There are many factors that should be a part of your decision to choose colleges.
Alma Mater: The schools that your parents or siblings attended could influence which schools you apply to. The children of alumni often get a slight benefit during admissions and your parents can give you accurate information about the school itself.
Athletics/Extracurricular Activities: If you plan on continuing certain activities in college, you should take into account which schools have the programs you want to participate in, and the type of support the school gives to those programs. Asking current members of such programs is a good way to figure out if they are well supported.
Cost: Going to college is expensive, and you should sit down with your parents to determine what is within your budget before applying. It is important to remember that schools have financial aid packages that could reduce the cost to your family. It is always better to apply and see what kind of package you get from the school.
Diversity: You should look at the demographics of a school to see what the ethnic breakdown and gender ratio are. These two factors will give you an idea of who your peers will be in the future. A diverse campus has been shown to be a better learning environment, but it is ultimately your choice. Visiting the school and sitting in the classrooms will give you an idea of the demographics of the school as well.
Major: You should research which schools have the top programs for the degree that you want to pursue. If you do not have a clear idea, it is best to choose a school where you will have many options.
Parents: Your parents might have a school that they would like you to apply to. It is best to be straightforward with them about your opinions of such schools. If you do not think it meets your goals, you should sit down and discuss it with them. Your parents might also not want you to go to a school far from home and again sitting with them and having an open discussion is the best way to resolve such issues.
Prestige: There are often excellent schools that no one has heard of, but if the prestige of your future alma mater is a factor, you should look closely at people’s perspective of the university.
Proximity: How far the school is from your home is an important factor in determining which school you choose. It is often students’ first times away from their families, and they might not want to be hundreds of miles away.
Ranking: Various site have ranked the top universities to determine the “best college.” It is important to look at these with a grain of salt, as only you can truly determine which college is best for you.
Religious Affiliation: If you are strongly religious, or not religious at all, the school’s religious affiliation could affect your choice to attend. You might be looking for a secular campus or a campus that supports your beliefs. Visiting the school is a good way to gauge just how secular/religious a school is.
Research Department: If undergraduate research is important to you, you should talk to professors and current students about the opportunities that exist for college students.
Selectivity: Selectivity is the percentage of students who are accepted from the total students who apply. It should be a factor in your final list, as you do not want too many schools that are highly selective.