Having a Yale diploma in the back of my closet hasn’t directly benefited me in any way, as far as I can tell. But. The mention of Yale, in certain quarters, generates a sharp intake of breath. Or an “Oooh” of sycophancy. Or a sullen grumble and icy stare from those recalling how their own bid to enter the portals of Yale was rebuked by the admissions committee. If your goal is to enhance your sense of superiority over your fellow man, a Yale education is an excellent way to do that. Unlike a Porsche or a Cartier, it is with you always. You can’t lose it and it can’t be stolen.
Students at elite universities quickly notice the effect a mention of the magic name can have on people and regret the general cloud of discomfort it causes. This is the real source of the now-notorious habit Harvard students and graduates have developed of replying to the question, “Where did you go to college?” with “I went to school in Boston.” Yale students sometimes do the equivalent — “I went to school in Connecticut.” Some observers consider this dissembling a form of passive-aggressive bragging, but that isn’t how it’s intended. It’s intended to spare you, their interlocutors, from an ugly reaction (whether it be fawning or bristling) and it’s intended to spare them, the elite students, from indulging the equally sordid instinct to lord it over their fellow man. Harvard and Yale students aren’t good enough actors to fake the unease they feel when the question comes up. They genuinely are pained.