One of the most difficult processes when it comes to changing names is effecting a name change on a high school or college diploma or an official professional document or certification. Schools and colleges follow different processes for issuing diplomas, and while the documentation required for the change might cut across, it's important to contact your previous institution of learning to ensure you have all that's required.

The fee associated with name change on a diploma also varies and you might want to check that as well. At the same time, you might have to wait between 6-12 weeks for a new degree to be delivered after processing.

What you need to change your name on a diploma

Most university registrars process changes of names for students who are currently enrolled only. However, for previous students who need to effect a name change they need a number of documents for this to happen. This includes a name change certification form that has been completed and every supporting documentation required as indicated on the name change form. In most cases, the acceptable documents include a divorce decree, marriage certificate, court issued documents, social security card, passport and state identification cards or driver's license. Most institutions of learning allow these forms to be submitted in person or through mail.

It's also worth noting that to get a replacement diploma bearing the new name the name must have been changed officially in court or within the jurisdiction. Once the name change request form and all accompanying documents have been received the process commences almost immediately.

Name change requests on diplomas and certificates associated with academic records is usually done so that the name the individual is identified with in the outside world can reflect on the document. Name change on a diploma might be done after changing one's name for another, after naturalization, divorce or marriage. What this means is if the name change is as a result of marriage, a copy of the marriage certificate is needed. Names changes that take place through a court petition process will require certified copies of the court order.

If the name change is as a result of a divorce, the request name change form must be supported by a certified divorce decree copy reinstating the maiden name. Name change requests signed are processed and, in most cases, the documentation is returned to the requester. As a result, the name change reflects on the permanent record of a graduate, including the diploma re-issued. Most institutions of higher learning notarize diplomas without any additional charge.

Collect all the needed documents

Once you have read and understood what is required, including all the documents, ensure that you have gathered each of the documents in an organized manner and label them. You can ensure you have at least three copies of all the needed original documents; originals should be safely kept at home. The office of the university registrar needs to be contacted and alerted that you have changed your name and would like the same reflected on your diploma. The registrar must request all the documents to be faxed to his or her office, postal mailed, or bring the documents in person. In case you are asked to bring them in person, ask about the right time when you should arrive and the contact individual you will be meeting.

Once the registrar has received the documents in person, mail, or by fax, ensure you have a contact number of the individual you will be checking with on the name change request status. If six weeks pass without having received the requested new diploma bearing your new name you might want to email or call the registrar's office to determine why or receive updates. After you have received the new diploma ensure every detail is correct and the name appears as you wanted. Errors or typos that are the fault of the registrar's office may often be corrected and documents reissued without additional charge to you.

Name change on your birth certificate

In most cases, name changes do not require the same to be done on a birth certificate. In fact, a huge number of states will not change a name on a birth certificate if the reason was due to a divorce or marriage. However, if the reason the name was changed was due to gender reassignment surgery or adoption, this can be done seamlessly. The laws on the procedure to follow vary from one state to the other.

Vital records state departments will request that you produce some court order prior to a name change on a birth certificate with state laws differing on the process as well as the grounds for getting a name change ordered by a court. Applying for a name change ordered by a court require a petition be filed, paying the required filing fee, including attending the hearing. Lots of states will also ask that a notice be published on the impending name change in a national or local newspaper. Further documentation might also be required, for instance adoption decrees establishing the name change request. A petition is filed on behalf of a minor while the parents of the minor also need to be notified.

In case of gender reassignment surgery, the procedure in place for updating the name on the birth certificate also requires a court order that shows the correct gender that will appear on the birth certificate. Also, apart from the certified copies of the court order, there has to be a submission of an application or petition that shows identifying birth facts such as the name that was used at birth, the birth date, parents' name and place of birth. In case of a legal change of name, it's important that the court-ordered certified copies, together with the application or petition, be submitted.

Once the birth certificate has been amended successfully, a document is appended reflecting the change or amendment to the original birth certificate. It means that the old birth certificate bearing the old name remains stored in a file in the vital records office.

A number of states also go a step further and create another birth certificate for the individual in contrast with amending or changing the initial one. Such a practice of total replacement of the old birth certificate is critical in cases of adoption; biological parents are able to amend the birth certificate of a child during adoption towards concealing their identity to avoid future complications once the child has been adopted. The old birth certificate is however stored in the vital records office inside a sealed file only accessed for a number of reasons like criminal investigations.

Professional disadvantages of changing your name

Sometimes a name change is a disadvantage and you might want to maintain your maiden or current name. This can be after a divorce where you have a chance of getting married again, or even your first marriage. In all these circumstances, weighing the pros against the cons of a name change will surely give you the direction you need to take. After building a reputation in your profession, where everyone knows you by your current name, changing that to another and applying the changes to your professional documents might not be a very wise idea.

After years of making professional presentations on international professional organizations and conferences and authoring books and many other things a name change could put this reputation, social standing and success in confusion or destroy it. Apart from keeping your entire current name and avoiding the confusion that might result, you can use both names without hyphenating them or just hyphenate the names.


  1. Kelly

    Also bear in mind that educational institutions may have different policies for different kinds of name changes. Some may not change a former student's name just because of marriage (since that would be a frequent occurrence and explaining that your diploma or your transcript has your maiden instead of your married name on it is not a big issue), but they may for other kinds of name changes (such as like you said one that would amend the birth certificate) especially when it would be a hardship on the alumnus/ae not to have it changed (e.g. a transgender graduate who would otherwise have to effectively "out" themselves anytime someone wanted to verify their education).

    In fact, some are arguing among the other issues concerning transgender students (such as the bathroom issue going around) that federal law should be construed to require a school to update a former student's records who is transgender (but not necessarily in most other cases) to reflect the changes (since unlike most kinds of name changes it would also be a medical privacy issue and that discrimination against transgender people is rampant).


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