This might sound obvious, but figuring out what you want in a college, and gathering info on what specific colleges are like, are the two most important things you can do at any stage of your school search.
Doing these things will allow you to “get specific” in the conversations you’ll have with school representatives, faculty members, and current students. (When speaking with these folks, it’s best to avoid asking “general” questions that are probably answered on the web; doing so is not a good use of your time or theirs.)
To this end, you should spend time seriously thinking about the kind of college experience you want and do plenty of school research via college websites and guidebooks (e.g., our Best 377 Colleges guide). Your search process will be smoother—and yield better results—if you take the time to do these things.