Go on campus tours and actually ask those " on " tough questions to the student, students. How much drinking drug abuse in on this campus? Give me at least 5 club activites you think are worth joining. How is the academic workload for your major etc. The questions that official administration will gloss over and give you absolutes is what you want to inquire about.
In order to determine what school is a good fit you really need to visit the school and talk to people who go there because simply looking at a website will not be very informative. Also think about how hard you are prepared to work in college and if you think taht paying for a private school vs public school education will make a big difference.
Visit the schools you are applying to before you decide, and make sure you pick the school that's right for you. Remember that college is a great time and you can have a lot of fun in these four years, but your schoolwork is the reason that you're here. Make sure you get your work done before you have fun.
I would tell myself not to be concerned about what others think, including faculty, unless I respect their opinions. I would rely more on my intuition and the advice of those who care about me. I would concentrate on learning and less on grades. I would spend more time cultivating friendships.
Unless you're absolutely sure about what you're future holds, find a school which offers a variety of academic and career opportunities. Digging yourself into a school with no diversity in learning severly limits your growth potential and the potential to find what you really would like to do.
Try to talk to students that are in the program you want to pursue candidly, not setup through a professor (that can be a skewed image of real student life). Try to do sleeping bag weekends and use them to get an actual feel for daily life, not just partying or what the campus looks like, etc.
I would have your student visit the school first. If I weren't able to fit into my school this much, I don't think that I would be enjoying my college experience. Also, consult a college counselor. Mine was very helpful whne it was time for me to apply to different colleges.
Make the best decision for you...not pigeon hole yourself my applying to very specific schools or programs. College is the best time in your life to grow and find out who you are so take advantage of that opportunity and choose the institution that best suits your needs.
Thus far, hard work and dedication. I have always been committed to my work, but going the extra mile is really worth it when your in a school like this. The reason I am even filling out this is so I can attend summer courses offered as well as continue my education.
Determine what is most important to you (being close to family, city life, academics) and choose you're university accordingly. Don't go to a college that you can't affored because you won't be able to concentrate on doing well academically and socially.