I like to ask students how difficult they would like their freshman year of college to be. This question has helped students who are looking at colleges by prestige only.
It has usually not occurred to them that if they should get in to the highly selective colleges on their list that the work will be commensurate with the average GPA of the admitted class. So a college where the average admitted freshman had a 4.0 GPA in high school will be a little more brisk in terms of workload difficulty than a college with a more diverse student body. Not everyone is ready for that.
Readiness is important in college planning. Students should choose colleges at least partly in relation to their current level of academic development. They should also realize that although they may not be ready to compete at Stanford today, they may be ready to do that later when their skill level has actualized.