It seems to me that being a self-taught programmer has significant advantages over picking it up only in higher education. Not only does a self-taught developer have a headstart on their 10 000-odd hours of mastery, but their hobby demonstrates genuine interest.
This will likely lead to a process of continuous self-improvement over their career, not to mention increased likelihood of producing personal projects that are worthy of fame.
A programmer who spends four years in study (not nearly all of which is going to be directly concerned with programming) has far less leisure to explore and learn independently than does a developer who starts college with even a few years of dedicated hobbyist study.
I wonder whether there are any famed developers who had no exposure to programming before deciding to study it in university. I simply doubt that an 18-year-old has the capacity to become a brilliant programmer with no prior experience, but that seems like an awfully elitist and unpleasant view, so I'd like to be proven wrong.
© Programmers or respective owner