I'm currently trying to figure out where I'm going to go to grad school, in computer science. I applied to the University of Michigan, Stanford, and University of California-Berkeley. Today, I was at U-M to visit.
First of all, there's this research group called CITI. I talked to the director of it for maybe half an hour. It sounds like they're real old-style coders, which is something that I try to be myself. They hack on Linux and OpenBSD mostly. I'm going out to see their facility this Wednesday if all works out. (I'm at Michigan State right now, which is about an hour's drive from U-M.)
Then there are lots of other professors with interesting research projects too. It looks like even if I don't end up working for CITI then I could get a research assistantship with any of a number of these professors.
I was also impressed with the friendliness of the atmosphere and the informality of the relationship between faculty and students.
Unless Stanford is really cool, I don't think it's going to be too much making a decision on what school to attend. Also Ann Arbor is a lot cheaper than Palo Alto on things like housing, so that's kind of nice.