You know what’s more important than knowing the school you’re applying to? Knowing yourself. Because the reality is, you don't need to have heard of the school for it to be a good fit. The best boyfriends or girlfriends aren’t always the popular ones. They're just the ones you haven't gotten to know yet.
We have a limited amount of influencers when you really think about it. You’ve got your parents, your siblings, your friends, their siblings... then there are the teachers that you admire, your guidance counselor, and of course a few school representatives reaching out to you online or mailing you some magazines. The thing is, these are just schools you’ve heard of, not ones you’ve found.
It’s like going into a billionaire’s garage and taking a Toyota, Corolla because you’ve heard of it, when there’s a jetpack in the back. If you want the jetpack then keep reading.
Your first step is to define your college self. Not the person you are exactly, but who you want to be. Be sure to get really introspective and don't just think about what your friends will end up doing. Do you want to join a hiking club? Do you want to frequent music festivals? Do you want to live near a city, or within a tight-knit on-campus community? Most importantly, what do you want to learn? Take some time and think about what matters most to you. After that, research what different schools offer just to find out what’s possible.
Once you’ve defined yourself you need to search for schools based on those traits. You can start with the schools you’ve heard of if you want, but afterwards make a good effort to find less known schools that have what you’re looking for.
Google is a good source, Facebook and Instagram are good sources, Academbot is a good source—but so are your friends and family. While your brother or sister may have only talked about the school they went to, if you ask them "if they know a school that’s close to a beach (lake, river or ocean)" they might just respond with "Oh yeah my friend went to this school on the water that no one had ever heard of. She Loved it."