A group affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education has put out an interesting analysis and report “A ‘Fit’ Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity”. Basically it says that college rankings are not a useful indicator for quality or outcomes from a student’s perspective. Students and parents would be better off ignoring rankings when choosing a college or university. “Selectivity” (how hard it is to get an offer) is not a reliable indicator either.
What is important is “engagement” inside and outside the classroom. Opportunities for internships (or co-op), mentors, long-term projects (maybe like student design teams?) are all examples of “engagement” that they cite in the report. There are lots of other interesting details and observations, so I highly recommend having a look at it if you’re thinking about applying to university.