An opinion on the benefits of learning at Yale
When I first applied, I applied to a few of the ivies (H, Y, Cornell) along with MIT, UMich and a few others I can't quite remember, it was simply because of their reputations, and I wanted to go to the best schools.
I had no advantage, no legacy connection, no training or special preparation. I had no idea how hard it was to get in. My family was not wealthy, and far closer to the other end of the spectrum. In fact, Yale paid for nearly all of my tuition for the first two years via straight up grants.
After I got all my admit letters, I narrowed it down to MIT and Yale. I visited Cambridge/Boston and New Haven with my mom. I think I knew 10 minutes after stepping on to the Yale campus (before even visiting MIT) that I was going to Yale. I didn't want to admit it then, because my family and extended relatives all love MIT. But it felt (and it still does today whenever I visit) like what I always dreamed college should be, quiet, a bit secluded except for the sounds of students, set in a location that was Harry Potter years before Harry Potter was written. It was history, tradition, and raw intelligence combined with the endless possibilities of all that could be. I was smitten.
After that, my visit to MIT was anti-climatic. I didn't like the big city environment, the traffic, the admissions officer I overheard trying to intimidate parents of potential applicants ("if your son got a B, then it might be tough for him to get in here"). To top it all off, I got a parking ticket when I was parked legally (but apparently a few inches of the bumper extended outside of the spot). That's a trivial thing, but it was just yet one more thing at the end of a bad visit day. Honestly, none of that even mattered, since my mind was made up days ago when I stepped on to the Yale campus.
So it was Yale, and I still look back fondly on memories of those years. They were easily the best years of my life as a single person. They shaped me and made me the person I am today, and I owe most of my success today to the faculty at Yale, especially the CS, Philosophy and History departments. Despite having visited probably close to 40 universities through my career, I have yet to see a campus that even comes close to Yale in capturing what I think is and should be the perfect campus.
Years later when I went on the academic job market, Yale was the only school that I would have considered going to in the Northeast. Unfortunately for me, Yale CS wasn't hiring back then, so I couldn't even apply.
EDIT: some folks asked about benefits of an ivy education. All I can say that Yale challenged me in all the ways I wanted to be challenged. I took classes from the absolute experts in each field, Jonathan Spence for Chinese history, Peter Salovey in Psychology, a Wolf prize winner for mathematics, etc. The philosophy classes taught me to how write papers with the logic of mathematical proofs, and the history department satisfied all my curiosity on Medieval European history. I learned quantum mechanics on science hill, along with 1 (painful) semester of physical chemistry. European literature was 1 paper a week, always done as a scheduled all nighter on Thursday night after a week of Physics, Chemistry and Math homeworks.
I think the most amazing part of going to Yale was the people that I met on a daily basis, my fellow students. I met incredible mathematicians (Rami S who's a professor at Princeton now, Han Y. who's now SVP managing billions at BofA), incredible scholars in every field. It was incredibly humbling and inspirational on a daily basis.
I ended up graduating cum laude / distinction in major in Computer Science. I got into Berkeley, UW, and a few other places for PhD, with an ok GPA (3.6?) but apparently great letters of recommendation(1 from my undergraduate research advisor Zhong Shao). Berkeley was great, but I think it was my Yale experience that gave me an advantage in writing technical research papers and formulating clear, cogent arguments.
Original article on Quora