If you need a copy of your original college diploma to further your studies, apply for a job, or to simply put it on display, you’re not alone.
More than 1 million college diplomas are awarded each year. That’s a lot of paper floating around that can be destroyed, lost, stolen, or misplaced.
But, there is no need to worry. No matter when you lost your bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. diploma, you can obtain a replacement.
Let me walk you through the process!
Do you need a diploma or a transcript?
Before we start, you need to know that most recruiters actually want to see your college transcript, which is the record of your academic performance.
It is the transcript that proves you completed a degree, not the diploma.
Even colleges that do not issue replacement diplomas are required to provide you with a transcript and/or letter of verification to confirm when you request it.
However, note that:
- Some colleges will issue duplicate diplomas upon request, but they may be clearly marked as “copy.”
- Some institutions of higher education simply refuse to issue a replacement copy of a college diploma. Instead, they provide you with letters that document your graduation and the degree conferred or certified copies of your transcripts.
Now that these points are clear, here’s what you should do to get a copy of your diploma (or transcript).
Step 1: Contact the right person
Most colleges and universities have a website containing information on how to get a copy of your diploma (and transcript).
If you graduated recently, contact the Registrar’s Office at your college.
They get requests like this all the time! The process is usually quick and easy.
However, there are some exceptions:
- Moved away: If you moved to another location, you can find your school’s address and phone number on the online Directory of US Colleges & Universities or the College Directory USA.
- Attended an accredited school: If you graduated from an accredited institution, you can find your school’s contact information at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- Website not found: If you can’t find your school or district website, contact your College Registrar or visit the AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) for help.
- School is absorbed or merged: The current school should be able to provide the records you need.
If your school has closed, you can also get your transcript. Here’s how:
- Read the guide: The U.S. Department of Education provides a guide to help you get your official transcripts.
- Search and connect: When US colleges and universities close, the Department of Education in the state you attended college provides transcripts or assigns another school to manage all transcript requests.
Key takeaway: Even if you can’t contact your college, you have other options to replace your diploma.
Step 2: Send your request
Now, it’s time to ask for your college diploma (or transcript).
Here’s what you need to know:
- Written request: Under FERPA regulations, a written request is required to eliminate fraud and identity theft. Be ready to provide:
- Your full name as shown on your school records
- Any maiden name used during your schooling
- Dates of attendance or when you graduated
- Date of birth
- Current address and phone number
- Official identification: You may be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license, passport, or government-supplied photo identification.
- Notarized affidavit: Some schools may require you to present a notarized statement or an affidavit swearing that your diploma has been misplaced, lost, or stolen.
- Damaged original: Other schools may require you to provide the damaged original college diploma, or a copy of an insurance claim for fire or flood loss.
- Request letter: If you want to send a formal letter of request and don’t know what to say, find a PDF form or a letter template or a sample letter online.
- Replacement fee: Be ready to pay from $20 to $150 to cover the cost of replacing a college diploma.
Key takeaway: Confirm what’s required and prepare all requirements before requesting a replacement college diploma.
Step 3: Speed it up
Replacing your diploma is a process that can take from four to six weeks. With busy colleges, it can take longer.
Tip: Apply for a replacement as soon as you notice that your diploma is missing so that you will have it on hand if the need arises.
You can ask the school to help you meet a deadline. You can also ask how much it would cost to have your replacement diploma or sealed transcript delivered by courier such as UPS Express, DHL, or FedEx.
Some schools, employers, or organizations may ask your school to send a sealed transcript directly to them (it is called an official transcript). The seal means that the document was not modified after it was prepared. It’s proof that the transcript comes from your school.
Takeaway: If you have a tight deadline, pay for courier service delivery.
Bonus: What you should never do
- Never open a sealed transcript: If your college provides you with a sealed transcript for your own records, do not open it if you intend to submit it to a school or employer. Once opened, it’s no longer official.
- Never provide a fake diploma: While it may be tempting, do not buy a phony or forged college diploma. It’s illegal in many cases so you can get fired or expelled. It’s just not worth the risk.
- Never lose your replacement diploma or transcript: When you receive a copy of your diploma / transcript, keep it safe. Print some copies, make digital copies, and save these in different places.
You may need to replace a lost diploma to apply for a job, a scholarship, or for further studies. If you suddenly find your college diploma is missing, here’s a recap of key points:
- You can get a replacement for a lost diploma.
- It is the transcript that proves you completed college, not the diploma.
- Ask if you can submit a college transcript instead of a diploma.
- First, contact your school. There are many ways.
- Confirm and prepare all requirements before requesting replacements.
- If you have a tight deadline, ask if you can pay for courier service delivery.
- Don’t open a sealed transcript, don’t provide a fake diploma, don’t lie about graduating college, and don’t lose your replacement diploma.