Practice Reverse Engineering
Think of the end you’re seeking (professional career) and then look at the path that it takes to get there. Start with the top 3-5 careers/majors you are considering and then look for universities that have good programs in all of your top career/major choices. This gives you flexibility if you change majors along the way. Look at pricing, financial aid programs and admissions requirements of the schools that meet your criteria.
There is more information readily available than ever, but that also means you need more time to sort through that large amount of information. As you do so, don’t eliminate options based on a single criterion such as tuition. Remember that tuition is relative to how much financial aid is typically offered. Look at the average financial aid package for incoming freshmen as a guideline.
Consider the source. When researching online, pay attention to the potential biases of the author. A university website, of course, is only going to list its best features. Likewise, a forum for angry former students will only list its worst features. Factor in the author’s biases and try to look at data-based information such as admission rate, graduation rate within four years, percentage of students receiving financial aid, percentage admitted into graduate school and percentage passing professional exams (if applicable to your career).
It’s great to reach for the moon by applying to one or two dream schools because you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Still, you also need to apply to two or three schools with reasonably good programs where you have a reasonably good chance of being admitted. Finally, you should apply to a safe school where you know your credentials virtually assure you admission.
No matter where you wind up going to school, you are the greatest determinant of the quality of education and experiences that will get you there. In the end, it will be your academic efforts and extracurricular interests that will maximize or waste what your college has to offer. It's You-U!