Start with broad strokes and work your way to more specific preferences. Use these questions to find your first round of colleges to look at. Even if you can only answer a few, you’ll start to find elements that will guide you to the right school.
Sounds silly, but make sure that any school you apply to has your academic interests covered. Not only do they have the major/degree you want, but any other fields of interest you want available.
Close to home? Far from home? By the beach? In the mountains? Near a big city? Somewhere warm/snowy? In a certain state? Abroad? Near a potential industry or job?…
The University of Cincinnati (CCM) has over 44,000 students; The Boston Conservatory has less than 600. Do you prefer crowds or a more intimate setting? Consider student:teacher ratio.
Do you want to play sports? Do you want to have a team to cheer on Friday nights? Is having thousands descend on campus to tailgate exciting or annoying?
Some schools have a dominant Greek presence; at others it’s banned. Look into the student life/social opportunities.
At some schools it’s guaranteed, at others it’s difficult to get into, at some it’s not available at all. Know your housing options, on and off campus.
You may or may not need a school with a religious affiliation, but make sure there are churches or clubs on/near campus if this is important to you.
Does it matter to you if the majority (or entirety) of the student body are Arts or Engineering majors? What about male:female ratio? Are there many international students? Is it a commuter school or will people be attending from all over the country?