I think three of the most important things to consider when looking at colleges is 1. Strength of your major at the school (i.e. limit your search to schools that have your major), 2. Cost of the school/scholarships/financial aid, 3. Location of the school, and 4. Size of the school.
1. We go to college to get an education, to help us in our future positions. If you want to be an engineer, for example, you would want to go to a school that has a strong engineering program, so you will be better prepared in your future engineering jobs. Also, the strength of the program (and how well-known the school is for that major) can help you land your first job post graduation.
2. Cost is something very important that needs to be considered. If you can get the same education at a school that costs significantly less, my personal recommendation would be to go to the less expensive school. Too often these days, students graduate with large amounts of debt, and then enter careers that will take them most of their life to pay back the loans. So, price is a large piece of the puzzle.
3. I would recommend picking a school in the area you want to live/work post graduation. I personally didn't do that, but it would have been advantageous if I had. The reason being, many companies source potential employees locally, so you are more likely to get local companies at your college's career fairs, etc, and it will be easier to find a job there post graduation (plus they will recognize your school more).
4. Think about the size of the school you are comfortable with. Do you prefer smaller class sizes, a smaller campus, or would you like to have the large school environment?
This is just my personal advice, but wherever you end up, just make the most of your time in school!
I think the way Ally organized her post was great so I wanted to build off each of her points.
1. Major - The truth is that you may not know your major at this point or you may end up switching it 1,2,3, or even 4 years down the line. 2 years into my psychology major, I took a random IT course to fill a requirement and then I ended up double majoring in psychology and computer science. If you are able to, look for schools that have great round about programs; unless you are 100% sure that you are going to be a doctor / engineer / programmer then it’s probably a better gamble to find a school that is known for multiple different programs.
2. Cost - I cannot stress how important of a factor this is. The amount of the cost may not seem daunting now, or it may, but it is definitely going to be daunting the minute you graduate. Look online for each school your considering at the financial aid they give out. If you have your heart set on a school but the cost is scaring you, just know you are going to need to put in the extra steps to apply for scholarships and grants (they exist and you will get some as long as you put the effort in).
3. Location / Size - This is nice if you know where you want to live but you may not. Instead focus on whether you want to go to a big or a small school and then look at the surrounding towns. I have known people who were in love with a college and then their first year there hate it because of its location (usually this means that there’s nothing to do around the town besides the college). Be truthful with yourself about whether that will bother you and rule out schools where you know it will.
The truth is, this is a place you are going to build your future, so as long as you are dedicated to learning and have found a school that you feel fits your personality, you should be fine.
Best of luck!