and have an opportunity to attend the University of Chicago on an academic scholarship.
My parents don’t want me to be accepted there because they think the city of Chicago is loaded with drugs, and they are worried that I might be drawn into the drug scene. We live in a small Illinois town and own a Chinese restaurant. My parents want me to attend a small private college in Illinois. My parents also said they can afford to send me to one of the private schools even without a scholarship.
However, I really want to attend the University of Chicago. Should I be allowed to go there, especially if I earn a scholarship? — Big City Dreams, via email
BIG CITY DREAMS: This is a concern that you must work out with your parents, so I suggest you have a long, open discussion with them about this situation. Your father and mother must understand that the problem of illegal drugs is not just a problem at universities in big cities. The drug epidemic has spread from large metropolitan areas to the smallest of American cities, and virtually every college, large or small. It’s all about the money. From the time the drug crop is harvested in the field to the time it is sold to a user, those involved in drug trafficking are making money — big money.
The good news is that many young people do not take drugs and are not even tempted to do so. Those college students who never use drugs usually come from homes where parents and children have a wonderful relationship, and open communication is prevalent. Let your parents know that you will not be using drugs of any kind, no matter what school you ultimately go to. Armed with this knowledge, it’s likely that your parents will understand and trust you no matter where you attend. If this indeed becomes the result of your open discussion, then you will soon be on your way to Chicago.
DR. WALLACE: You keep telling teens that making lots of money is not the main goal of attaining a college education. What a crock of nonsense. People go to college to get good jobs, which results in them making tons of money. That’s why they push so hard to get into college. Please be honest about why people attend college.
I’m just starting my senior year at the University of California, Berkeley, and I have one more year before I start making that cash. Soon my cash register will ring. — Dreaming of Big Bucks, San Mateo, California
DREAMING: The University of California at Berkeley is a superb educational institution with extremely high academic requirements. Congratulations for being accepted to this school and for completing three years there. You sound like a bright, successful student.
Now, I’ll give you my point of view. Those who attend college with a primary focus to bring in “big” cash soon after graduation sometimes fall flat on their faces. On the other hand, those who attend college to get the best possible education usually become excellent employees or entrepreneurs and wind up in key positions that bring financial security over time.
My advice is to seek to work in a field that interests you, preferably one that you are passionate about. Don’t choose a high-paying job if it doesn’t fit your background or interests. Don’t make your first job upon graduation one that pays a salary slightly higher than other options that may fit your background or interests better. Remember that peak earnings usually take two to three decades to achieve once you embark upon a career. Since that’s going to be a long time, I suggest you work in a field you truly enjoy so that the time you spend building your career will be interesting and challenging for your specific mindset. The decades ahead could be entirely enjoyable or a big drag, depending on how you go about laying out your career path.