that perspective helps -
there is a CA Colleges forum here you might want to peruse.
I agree that most people don’t need a consultant and that budget is a critical first step. Most colleges have very accessible admissions staff that can answer most of your access and budget questions. Most colleges also publish a document called the Common Data Set which reflects a ton of info on the school, admissions, cost etc. Just Google College X Common Data Set and you’ll find them.
There is a LOT of misplaced hype/pressure on this topic. Yes, elite schools like Stanford and UCB are crazy competitive and require a good plan and a stellar student - honestly they are targeting the top few percent of HS grads and, by definition, aren’t realistic targets for most students. As a decent (As and Bs) student and California resident, you have lots of solid and affordable college options. Even someone who barely graduated HS can attend a CC for a few years and use TAG to transfer to most majors at most UCs.
Privates tend to award merit aid only to high stat applicants. They don’t do much for B students and for most, their tuition is out of teach.
I have one student at a WUE school (Ft Lewis in Durango CO). And another son who graduated from Chico a few years ago. We were full pay at both schools - a little less than $8k/yr in tuition and $12k/yr for off campus apartment By contrast, CCs are close to free and most communities have a commutable one. (most CA residents also have a CSU in commuting distance) You can get a very solid education following that path. Yes, you sacrifice the dorm experience but, that’s a luxury not practical for everyone.
As a lifelong Californian I had to reset my college perceptions - SLO, CPP, Chico and Sonoma, for example have all upped their games a ton since I graduated and they all do a great job educating. At the same time, most of the UCs have grown huge and impersonal (an environment that’s great for some but, not all thrive there).
At this stage, (in addition to the budget question), it might be helpful to tour 3 schools near you - a large one, a small one and one in between. That can start winnowing down where to focus. Talk to current students and get their take.
Enjoy the ride.