I'm back for another fun semester of college. Now, I know that there's a wide variety of opinions on college in the hacker world. I'm not surprised, given the average full-time programmer first started programming at 13. If you've got 5 years of experience by the time you've got your high school degree, why spend lots of money to get yet another degree?
First and foremost, having a college degree will be good for your career. You may not use what you learned in the process of acquiring that degree in the real world. In fact, by the time the average CS major gets to their junior year, half of the stuff they learned in freshman year is obsolete. Yikes. For a very long time, virtually all professional jobs (Engineering, Business, etc) required the knowledge from college to work. That's still somewhat true today (gravity hasn't changed significantly with regards to bridge building). While you may be able to get by with independent experience in programming, many people will consider the lack of a bachelor's against you. It may not make sense but that's the way the world is. Think of it as hacking the hiring system.
That's not to say getting a degree will be pointless. Four years of college can rack up a lot of debt. One might be able to alleviate some or all of that financial burden by going to a community college instead. However, you'll miss the most important reason to go to college. MIT is incredibly costly at $57 thousand a year. Ouch. I understand that many of you probably can't afford that. Loans, grants and scholarships will help. Once you're there, you'll be surrounded by the type of people who go to MIT. College is expensive because once you've arrived, you'll be with the type of people who are either smart enough to get scholarships or have rich (or financially savvy) parents. Either way, these are the type of people you want to be around.
Secondly, if you're just about to graduate from high school, there's a good chance you really don't know how hard the real world is. Let's be honest: If you're smart enough to be a competent programmer, high school academics were probably a joke. College may be the first difficult thing you encounter. Regardless of major, learning how to do difficult things you don't want to do just might be the most important thing you'll learn - ever.
You absolutely don't need to go to MIT (though I hear it's a very cool place). Learning about more abstract things like data structures will be useful. Try and shoot for the best college you can (remember more expensive !== best, do your research).
Reactions? Comment! I would love to hear what you've got to say on the topic.