This “what school to go to” post is a constant and running question here and in other forums that you will be best served by reviewing other posts on the subject to. This question is not unique or new. So much so that the best info is already written. Very hard to re-create the advice given to others in the past, much less the bulk of schools of merit or not available. In the end it’s a very personal choice we all agree upon in reference to what’s best for you in your choice. There is for instance a lot of schools in Illinois that are bad, good and great depending upon one's opinion. I expect this is comparable to other states of similar populations. Arazona, California, New York, Florida and other states also have similar good, decent and bad schools of note in addition to others.
Beyond this forum, I would recommend stagecraft http://stagecraft.theprices.net/ past postings for advice in not only schools out there but advice on how to choose the school that is best for you. What worked for me or anyone else, won’t always work for you. In addition to this, there is words from the TD's and designers from those schools posted in this other forum and you can get a good understanding of their program offered thus beyond past discussions started by people similar to you in what is the best school to atttend. Also, Scott from HS Tech -another website, just became the TD of a NY. College. He no doubt will have a extreme great program going in only a few years.
See here especially the debates on the amount of graduate students in your program verses less and with less graduate students you having more involvement in the production as a major factor in your choice. Running crew in these schools is another factor but probably as opposed to high school not much of one. The major difference between college programs and high school ones is how much involvement in major roles you play perhaps, verses how many more in-depth classes a larger school’s program with graduate students will have for you given the higher level and greater bulk of students blocking your higher involvement in shows. Sometimes you not being part of every show the theater is doing in a important role allows you time to concentrate upon other studies much less other theater classes. 14 hours per page on a show design you are not realizing on stage but need to do for a class is still 14 hours on a page you won't have if you are on running crew for a show. Very large debate here in the past about the necessity of being the designer for a mainstage show verses having time in class to do your best work. With this Graduate student debate, more classes in getting into more detail about tech, but potentially less involvement beyond asst. designer in shows realized, verses experience with designing and shows under the belt, but less text book and classroom info to base your designs off of is a huge debate and one very dependant upon you as a individual student. Do you as a student learn more with your hands, or with a book or in class discussion or lecture. Are you ready to learn theory or need to learn it by way of practice? No one school will be best for any one tech person.
This of course assumes that PoDunk University where you will become TD and a major designer as a Freshman by way of high school experience will be not much worth your money pr effort for training you into what you really need to know you should avoid. Avoid such programs where the director - single and only director is the moving force and no doubt one of two people in the theater program. A program with only a few people teaching you is so limited in ability you don't get your money's worth in this field. A degree in theater or general theater is nothing educated worth your money, it's a degree in technical theater at least if not specifically your field of stage design and production, lighting, costumes and sound that matters, with a minor in a secondary field added to this. The best schools will allow you to specilize in a degree on the design and production side of one field and minor in a second field by way of credits and classes offered. Any designer or tech that only specilized and has classes in one field is a fool. Both because you won't end up doing only one field and design is a unified concept housing more than one field of study. Still, a program that bases tech into all one subject, and frequently only one major class in it is doing you a disservice. Like with books, what wow's you upon first glance will no doubt wow you later in your career. What you already know and does not inspire upon a visit to the theater will not benefit you at all. Trust your instincts.
Your education will be seriously limited given such a progam same as you did in high school program. Best is for your choice between a fairly large program with mostly under-grad students and more design opportunities or a program with them and more in-depth classes. Beyond this, visit all of these schools, talk with the students, sit in on a class etc. You are going to be there at least four years. This place needs to become your home.
Also, keep in mind the rose covered eyes. The only way to prevent this is by visiting a lot of schools and perhaps chatting off line with various students here and elsewhere about their school’s program in figuring out how it will fit with you. The more schools you visit, the better your chances of finding one that will do for you best. The first school is going to be great but possibly after ten of them not the best. Won’t know until you visit ten of them.
Beyond that. Keep in mind your parents. State schools are while possibly not best - depending upon the schools available, they are normally cheaper and given this you might better be able to afford one without a side job thus possibly not only attend a decent school but have spending money to afford going out after the show. Of note also to you at this point is to start being nice to your parents. No matter how much your friends will be more fun, spend that personal time with them in this final year when ever possible. They will after all be flipping the major part of the bill for you in the next four or more years. The less teenage growth/need for freedom you express with the “ass holes” I used to call my parents, the more likely they will help your next semester in your personal growth during college. Fifteen years from now you will thank them for what they gave up in sending you to school no matter how many nights they told you to stay home and be with them after breaking a rule. My own final year of high school was ever so important to me but later became much less than the sacrifices my parents made for me in the next seven years of in and out of college.
I once visited a state school near Milwaukee that impressed me, In going state schools, Perhaps U of W where ever might be amongst other choices a good place to start interviewing. They don't have to be your end result but should be a start.
Really if you take the words above to hart, in the end it's going to be a very personal choice. There is beyond a doubt many good schools all over the state and country. It's more what inspires and assures you of it's merit in making your own home.
Wouldn't happen to have been UW Whitewater? I was there two years ago for a compation and they had equipment like no other but there shop was a little lacking and from what I hear there isn't much going on besides class. (might not be a bad thing) I have friends going to UW GB and they like it. I think Im going to end up there or at UW Madison. Also school can only tech you so much so if it comes down to two schools look at which one has more clubs and theaters off campus. Even if you are coiling cable for $5.50 an hour you are getting to know people and if you bust your butt people will rember you and more importanly contact you when someone calls in sick.