Following on from what I wrote about students attending university, I want to make clear the other path has equal & contrary merit.
NOTE - Reference to university is made in a general sense, although specifically is about my own ballpark (the arts). I'm sure it will encompass other subjects also, but some it will not
In short, uni for me was great to have those three years to really focus on growing (being like a sponge and soaking everything up), the chance to sit down and get on with it, but also the support, and especially the motivation to do so, something that I thought was necessary for me to keep me chained to my work station.
However, I feel strongly that someone, with enough conviction (strong emphasis on the word conviction) can simply (but not easily) do it on there own.
I always felt that, to take the example of a photographer, you don't need the best equipment, you don't need a Canon 5D or expensive tripod & lighting kit; most of all you need ambition, desire, commitment & conviction in yourself. Someone who has those will go out with a £2 camera and shoot everything they wanna shoot in total passion.
One of the best people I've met in the last year is my friend Steve, he didn't go to university, but has all these attributes in abundance for his field (singer / songwriter / music). Talking to him about uni, his idea was that he saw all these people going off for three years and thought 'how do I play catch up?' How do I do that without spending a penny?
Having not gone to university, you stand in the distinct advantage of not being anywhere between £20,000 to £75,000 in debt, and yet (potentially) as well qualified as your competitive peers who did attend university. Altho this may make you shiver in your boots with denial, it is true. Considering that your specialty is a creative venture; qualification comes in the form of a strong portfolio & passed clients, rather than A*'s & B's or 1:1's.
What you don't have is the three years spent with an open-pass to exploring your subject of choice in that prosperous bubble. There are great virtues to be hand from attending university. However, this is where your unspent £20,000-£75,000 comes in - see it as your golden ticket. Live cheaply (at home or in cheap rented accommodation) & get well acquainted with your camera, lightbox, canvas, (whatever). Use the local library to read about them technically, explore the worlds galleries online & keep up with contemporary trends: whatever you want, use the internet to aid it. Make the internet your new best friend and keep your use of it virtuous. Watch endless Youtube tutorials, and not just from nobodies, from masters in their fields, explaining it all intricately. Converse with the multitudes of people on the same path as you, online, get to the bottom of whatever it is you want to get to the bottom of. Be your own boss & push yourself: Schedule yourself a course as if you were a student - an hours researching in the morning, a photoshoot/studio session at mid day. DONT compare your efforts to those around you else you'll get stuck in first gear (unless your blessed with a vibrant & active home town)
You just gotta have the conviction in yourself, most of all.
This is hard, I don't think I could have done this, I think I would have wavered personally. This has been my plight since finishing uni, to write my own course of study (in the books I read, things I do) and keep developing with the same will & wings I developed at uni. But it's tough.
It's also hard to convince those around you that this is a virtuous path. Uni is almost like a free-pass in this regard, your family will determine that 'My son? He's at uni..' with pride and contentment. For them to see you take the other path and say 'He sits in his room and reads books and draws pictures' doesn't hold as much weight in societies eyes. But the one who does it with self-infused conviction, commitment, passion, and everything else, will be a very wealthy fellow.