A pattern I keep seeing among students I know is the tendency to apply to colleges where friends are applying. That's a natural instinct at a kind of scary time in the late teens because it is becoming clear to students that they really are LEAVING HOME!!!!
It is comforting not to be the only person taking a path. However, there are rewards for those who dare to go in different directions.
Students should consider that colleges, in their mission to have a diverse student body, often accept a limited number of students from each high school. That means if a particular college is popular among your friends, you are competing with those students to get in. Conversely, if students at your school tend to go to just a few popular state universities and you apply somewhere else, you are likely to find it easier to get in where you are applying.
Students can dare to be geographically diverse and/or diverse in terms of major. Consider whether there is a major that is in your range of passions and gifts but less common than what friends will study. Students can also be diverse by extra-curriculars and hobbies. Daring to be different can pay off-take the leap!