I had felt similarly lost when I was applying to undergraduate programs in U.S. universities a few years back. At that time, I found US News rankings to be a good starting point. Additionally, for graduate schools, phds.org have customizable rankings. http://graduate-school.phds.org/rankings
Also, Chronicle of Higher Education's research rankings: http://chronicle.com/stats/productivity/
Of course, rankings are only a starting point, but I think a very good starting point.