I was a developer for 10 years before I switched to management 3 years ago. Here’s my 2 cents on college vs not:
If you do it right, college can expand your network in ways that will help you. Whether that’s as a freelancer, an employee of a mega-company, or as someone who wants to build their own company.
Of the 7 jobs+freelance projects I’ve done, 2 came from “raw” applications. The other 5 came from referrals from people I went to school with or met at another job. Not to mention the number of interviews I went through. A majority were referrals.
You can do a lot of this networking online now. This forum is a great start. LinkedIn of course. What still doesn’t have solid substitute (yet?) is meeting people outside of software. Coding and computer science in isolation is a fun hobby. To turn it into money, you generally have to mix it with at least one other discipline. In school you’re very likely to meet future business people, mathematicians, chemists, artists (great UX anyone?), etc. As a freelancer, these are the people that can eventually provide you with sources for freelance work. Computer science independent of any other discipline is a hobby (a fun one…). But you’ll probably apply it to some other discipline to convert your skill+time into money.
If getting a job - It’s just a fact of how the “candidate funnel” at bigger companies works. Recruiters are incentivized (i.e. more $$) if their numbers show that they are finding candidates that eventually accept offers. It’s not that non-degree people can’t do the job - the people on this FCC obviously exist! It’s that recruiters have 8 hours in their work day and their stats say a higher percentage of people with degrees pass the interviews.
Lastly, I suggest an exercise:
Pretend you just graduated and you have your shiny new diploma from whatever school you like. What’s your next move?