Here are the various parameters you should consider while researching any institution.
By prioritizing the factors important to you, you can identify colleges that best align
with your personal, academic, and professional ambitions.
Research university vs. liberal arts college vs. institute of technology (polytechnic institute) vs. other vocational/professional schools
Public vs. Private
Residential vs. Low-res vs. Collegiate, etc. vs. satellite campus
Small, medium, and large
National vs. Global
Urban colleges are surrounded by large buildings and apartments/condominiums. They bustle with activity, including community involvement, employment/internships, and cultural/social opportunities. Shopping, restaurants, and entertainment are always close at hand. Sometimes safety is an issue, but many schools such as USC and Columbia offer escort services, as well as security-conscious dorms. If fast-paced, city living is your thing, then an urban campus is probably a good choice. (Note that urban colleges vary in how integrated they are with their local city—from relatively secluded (Yale) to completely interconnected (NYU).)
Suburban colleges located in the satellite areas of such cities as Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Santa Barbara, and Portland in residential communities filled with strip malls and single-family homes. They often boast convenient access to urban areas and major airports through a short commute by car or public transportation. The lifestyle is often slower than that of the central city, but restaurants, shops, and movie theaters are usually not far away. Note that suburban areas can be upscale, but they can also be in poor areas.
College towns such as Ann Arbor, Michigan; Boulder, Colorado; and Hanover, New Hampshire are very special places. The entire town, including residents and businesses, revolves around the needs, wants, and desires of students, faculty, staff, and their families. (In other words, the college and town are essentially synonymous.) (In other words, the college and town are essentially synonymous.) Some students like these towns so much that they find all kinds of excuses for staying on after graduation; some never leave.
Rural colleges offer access to the outdoors, including sports such as hiking, skiing, and bicycling; beautiful, serene settings; and a sense of getting away from it all. Safety is hardly a concern. Good shopping, airports, and other city resources are not very accessible. And you may find that the local residents lack diversity. However, if cultural resources are important, don’t dismiss colleges in rural locations; frequently they bring into their campuses and communities the best of what is available in the country. (Some argue they’re the best settings for the deep learning required for a true liberal arts education!)