|Harvard University's Annenburg Hall|
Research universities are larger and attract students from all across the world. They have a well-known campus, successful graduates, and a prestigious reputation; think: Brown University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University. Their main business is research, so they hire researchers as professors, their staff are involved in research, and their campuses develop the latest and world-changing studies on important topics in science, psychology, and law. (Think Cal Tech from Big Bang Theory)
I have never attended a large research university, so upon my own search, I found an article posted by US News and World Report about the perks of enrolling at a research university. If you know for a fact that you want to study a specific topic, you want to do research, you plan on going directly into graduate school after college, then a research institute may be for you! The culture on these campuses are unique in that everyone is interested and excited about their field of study and want to share that knowledge with the world. At research universities you have more opportunities to work on research yourself and help professors and TAs with their ground-breaking research, too! These universities also have great facilities as far as, classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. An education at a research university could serve you well if you are looking for a highly specific major and know you want to perform studies and contribute to your field in research.
These research institutions, however, are highly selective in that they only accept the best and brightest students in the world. If an education at a research institution is something that you really want, I suggest you talk with your guidance counselor right away. You may need to take certain courses at your high school in order to meet pre-requisite requirements, as well as, take certain SAT subject tests in order to be considered for admission. You also will need to focus more time on test preparation for the SATs and ACTs to have comparable scores. It is possible to make your college dream a reality, but you may have to work a little harder than the rest of your classmates ... think about the rewards you will gain in the long run though!
If it is truly your dream to attend a large research university as an undergraduate, do everything you can to make it a possibility and don't let anyone sway you from chasing your college dream!
enjoy the chase,
P.S. If you decide you want to wait and apply to a research university for graduate school, that is okay too! If you know ahead of time that this is a long-term goal, then work towards it during your undergraduate education; take test prep courses, do small-scale research on campus, act as a TA (if your campus allows), and make the best grades you can!