This is a question that has been and will continue to be debated among actors for many years. I hate to answer this way, but - "it depends".
Here is my personal experience. I knew absolutely nothing about acting when I graduated high school. We had a small Drama Club that was run out of the English Department. And my school was incredibly tiny... as in 48 people in my graduating class tiny. I needed to go to college to get a basic foundation and to learn what exactly Theatre was. Not only that, I needed to learn HOW to be an actor. How to audition, how to find my light (some actors never learn how to do this one), how to warm-up, etc.
Now some people may respond with, "You don't need college to learn all that! You can learn from experience!" or "Learning all that is a waste of time. I never took an acting class and have done several shows!" That might be true, but you are allowed to make mistakes in college that don't cost you a paycheck. You could be spinning your wheels a long time before you learn just from experience. Plus, I also learned a lot about the tech side of Theatre in college which not only helped with future jobs (I worked as a technical director for some time to pay the bills), but also taught me to respect everyone who is involved in a production. Going back to finding your light, wanna make a lighting designer, stage manager, or director happy? Learn how to find your light.
In addition, Theatre programs are different wherever you go. Some are more general, others have specific methods, some are conservatories while others are universities. So do a little homework to see if any schools pique your interest. And if you find a program of interest, remember that you will be meeting like minded individuals who may end up calling you after college to be in their next big project. Networking can be one of the most powerful tools in acting and college can help that.
I could go on and on, but that last thing I will say is this. Has having that piece of paper helped me get acting jobs? Probably not. Has it helped me get regular jobs to support my acting career? Probably. But I place more value on the education I got and the people I met in college.
My two cents for what it's worth. Good luck with your acting journey!
Joshua recommends the following next steps:
- Investigate colleges.