As a private college counselor, I find that every student I work with is unique. Some have very specific ideas of what they want in a college experience and others are completely clueless and admit it. Some listen to everything I suggest and follow it to a tee. Other are receptive to the advice but decide how they want to use it.
I talk with students all the time about college rankings and how they play a very small part in the colleges I usually suggest to make up a potential list.. I prefer to visit as many schools as I can so that I have a personal experience that helps me know whether a college or university would be a good fit for a particular student.
I also do not believe that just because a school is prestigious and accepts very few students that it is automatically a good school for anyone. Some families are impressed with names and others want their student to have a good academic and social experience. Not every school is right for every student.
Often students will ask me how they can find out more about colleges before they decide whether it is a possibility for them. Obviously research is important and I do a lot of that. I advise them to do the same and give them specific ideas as to how to proceed.. But I also suggest that they check out some websites where students give their opinions of what they like and dislike about the schools they are attending.
These websites should be taken with a grain of salt, but at least they add some flavor to what a prospective student might expect. The more students know about a school, good and bad, the better their college decisions will be.