I've posted this question at TigSource, but just looking for more opinions. To preface, I've read the pinned forum topics here (especially the very relevant "mixed feelings at uni" thread) and Tom Sloper's guides were the first articles I read about the game industry. I do not want to come off as a know-it-all, simply as a young man looking for guidance on my future.
I'm in my senior year of HS with college approaching. When the year began, I was dead set on a CS/SE college education. I did my research and was sure that a degree, work experience, and portfolio would land me a job in the industry. To give some context, I struggled in HS for my first two years of HS and have since made a complete 180, going from 67 to 78 average in two years (80 as of thsi year), still nothing spectacular. My main goal this year was to get into a college with a strong CS department.
I've been rejected from the schools I really wanted, namely RIT. I'm an NYC resident, and the CUNY schools I applied to have rejected me. To give context, my ACT score was 25, I'm black, and I feel like I had strong extracurriculars (school gamedev club instructor, sports, volunteer) + strong essay.
Anyway, my acceptances for far have been my local CC's, UMass Lowell, and Univ. of Connecticut. Basically, out-of-state vs community college, pretty polarizing.
Which brought me to the idea of a gap year.
I've been thinking and researching more about where I want to be in the industry. Whether to look to land a job at an established studio or look to break into the indie scene. My goal has always been spearheading or being a part of an independent studio, however, I figured gaining experience in AAA was the ideal way to gain connections, experience, and financial security. Even now this seems to be the "ideal" option, since a CS can easily take me over to the rest of the software industry.
However, considering my collegiate options, I've been leaning towards taking a year off to focus solely on game development. I want to take the year to learn game programming (plan to branch into software and app dev), game design, and art (traditional, digital, and 3D). My plan is to renovate my room into a home office, buy a car, buy educational resources (classes both online and local, books, software, equipment, etc.), and spend a year focusing on game development. I would use strict time management and try to structure my time so I spend time advancing my programming skill, learning art, reading and experiementing with design, all while maintaining fitness, being active in gamedev community (both online and offline, meetups, game jams, conferences, etc.), maintaining a blog on my journey, and trying to keep a social life. My goal for the year would be to emerge with stronger programming, art, and design skills, and most importantly, experience developing and FINISHING games. I know the point of "specialist > generalist" in terms of working in the game industry at large, but my reasoning is that I'd training more for the indie gamedevelopment scene, rather than work in the industry.
At the end of the year, I'd evaluate to see if continuing without college education or pursuing college education is the best course of action. I want to hopefully land an internship or mentorship with a local game company, but that seems like wishful thinking.
I don't want to take anything away from a college education, I definitely understand the value and still think it is very important. Just at thsi stage of my life, I can't see another time where I have another opportunity to pursue being indie without much larger risk.
What do you think? Is this a viable option, do you have any advice? Also, what would be the best way to structure my gap year, if taken? What should I study, where should I focus on? Any advice or constructive input is appreciated!
(I should add that I have 2 years of experience with Unity and C#. Minimal experience with XNA and software. If I take the year, I'd opt to rather shelf anything I think I know and start over).