Every single time I’ll go with the same answer when someone asks this question. In the long term, get yourself educated. Go to university and learn your craft. It’s a long haul.
Once you have your degree and then get your first job is when you really start learning the trade, but for 90% of people you need the degree to get you through the door (there will always be exceptions) if you want to play in the big leagues. That said, in all the years,I’ve never once been asked about it, it’s all about the portfolio. I just don’t think I’d have even got in the door without one. It is just assumed you do (and, of course, it’s on your CV (résumé))
Sorry if this sounds off-putting. There are too many charlatans out there these days who seem to want it all too easy. They want the glory without the effort, because being a designer is a cool job and as a consequence are extremely lightweight. Don’t become one of them. It doesn’t work that way. It can be cool, but often it is hard work and long hours. What it is though, is hugely rewarding.
The old adage that, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, applies here. If this is to be a life-long career, it’s worth putting the hard yards in now, in your formative years. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. (How many clichés can I get into one paragraph?!!)
It may be hard work, but it’s worth the effort. I wouldn’t swap the 18 hour days, the frustration, the deadlines, for anything. I am lucky enough to have worked on some great projects with some great people who I’d have to pinch myself when talking to. I would never have had these opportunities if corners had been cut in that journey. It’ll give you a great life if you do it thoroughly and get yourself a good education and good experience.
I think it’s a great idea to get ahead of the game and get some experience before you start college. Helps both your portfolio and understanding of what it’s all about.
Just my 2 cents’ worth, for what it’s worth
Good luck and enjoy it.