There are people who think that the information conveyed by a Harvard diploma is almost entirely made up of the fact of admission to Harvard; that is, that Harvard graduates on average have no more skills than students who got into Harvard but chose to go somewhere else.
I’m not one of those people. But it got me thinking — the fact of admission certainly conveys some information. And there are unquestionably lots of students who the admission office feels are academically strong enough to attend Harvard, but who don’t make it into the entering class.
What would happen if the admissions office offered exactly this certification? A signed piece of paper saying, “At age 17, student X had credentials which would have made academic success at Harvard very likely, had there been room.” Would that be a valuable piece of paper for a 22-year-old to have? Would it be in Harvard’s interest to offer a certain number of certificates of that kind?
Related question: can a student who gets into Harvard, but goes to a lower-ranked school (say, for financial or family reasons) put on their CV that they were admitted to Harvard, but declined? Something about that strikes me as strange. But why? Isn’t it useful information for a potential employer?
(Note: obviously the above applies with any elite university in place of “Harvard.”)