52 Comments

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.

52 Comments

  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).

    Reply
  2. Jennie Graham

    Can a child who has a living father whom the child's mom divorced when he was a baby & the child has never known the biological father & has never received any monies from him & the child's biological father has been in jail 1/2 of the child's life . Can this child age 18 now who has been raised all his life by his step dad whom he considers is his real dad & in all reality who has been his Dad all his life. Can this young adult have his step dads last name put on his high school diploma?? His school is saying he can't.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jennie. First, try making your case to the principal. If that doesn't work, try the superintendent. If that doesn't work, you may need to get a court ordered name change then use that document to effect a name change on your diploma.

      Reply
  3. Silvia Elena Brenes Rodriguez

    I need to change my name in my GED, I never pay attention to this but the lady in the office I take my test put a wrong DOB and use my married last name, now Im applying for a job and my GED docent match the other documents…
    what can I do? please help

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Silvia. Contact the institution to request a correction. Inquire what their procedure is, what documentation is required, and if an affidavit must be submitted.

      Reply
  4. ogunfunwa damilola

    Hi am newly wed and will be going to a nursing school next yr…I don't want to change my maiden name but I just want to add my hubby name. Ow do I go about it

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ogunfunwa. Are you saying you want to add your husband's last name to yours? Hyphenated or space-separated?

      Reply
  5. lhiza

    Hi i would to ask what is the process in changing my name in school records..i want to go back school first year college.
    My problem is on my birth certificate it was Liza and Not Riza..i used Riza since elementary till i graduated high school.
    what should i do? please help..thank you so much.
    ps.in my important documents sss/pag-ibig/philhealth i already used Liza.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi lhiza. If Riza's a nickname, it's unlikely they'll change it. You'd have to supply a formal document reflecting your preferred name, such as a court order.

      Reply
  6. Mhatz Magcamit

    Hi I would just want to ask, I've been married for 6 years and I was thinking of going back to college A.Y 2018-2019. What last name should I use, my husband's surname or my maiden name?thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      What last name should I use, my husband's surname or my maiden name?

      You'd use whatever your current legal name is.

      Reply
  7. Rahul Nair Pappully

    Hi,
    My name is Rahul and I am from India.
    In all my I.D proofs such as Passport and Driving License and Class X and XII documents, my name is Rahul Nair Pappully.
    But in my B.Tech degree and university-related documents, it is Rahul Nair P
    I am currently in the process of applying for Masters abroad. I wanted to ask would it be a problem considering it's just mentioned P in University degree and Pappully (P) in all other ID proofs and Class X and XII documents.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rahul. Your school documents aren't governed by the rules as government documents. Any discrepancy will have to be taken up with your school.

      Reply
  8. Tishsha

    HI I've read you article and its full of valuable information. I may be going through a divorce and wanted to know should I get my doctorate degree changed to my maiden last name? Before I graduated I thought I should have gotten it hyphenated for this very reason but didn't. I really don't want his last name anymore but wonder does it really matter on this one degree. I do have a few peer publications but not published and people who count know me by both names. If I ever get remarried it will not matter because my maiden name will always be my maiden name. Your wise advice counts. Thank you in advance

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Tishsha. The longer you wait to change your name, the more professional history will be established in your married name. Even if you decide not to change it, you can request the judge restore your maiden name during divorce proceedings. When your divorce is finalized, you can use your divorce decree with restored name to go back to your maiden.

      If you do intend to change your name on your degree, you'll have to inquire if they require official documentation citing a new name change or if it can be done without such formalities.

      Reply
  9. Riya

    Hi I am Riya… I need to ask that I have changed my surname from Riya Sultana to Riya Sheikh after my matric examination and my H.S marksheet bears my new name. As I am going to abroad for my further studies so will I have to face some unwanted situation regarding the same!
    P.s: My birth certificate and Matric exam marksheet bears my old name
    Kindly help me!

    Reply
  10. Dara

    I wish to add a middle name to my name. Part of my academic certificates are from universities outside of the US and part of it are within. Will the addition of a middle name require me to incorporate that change in all of the documents for job and higher education? Please note that the first and last name will be the same as it is today.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Dara. That would be up to each institution or employer, but it can be easily explained. You can append a document explaining the name difference. Since you're just adding a middle name and not removing or changing a name, it's unlikely to cause confusion or even be noticeable.

      Reply
  11. John

    Transgender students can have their names changed due to FERPA. It is both misleading and a violation of medical privacy to have their birthname on documents they will be using for their jobs. (Diploma, degrees, certifications, ect.)

    Reply
  12. Brenda

    Hi, I legally changed my first name a few years ago and have a diploma with my old name. Can I change it on my diploma? And where do I go to change it?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I change it on my diploma? And where do I go to change it?

      You'll have to contact the school that issued the diploma and provide them document validating the name change (e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order).

      Reply
  13. Keyera Lee

    My maiden last name is Lee. When I get married I'll be Mrs Brison Now my question is when I become a doctor can I use my madien last name for only professional use?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Keyera. Your state's licensing board determines that. Your situation is typically handled by filing a fictitious name permit for a modest fee.

      Reply
  14. Khadijat

    Hello, my name is khadijat, from Nigeria. Proposing for a master degree course in Canada, I jst got married, done my marriage certificate, published it and affidavit do I still need to change my name on my b.sc degree? Or would I have issue with my name

    Reply
  15. busie

    im married now my id change to my second name but all my certificates, drivers licence , bank account, clothing account still on my maiden surname i don't want to change it i also want to apply for the job what can i do

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Busie. If you've changed your name with SSA and nothing else, then you'll have to juggle a name mismatch. Eventually your driver's license will have to match.

