What is so great about these top schools? Here's what I believe the number one reason is—the top professors teach there, and the students are very smart, so that the kind of education you will get in your classes—where your learning occurs is—as challenging and rigorous as possible.
Your brilliant professor opens the class with a provocative question about a topic being studied, then asks the class to give their points of view. Students are invited to use their reasoning and mental abilities to figure out how to answer or build on someone else's thoughts. There is never just one answer, but many (unless we are talking math or a science).
What happens is that everyone has an opportunity to test out their theories, and points of view as they develop rationales for why they think the way that they do about a certain topic. Listening and sharing are the way these classes proceed.
Opportunities to learn by thinking out loud is open to all.