A few months ago I read this post from Dave Yankowiak that was asking the question if usable experience is more valuable than a college degree. With college tuition going up and the average student 20K plus in debt, his analysis might be spot on.
Gaining experience is necessary for landing that first opportunity post graduation. But that experience can come while pursuing your degree. A lot of times students can find internships or co-ops through their college career center. That experience can help students network and sharpen there skills.
For my personal experience I was able to take my current job in a restaurant, and begin doing small IT related tasks. These tasks at first where done as extra tasks Pro-Bono. The more projects I accomplished the more trust I gained to take on more complicated projects. After graduation I was able to use that experience I gained to start off as a level II developer versus level I.
The most important thing to make the most of your time in college and try to get experience wherever you can.
This is a sample of the skills I learned in college:
For me, learning these skills was important in landing my first job after graduation.