One thing to do, which might require waiting for the pandemic to wind down, is visit some schools. Sit in on classes. Talk to students. Talk to professors. You are going to find that there are a lot of very good universities and a lot of very good professors.
Anyone who has seen my posts over the past couple of years knows that I am not of the “prestige mind set”.
I think that I might have broken the prestige mind set by the somewhat odd method of attending a couple of prestigious universities (MIT for undergrad, Stanford for my master’s degree). Then I got a job. I found that my strongest coworkers come from a very wide range of universities. Some of the very strongest coworkers or other strong experts that I have ever worked with graduated from MIT, Stanford, Rutgers, U.Mass Amherst, UNH, U. of Minnesota, U. Michigan, UVA, UNC, seminary school, SJSU, any one of various IIT’s (in India), Tsinghua, U. Witwatersrand (this was a professor I had), U. Alberta, UBC, McGill, Toronto, and a very very wide range of other schools. I also noticed when I was in graduate school (at Stanford) that the other students there had done their bachelor’s degree at a very, very wide range of universities.
A couple of years ago I had a very tough problem to solve. I had to go to a really top expert, so I asked someone I have known for decades. He is a top expert in this very narrow area who happens to be an MIT graduate. He listened to my problem, them immediately said "you have to talk to ". I went to talk to (another really top expert in this narrow area, and a really nice guy). He listened to the problem, very clearly explained the solution and related considerations. Then we went to lunch. Over lunch we started talking about universities. He graduated from the local in-state public university. His parents could afford it. He did really well there.
I also know someone very well who got their bachelor’s at a school that is not in the top 100 in the US, but is in the top 150. They could save money by living at home. Then they did their master’s at an Ivy League university that happens to have a strong program in their major.
And I know someone who is going very interesting research as an undergraduate student at a university that you have never heard of. One issue is that they go to a small school where you get to know your professors. Another is that they are nice, pragmatic, and at the top of the class so the professors want to work with them.
The point is that there are hundreds of universities with excellent professors and great research opportunities. There are hundreds of universities where the top 10% of students are as strong as the students that you find at Ivy League schools. Really smart people attend a wide range of universities for a wide range of reasons.
Another point is that what you do in university is more important than where you do it.
Looking at rankings is easy. Finding a university that is a good fit for you is tougher. Unfortunately the pandemic makes it even harder since visiting is not practical and there currently are no classes that you can sit in on.