Help! My College Closed and My Diploma Has My Old Name On It!

Question: I graduated from Heald College (unfortunately), just before they lost their accreditation. And I did acquire a degree. However I have since changed my name.  I was wondering if I am fully out of luck here in getting my corrected name on my Degree. Because I cannot get a position with the name ON my degree. If so, are there any other suggestions?

There are two separate but intersecting issues here. The first is the name change, and you are far from alone. A lot of former college students … mostly women but also men … will spend much of their adult lives using a different name than the one on their transcript and diploma. Most commonly this change is made due to marriage, sometimes due to divorce, and occasionally for a range of other reasons. From Cassius Clay to Caitlyn Jenner, there are many folks who have altered or abandoned the name they used in their teens and twenties.

So at a typical college, there is usually a straightforward name-change process in place, although some schools make it far easier than others. Alumni who want a new name on their records usually must submit documents that might include a drivers’ or marriage license, a passport, divorce decree, etc. to the registrar. Colleges can sometimes be persnickety when the name amendment was made for non-traditional reasons, such as a gender change, and they might demand documentation from a court. Yet ordinarily there are minimal hoops that any registrar will expect ex-students to jump through.

BUT … that’s when there IS a registrar in the first place. When a college has closed, as yours has, you’re not completely out of luck but the name-change process can be trickier. Graduates of Heald College, like you, can request a transcript through the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education  by submitting the form that you’ll find here.  If you have official confirmation of your new name (such as the documents named above … marriage license, divorce decree, etc.), you can try submitting a copy of it along with the transcript request form and ask the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education to update your records.

If that doesn’t work, you can simply submit the documents that show the name on your college records (transcript, diploma) to your prospective employers along with proof that the you with the old name is the same person as the you with the new one.  If you didn’t change your name because of marriage or divorce and have no official legal proof of the change, you may have to go through your local courts to validate your new identity. You can almost always locate the appropriate forms online if you look under your home state’s government Web site. For instance, if you live in California, you will probably find all the information and materials you need right here:   If you did not change your name to avoid debt or criminal charges, it’s a pretty straightforward process to make the change legal.

You can also try asking a Notary Public to notarize a document that says something like, “Jane Smith is also known as Janet Jones.” The Notary may ask for corroboration that’s as simple as a letter from two people who know you well (e.g., a parent and a sibling … not a senator and a judge!) affirming that you have used both names. Talk to the handiest Notary (perhaps at your bank?) to see if that’s something that he or she can do.

Finally, if you have any official document with your new name and Social Security number on it as well as an official document with your old college name and the identical SS number on it, most employers will accept this as proof that you are the same person whose name is on your school records.

Bottom line: Employers are accustomed to reviewing applications from candidates whose current names don’t match their college names. Thus, although your college no longer exists, you shouldn’t have to worry that you can’t land a job because of the discrepancy between your former name and your present one; you just may have to work a little harder to verify it.

If this doesn’t answer your question, write back and tell me more about your name change. If there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., you are a victim of domestic violence and are wary of a public, formal name change), we’ll keep navigating this moniker maze.

(posted 10/7/2016)

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