People in your network (aka friends, parents, friends of friends/parents) have knowledge that is worth pursuing. There will be somebody who has gone where you’re considering going. Pursue them. Ask them questions. Get a human feel for each place.
2. Beware of too much research. Trust your intuition.
There comes a point when you’ve done your research. You know the majors offered, the social life, what the campus looks like from pictures (always much nicer than it actually is btw). STOP. You know enough, now just trust yourself to choose a solid list instead of obsessively reading about each one again and again.
3. Hold each one up to the light. Be discerning.
You should have a list of criteria you are using: academics, athletics, etc. Make sure that the colleges you apply to meet everything bullet on that list.
4. Keep a range.
Don’t eliminate all the state schools and keep all the ivies. Sounds obvious but can be difficult to do. You want a range of schools that include schools of different size, cost, location.
5. Know that this is one of many decisions you will make that affect your future. Not the only one.
So, don’t sweat it too much! If you have a good feeling about a bunch of places go for them and don’t second-guess yourself. If you really don’t like where you end up you can always transfer.