When looking for a college, one of the factors you might take into account are rankings.
First and foremost, keep in mind there are several types of rankings and schools might have different positions depending on what list you´re looking at. So be sure to check several rankings before determining whether a college is “well ranked” or not. For example, the University of Chicago is ranked as #3 by US News in their National Universities Rankings. Times Higher Education ranks University of Chicago as #13 in its US Colleges Rankings. Forbes ranks University of Chicago as #20 in its America´s Top Colleges Ranking. Each ranking uses different methodologies leading to different results.
Second, you should look at rankings for majors you might want to study as there´s a vast difference between national rankings and rankings for specific majors. For example, Purdue University is ranked by US News as #60 in National Universities Rankings. Purdue is also ranked by US News as #9 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs. Purdue also ranks as #13 in Best Undergraduate Teaching.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, don´t look just at rankings – it is important that a college be a good fit for YOU – that might be uncorrelated to its ranking and that is perfectly ok.
Keep in mind there are rankings for pretty much anything from major, to food, to dorms, to quality of life, to best teaching, etc. For example, Princeton Review “Happiest Students” did a survey and ranked where students seem the happiest.
Here are some of the most popular rankings that you should take a look at:
US News National Universities Rankings
US News National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings
US News – Other Rankings Including By Major
Times Higher Education World University Rankings
Times Higher Education US Colleges Rankings
Times Higher Education – Other Rankings
Forbes America´s Top Colleges
Princeton Review Best 381 Colleges
ARWU = Academic Rankings of World Universities
Q&S = Quacquarelli Simonds