The trouble is, it's very difficult to know exactly what you want to do and how at 17.
And no one says you have to go to college at 17.
If someone has no interest in any occupation that requires a college education, it's taking a crap shoot to send them to college just to take some classes and explore. Some students will find themselves, others will flunk out. I had an advisee expelled for having a GPA of .2 this year. No, the decimal is not in the wrong place. I've seen it happen too many times with kids sent to college because they'd graduated high school, when they had no idea what they wanted to do, or study. So they sat in the student union and played cards during class, because no one was going to make them go to class. I remember telling this young man that the University could and would expell him for bad grades, and he was stunned. He felt like as long as he could pay the bills, he should be able to make whatever grades he wanted to. Would it be in his favor for the school to take that attitude, and let him exhaust his financial aid while creating so many hours of F that it would take him years to re-take those classes? If you don't know where you're going, getting in your car and driving in any old direction probably isn't going to get you to your destination. Likewise, if a student really doesn't know what he wants to do, taking a few years to work and make up his mind isn't a bad plan. Or taking a vo-tech course, and having a trade at which to work while he attends college. If you know you want to do A, B, C, or D, and all of them require a college degree, then yes, start to college, take some classes in those departments, and make a choice. There's nothing wrong with changing your career plan after you start college but I sure don't recommend sending a kid who has NO idea what he wants to do or study.