New here, but I would say this - find a mentor, if at all possible. You really don't need college unless you plan on taking a salaried design job. I'm not a fan of working for free, but one thing I will never regret is jumping on a free internship with a design team at a hospital. I didn't do it for the portfolio, really. It was for mentoring. I had another job for money, but still logged over 1,500 hours working with that team. By the time I left I had worked on team projects, done print design, production design, display design, brochures, screenprinting, posters, vinyl, web...you name it...got to work a variety of machinery and printers. One designer took me under his wing and had me go back and learn Corel, which had been snubbed by a lot of younger designers (I now love Corel for anything type related). Knowing Corel as well as Adobe was what gave me a leg up down the road. Those designers also had their own businesses after hours and were more than happy to give advice, as well as teach me what to charge and how to work with a client.
I guess my point is - forgot expensive schooling. Go look for those opportunities and learn from people who know what they're doing. You may have to look to find them, but it's worth it. Hospitals often have media teams and will accept a helping hand. I owe so much to the media team I worked with.