      If you've changed your name on your driver's license but not your social security card, there's still a name mismatch, but it's on the state level and not federal. That may be less problematic, but can still be a hassle to maneuver.

      Keep in mind, when you apply for a job, background checks may be ran. Some are ran against the social security number, while others are not.

      Reply
  16. Kingsley

    I wrote Jamb with just my Sure and First name. Same with which I got admission into a university. Am now in my finals, how can I possibly add my middle name to reflect on my certificate?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kingsley. You'll have to take that up with your school, assuming you can provide sufficient identity documentation to validate the modification.

      Reply
  17. yonela

    Im yonela njanja who was using a surname of madikizela whn i was doing my matric .so the problem is that my mother left me whn i was young with out Id so my Aunt decided to change my surname as i usd her njanja now i do hv Id so want to change my surname in to ma certificate …how can i do plz

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Yonela. The office that recorded the marriage certificate is where you must go to get it changed. Having said that, changing your surname on a marriage certificate is typically only allowed for typographical errors.

      The marriage certificate is a historical document. A public record. Unless there's a proven error or court order requiring it be modified, the certificate cannot be changed.

      Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mary. You'll have to contact your school regarding their procedures and required documentation.

      Reply
  18. Jessica

    I’m going through pharmacy technician school with my maiden name because I have yet to change my last name since married. I would like to have my certificate in my married name but I don’t want to wait to start school while my name is being changed ..

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jessica. Unless you're going to receive your certificate soon, changing it early gets it out of the way. Alternatively, you can wait until after you've received your certificate to request a modification and reissue. You may want to contact your school to determine procedures and turnaround times.

      Reply
  19. Apples

    I'm getting married before I graduate, and I'm planning on having my last name hyphenated. Would it be possible for me to only have my maiden name on my degree?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would it be possible for me to only have my maiden name on my degree?

      That's up to your school, but I doubt it would be a problem.

      Reply
  20. amy

    My former married name is printed on my law school diploma. I went through a really painful divorce and it is so frustrating — several times a month, my (mostly older, w/out a filter;) clients ask me if I got married, is that my maiden name etc. It's awkward at best, painful at worst. It does feel private, and I finally took my law school diploma down. I was able to get it changed with no problem at all and no questions asked at another school for another degree, and on my state bar certificate.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on convincing a small school to change this? I am willing to wait 'til they print new diplomas, I'm willing to pay whatever it costs… I have been purely honest with them — my ex was abusive, having to discuss my name change with my clients is unprofessional and painful and COMPLETELY different from just saying "yeah that was my maiden name." I wish I could display my diploma that I worked SO HARD for. I hate to bring up federal law but…considering it!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Amy. I don't see why any school would have a problem updating your documents if you have a sufficient supporting document (e.g., divorce decree with name restoration order) to justify it.

      Reply
  21. Eva

    is there an international office in europe where one can go and change a name?

    Reply
  22. Dymple Taylor

    My husband to be just found out that his name is different on his Birth certificate than the name he has used his whole life. What effect would this have on our Future? Now he was born in Oklahoma in 1935, can we still get married and change legal documents. So many questions.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Dymple. This wouldn't have any impact on your getting married.

      Reply
  23. Eva metcalf

    A Child goes to school all her life at this school and with the same name till gradations and at the ceremony she had them change it to another last name the ex wife and child told the father it wasn't legal yet. Can a school do this.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Eva. In your question, it's not wholly clear to me who requested the name change. If the student was a legal adult, only she "should" have the authority to request a name change on her documents, but it's not as though any particular educational institution is required to abide by a set of standard rules the way an SSA or DMV office would.

      Reply
  24. Alessia Arcuri

    Please, I would immensely appreciate it if you can help me…

    I was born in El Salvador (Central America). My dad was Italian from birth. I have both Italian and Salvadorean citizenships. I studied and obtained a bachelors degree in El Salvador.

    I married an American. I live in Texas. Now it’s the time where I have applied for naturalization. I might become a U.S. citizen pretty soon. I will be asked if I want to change my name…well, I never liked my name so my answer will be yes.

    I got transferred and validated this bachelors degree and work now as a teacher. I have a state certification (for teaching) with my name from birth, as well as my social security, passport, green card.

    I have only used my maiden name for everything as I was told I can change my name only at naturalization time, where I can decide of just adding my husbands last name or taking his and getting rid of my last name or get a complete new first and middle name and taking his last name as mine and getting read of mine (this last option is what I would like to do, get a new first name, new middle name and take his last name as mine).

    So I want a complete name but with the last name of my husband. Please, let me know if this is possible, I will go to the Italian consulate to find out about the Italian citizenship issue and also contact my university in El Salvador.

    How could I get it changed like that in Texas? Do I have to go to court, would they likely accept it or will it be under approval, the reason is I simply never liked the first and middle name I was born with. Thank you very much!

    Reply
    1. Alessia Arcuri

      I would also like to know if there would be any risk of totally losing my bachelors in the US. Do you know if just by presenting my new name naturalization certificate issued through USCIS and a judge would be enough to present it at the entity where I got my bachelor transferred into the us???? So they can revalidate it or have you heard that people have to start a process 8n their country of origin through the US embassy there before getting it validated here. Please let me know if there is the risk of jeopardizing and loosing my bachelors. Thank you

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Hi Alessia. You won't lose your bachelors just because you changed your name. You'll have to contact the institution that issued your degree about their internal name change procedure.

        Reply
    2. Valera

      So I want a complete name but with the last name of my husband. Please, let me know if this is possible

      Yes, it can be done as part of the naturalization process.

      How could I get it changed like that in Texas?

      After you update your name with the social security administration, you can change it in Texas as any other married person would.

      Do I have to go to court, would they likely accept it or will it be under approval

      You won't have to go to court.

      Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *