This is a great question. First, I would start with this - college is sometimes important, not always important. That is probably not something that you always hear. College can have great value depending on the career that you want to pursue. For example, you really can't be a surgeon without college and that is appropriate. If you want to be an artist, college may or may not help with that career. So you need to put college into the context of what you want to do. Then you need to ask yourself - does college help me do that job better? There are several jobs that benefit from the level of detail and precision required for a college degree.
So why go to college? It took me 17 years to get my bachelor's degree. In that time, I learned that people with a college degree have their resumes passed on to hiring managers more, even if the diploma was not directly related to the job. I was once competing for a Corporate Training job. I had experience and so did my coworker. She got the job because she had a college degree. Her college degree was in Art History. The idea of college was not about having knowledge of corporate training, but she showed that she had the motivation to complete something that is very difficult. College is very difficult. You come out a very different person from completing a degree program. College also allows you to consider what is possible. I did not graduate with the major that I started with. College allowed me to explore more topics that I had never considered before. I think that taking a few college classes before choosing not to complete a degree can be valuable, if you have the money to take the classes without going into crazy debt.
I believe that college is important because it can give you skills that you could not get another way and it shows you what is possible in the world. It's ultimate value is determined by you.
Some other reasons college can be valuable are the many experiences and services available beyond just the classes. There are clubs to join, resources available to students to help learn about potential career paths, inside tracks on opportunities such as internships, speakers and lectures that are often free to attend to learn, etc...All of which can help you learn more about yourself and what you want to do with your career.
From the view of a future employer, a college degree can indicate (to a potential hiring manager) that you are capable of learning and you complete what you begin. Both are very valuable traits in the workplace. This does not mean that people without a degree do not have these traits, but your resume is often your first and only impression to try to get an interview. Having a degree displayed on your resume can answer those possible questions for you.
This is an excellent question! While it's very important to consider all options for your after high school life, I believe college on some level is very important, not just for career opportunities but also to expand your horizons and learn skills that are relevant to any career path. College is not just about the major you choose, it also encourages personal growth, people skills, community engagement, decision-making, and a 'buffer period' to learn essential life skills. It also allows you to explore many different paths, as changing majors is incredibly common and often encouraged! My university actually doesn't even allow you to officially declare your major until your sophomore year, and that time was so important for me to figure out my career path. I entered school with the full intention to be an engineer, but quickly realized in my first semester that was not the right path for me. I took so many classes in very varied disciplines in the two semesters after, and finally found Computer Science classes were the most engaging and interesting courses for me. Most colleges also have 'general education' courses, that every student must take, to ensure a well-rounded education. My writing, sociology, humanities, and liberal arts classes helped me succeed in my more technical courses and later helped me be a well-rounded employee at my company.
However, college is definitely not for everyone. While believe a somewhat unclear career goal is actually a benefit when you enter college, it's also important to consider if you are ready to fully commit yourself to four years of difficult education. You need to take your classes seriously and have generalized goals for your future. It is also VERY okay to hold off on college until you are ready.
Community college or partial enrollment are also excellent options. It is far less expensive and time-consuming, and gives people extra time to find out what they want to do while working a job to support themselves as well. If a student doesn't have stellar grades from high school, community college erases that to an extent, and it is very possible to transfer to four year schools with incredible scholarships based on your performance. I think community college courses are important for anyone to take, regardless of their career. It can help you find interests you never would have realized you had, and expanding your knowledge base is never a bad idea.
While the idea of massive student debt is obviously intimidating and realistically pretty terrifying, there are so many scholarships to apply to as well! I received a full academic scholarship from my college, as well as need-based financial aid, and graduated with manageable debt.
Finally, it is important to note that college degrees are not needed for many career paths as well. But it is equally important to note that those fields are dwindling, and a college degree in any major will give you an advantage on your job applications, even if the degree is not related to the job.
I strongly encourage you to think about your goals and how a degree could benefit you. Look at the typical requirements for the fields you are interested in, and look up the average salaries / potential career growth that degree vs. nondegree will offer you. Ask yourself if you are ready to take on a difficult four years, and if you can support yourself during them. I encourage against being too specific as well, a more generalized path is much less intimidating and doesn't box you into something you may end up hating. And, most importantly, be aware that there is NEVER a bad time to start your education and NEVER a bad time to change your mind (on major, on school, on anything). If now isn't the time, for any reason, then take some time to figure it out and potentially go back to school if you want to at a later time.