Getting into college is sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, except that not all the pieces are in the box. Students and their families are expected to find them. And to make matters more interesting, students and parents hear great advice from people who have gone through the process, myths about processes and programs from people who know what used to be true and sometimes they just wonder what they don't know that they need to know to make the right choice.
The best way to approach the college process is to write down goals before beginning the process. Think about the class size that will work best for academic success. Consider how far from home is most comfortable and what price point is affordable. Conduct research to determine which colleges offer the desired major and, of those, which have the best track record for employment and salary level.
Other considerations are campus safety record, extracurriculars offered, living conditions on campus (including guaranteed housing on campus) and academic program experiences and quality.
Armed with goals, families can evaluate college options much more clearly. For example, if a college costs $55,000 per year and does not have a reputation for being generous with scholarships, it is not a good choice for a family looking to keep costs at $20,000 per year. Similarly, if graduates tend not to get employment in their field, that is another red flag.
Approach the college process like a consumer and outcomes will be more in sync with goals for costs and outcomes.