I had to apply for my F-1 visa to attend school in the US, but I thought it was easier than applying to schools.
You can't apply for an F-1 until you get accepted to an college and they sent you an I-20, which is paperwork stating that you are an emrolled student at that college and you have the funds to be there.
You call your embassy to schedlue an appointment. It's actually a hotline number, and these people tell you all of the paperwork you need nefore they give you an appointment. Make sure you have passport photos and all of the paperwork is available online.
It was not a lot of trouble at all, and I go to a fourth tier private, all womens, LAC. It's a lot of fun here, with few internationals and I get a good scholarship.
Good luck, but don't rule out smaller schools. Most people I know that attend universities are on full rides, if that helps!