Competition for admission to well-known public colleges is on the rise with no end in sight. Part of the reason is the economy. Parents are encouraging their children to attend public colleges in their home state to save money. Because so many parents are giving that advice, the number of applicants is much higher than the number of admission slots available.
Advising students to only apply to colleges within their state, or only to public colleges or only to well-known colleges limits student opportunity. Students should cast a wide net when searching for and applying to colleges. An out of state college may offer you in-state rates cheaper than in-state tuition in your state. A private college may offer an admissions scholarship that will make attending that college cheaper than attending a public college.
An excellent strategy is to find the colleges that want you and be open to colleges you've never heard of. There are colleges likely to not only accept you but offer you something like admission to a presidential leadership program or honors program or a financial incentive like a scholarship. There are over 4,000 colleges in the US with a wide variety of programs and benefits. Approach your college search like you would approach buying a big ticket item. Be a good consumer and get the best deal for yourself.