Like many other elite schools on the list, Yale offers students the opportunity to learn from some extraordinary minds, from Nobel Prize-winning economist William Nordhaus to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck.

It’s no surprise that Yale is one of the most selective schools in the country. But it's also one of the most generous: Yale promises to "meet the full demonstrated financial need" of students. As a result, more than 80% of recent grads are leaving the school debt-free.

Although the faculty boasts some of the world's top scientific researchers, Yale offers students a traditional liberal arts education. There are no specific course requirements, but undergraduates must take courses in a wide variety of subjects and demonstrate strong writing, quantitative reasoning and foreign language skills. Class sizes are small, and the student-faculty ratio is 6:1. At 97%, Yale's graduation rate is among the highest in Money's rankings.

Much of Yalies' social life revolves around the residential college they are assigned, and live in, starting their first year. But students also form friendships across colleges through activities like a cappella, sports, campus publications, volunteer groups and — for a select group — senior-year secret societies, such as Skull and Bones.