During the past 2 months, my preferences for different colleges greatly changed many many times. At the moment, my most likely choices are MIT, University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins.
I still haven't decided on my major, but most likely it will be biophysics, bioengineering, or applied mathematics. I'm looking for schools with lots of Nobel prize winners as teachers and students who are much smarter than me. I'm looking for places with lots of money for me to waste on crazy science experiments. I'd also like to have the experience of being the only one running, jumping, and flipping through campus while everyone else is studying for exams. If I end up at MIT or Chicago, it is because I want to get away from my parents but is still bound to them financially. If I end up at JHU, then it is because I would not have to rely on any financial contributions from my parents (I'd only have to deal with living in the same city as them). I have nothing against them, they just care too much.
I'll be applying to these 3 and up to 10 more depending on whether MIT or Chicago accept me through early action.
I visited MIT, Johns Hopkins, and all the Ivy League schools except Dartmouth and Brown (I will not go to any of them even if I get around to apply to them, which I probably wouldn't). My visits had little effect on where I would go. They simply gave me a false sense of how the school really is like. From the visits, I liked Yale the best because it seemed real laid back and relaxed and MIT the least because it was not very organized. Apparently in reality this is not true. How did I approach my search? Well, if I do not end up at a good college, I will not waste my time at a lackluster place (no offense to anyone, I'm sure I could learn quite a bit at any college; I would simply not appreciate the environment) that I've never heard of. If the absolute worst thing happens, I will run off to a jungle, practice parkour, buy lots of textbooks, and learn whatever I want myself. One thing I do not care about is campus safety. I figure that if I'm still alive traveling through the worst part of Baltimore city everyday, I have no worries. I laughed when some rich kid's parents questioned JHU's safety at the info session. It's probably the safest place in the city.
I suspect my approach to the college search is radically different from everyone elses. Oh, I've also made several lists ranking my top 15 choices in various pointless categories. In the end, I have over 10 pages of stats and no clear conclusion. I can't wait until this process is over.
Tomorrow, I'll probably end up completely changing my mind and restarting again and decide not even to apply to my top choices of today.