Much of what has already been said I agree with strongly; Things like performing research on an institution ahead of time, listening to word of mouth/anecdotes from attendees of an institution or a specific program, considering the field of study, etc. Given my experiences as a graduate and going into my first software job soon, I will try to give a bit of general advice from my college experiences.
Not to add to the College echo chamber in here, but I would agree that getting a formal education along with some sort of credential as proof is usually the best way to go about educating yourself. Below I will list some points in its favour based on some of my own experiences. Take into consideration that some of these may or may not apply, as every area and college/University is different in what they offer.
Resources and Learning Atmosphere
One particular advantage that having a formal degree or education can help provide is school services, particularly Career Resources and such. Despite some services being annoyingly compulsory, there are usually services that will assist with job searches, resume/cover/job interview advice, Co-op positions for work experience and such. These can be a great asset for students who are inexperienced with finding work and can be a good way to obtain some practical experience in the workplace. It and classes at large usually provide a good atmosphere to converse with others in the field or classmates to help practice and provide feedback that you might not get studying alone. Other bonuses to it are learning how to work with others in group projects in your field of study and possibilities to have friends you made in classes help you with networking.
This may seem a bit peculiar, but this also matters. I am not talking about having the title of “Degree” on a Resume nor having one, as that’s already been discussed. There are certainly cases, particularly in local committees, where a college or institution is well recognized by employers. I have experienced some cases in which I said: “I am a Computer Science student attending XYZ College” and employers at career fairs mentioned that many of their workers were graduates from those programs and love hiring them. Additionally, graduates from your college working on a small start-up company in your field of study might be interested in you, since they already know you and what you’ve learned.
Learning How to Learn
I found this to be one of the best skills I ever gained out of College. Whenever you are learning more advanced concepts or even other languages/dialects, being able to apply the same principles you learned in classes is incredibly useful. While most classes usually teach the basics of a subject, on a larger level that class and program is really teaching you how to learn and adapt in that field. I think this is more prevalent in College than self-teaching, as having a bunch of classes teaching similar material helped me switch and acclimatize myself efficiently.
Motivation and Self-Discipline
I know this one was brought up already, but this one was huge for me in making my decision. By nature, self-learning is hard for me since my attention tends to waver, even in subjects I am passionate about. Now if someone put an official deadline to me with real consequences for not meeting that deadline (like an assigned sketch piece), my attitude changes drastically and I am able to not only focus but I am also able to help give my life a sense of structure. I also now have an end-goal to strive for in meeting the deadline, giving myself even more motivation to complete the task. I realize that this might not be a big problem for some, but I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much had I decided to try to self-teach myself.
Now, this post has gone on long enough, but a blend of self-teaching yourself material and attending a program or College, in general, is what I think is optimal for learning. Lectures and assignments given by professors will give you something to work on and a place to start. This way you can learn the material on your own or even learn concepts and materials with others. My last pieces of advice I can give are to keep copies of any work you do/assignments to show employers what you can do/have learned and having a side project to also show employers and help solidify your own knowledge. I didn’t necessarily do either that much and I wish I did in College.
TL;DR: Like others here, I generally would recommend having a College education, though it can vary case by case on fields of study (which I know basically nothing about Japanese to English Localization Jobs, so keep that in mind) The main advantages I think College has over Self-Education is access to College Resources to give you services for helping with getting a job after College like Resume help, a potential benefit of having your school or program be well known to employers (meaning you may have an in through the company that way), gaining the ability to learn how to learn, and can help with motivation. Make sure to keep copies of your work and I’d also recommend having side projects while learning to help show employers what you have been/had worked on as evidence to back up your resume.