Find alumni and current students of colleges in the geographical areas you might prefer. Find student surveys. Visit the campuses. A good college is nice to have, but if you enjoy it and are comfortable studying there, it's more important to be happy, IMO. The campus atmosphere is important to increase your chances of success. And a college with less of a "party" atmosphere is important, since most of us will yield to temptation not to focus. Also, talk to counselors and recruiters and get their input. It's always a good idea to approach a task in the most efficient way rather than just expending effort needlessly when other people already have much of the information you need.
There are many things you can do to start thinking about college. First, while you're still in high school, try to volunteer doing different things and see what you like. Also consider interviewing people you know or who are willing to talk to you about their careers (e.g., the parents of your friends). Think about what you're good at doing, what subjects you like in school, and importantly what you don't like! Use places like CareerVillage to ask even more detailed and specific questions about career paths.
When you think you at least have a few ideas you can then think about college. You might want to go to a big university if you think you are indecisive so that your options remain open. Large universities tend to have the widest variety of majors available, and resources to help you figure out what path you should pursue. You should also consider cost. How much will the college you choose cost in tuition and living expenses? Will the job you are looking to get after you graduate realistically help you to pay off loans you might have to take out to pay for school? If not, maybe you can find a school that is less well known but that you can get a scholarship to go to.
It's perfectly ok, especially as a sophomore, to not know what you want to do in and/or out of college. In fact, most people don't know what they want to do in college and plan on figuring that out once they're there. The most important thing is to get a good education, and if you can, nail down what career field you'd like to pursue (which would be best case scenario) so that you can research colleges that are well known for that specific career path.
As far as selecting a college to attend.. to piggyback off of Amber's response, I recommend pinpointing what you want in a college so you can narrow down your search. For example:
Do you want to stay in state or attend an out of state school?
Are you interested in a big university or a small one?
Is greek life important to you? The school having a football team? What about a specific sport you may want to play in school? (check this link out: http://www.actstudent.org/college/factors.html)
You're doing the MOST important thing and that's thinking about this now. Sooner is always better than later! Good luck! If you have any follow up questions, happy to chat more.
<span style="background-color: transparent;">Collegeboard.org is a great resource for this! I poured through the pages of universities all over the U.S. when I was a senior in high school. Collegeboard was my go-to site! They put all of the information in one place and it is very easy to use. They even have various filters you can apply to see only colleges that have programs you are interested. To determine academic rigor, look at the admissions requirements, G.P.A. of past admitted applicants, SAT/ACT scores, class rank etc. This will give you an idea of what scores and grades you need to be accepted. However, don't be discouraged your application will be reviewed based on the full picture! College-board will help you get an idea of what is most important to the specific school you are applying to.</span>
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- <span style="background-color: transparent;">Chat with your Guidance Counselor</span>
- <span style="background-color: transparent;">Create a Collegeboard.org account</span>
- <span style="background-color: transparent;">Start using CollegeBoard as a resource to look up schools.</span>