What is the best way to start researching colleges?
The best way to start researching colleges is to speak with your school guidance counselor or college counselor. These individuals possess a wealth of information about the college search and application process. The one-on-one human interaction with them can provide significantly more meaningful information than utilizing a guidebook or a website. A good counselor should be able to paint a realistic picture of colleges that may be a good fit for you, based on the interaction(s) that you have with him. Additionally, they are able to guide you along the way when you become more deeply involved with the college search process. A guidebook cannot get to know you, but a college counselor can, and he or she should be able adjust what information to provide you as you move through the search process and learn more about what types of colleges you like and don't like. And counselors are fast! They can provide you with excellent information immediately during a Q & A session -- information that may take you hours to find on a website or in a guidebook.
Of course, how available a counselor is often depends on how many students are in his or her caseload. It may be up to you to take the initiative to set an appointment, rather than waiting for your counselor to set the appointment for you. That said, if you are in a district with counselors that are spread very thin, and if you have the financial resources to do so, use a Unigo counselor! The fee that you pay to chat with a Unigo counselor is *significantly* lower than you would pay to hire a private college counselor, which may run into the thousands -- if not the tens of thousands -- of dollars.
Regardless of your choice--using your guidance or college counselor or chatting with a Unigo counselor, the best means of starting your college search is to speak with the people who have dedicated years of their lives to becoming professionals in this field. They are the best "guidebooks" of all.