If you need a copy of your original high school diploma to further your studies, apply for a job, or put it on display, you’re not alone.
Almost 30 million diplomas were handed out in the last ten years. That’s a lot of paper floating around that can be destroyed, lost, stolen, or misplaced.
But there is no need to worry. If you can’t find your original diploma, you can easily get a replacement!
I’ll walk you through the whole process.
Do you need a diploma or a transcript?
Before we start, you need to know that most recruiters actually want to see your high school transcript, which is the record of your academic performance.
It is the transcript that proves you completed high school, not the diploma.
Anyone can fake a diploma, but not an officially signed and sealed school transcript!
Even if your school district does not issue replacement diplomas, they are required to offer a transcript and/or letter of verification to confirm where and when you attended high school.
Now that this point is clear, here’s how to get a copy of your high school diploma (or transcript).
Step 1: Contact the right person
Many public schools and school districts have a website containing information on how to get a copy of your diploma (and transcript).
They get requests like this all the time!
The process is usually quick and easy. However, there are some exceptions:
- Recent graduate: If you graduated within the last two years, contact your high school’s registrar’s office.
- Older graduate: If you graduated more than two years ago, you might need to contact the school system’s central offices or the district office.
- If you moved away: Find your high school’s address and phone number on the online Directory of Schools or the American School Directory.
- Can I get a copy of my lost high school diploma if I went to a private school? Yes. The first step is to search for your private high school on the National Center for Education Statistics page for private schools. All schools are required to have the contact information of someone who can help you.
- It is impossible to access the website (error 404 or website not found): If you can’t find your school or district website, you can contact your high school by email, phone, or visit and ask someone at the school’s main office.
- If your school district no longer exists: If you still cannot contact your school district, this might mean that your district no longer exists. Contact the Department of Education in the state you attended high school to guide you in the right direction.
Takeaway: If you can’t contact your high school to replace your diploma, you have other options.
Step 2: Send your request
Now, it’s time to ask for your high school diploma (or transcript).
Each school or school district has its own set of rules and requirements.
For instance, some schools only process mailed written requests. The request may take several weeks to process, so apply as soon as possible.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Request letter: Some schools will ask for a request letter. Provide your full name as shown on your school records, any maiden name used during your schooling, dates of attendance or when you graduated, your date of birth, address and phone number, and your signature.
- School property: If you need to return or pay for any school property, pay the cost to get your diploma.
- Official identification: You may be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license, passport, government-supplied photo identification, or social security number.
- Remote requests: For a request online or by phone, you will need to mail or fax a written request with your name, social security number, the address where you want your diploma sent, your signature, and your graduation date.
- Replacement fee: You may have to pay a fee, so be ready with cash or a paper check. The fee for a new diploma or transcript can range anywhere from $5 to $35, depending on the school.
Under FERPA regulations, a written request is required to eliminate fraud and identity theft. An online application for a replacement diploma is often a PDF document that can be printed, filled out by hand, and then mailed to the school registrar.
Note that your new diploma may not be the same as your old diploma. The design, signature, and so on may be different.
Takeaway: Prepare the requirements before requesting a replacement high school diploma.
Step 3: Speed it up
It should only take a few days, or a few weeks at most, to get your diploma.
If necessary, ask your school if it’s possible for them to speed up the process and meet your deadline. You can also ask how much it would cost to have your replacement diploma or sealed transcript delivered by fast courier services 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
- Don’t open a sealed transcript: If your high school 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.
- Please don’t provide a fake diploma: While it may be tempting, do not buy a phony or forged high school diploma. It’s illegal in many cases, so you can get fired or expelled. It’s just not worth the risk.
- Please don’t lose your replacement diploma: When you have a copy of your high school diploma, keep it in a safe place. Print some copies, make digital copies, and save the copies in different places in case you ever need them in the future.
Here’s a recap of the article:
- If you can’t find your original diploma, you can easily get a replacement.
- It is the transcript that proves you completed high school, not the diploma.
- If you don’t have your high school diploma, ask if you can submit a high school transcript instead.
- If you can’t contact your high school, try the other options listed here.
- Before you request your replacement high school diploma, prepare all the requirements.
- If you have issues about getting a replacement high school diploma, ask again, and ask nicely.
- 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 high school, and don’t lose your replacement diploma.
Frequently asked questions
- How long do high school keep a record of my transcripts? As mentioned in this article, transcripts are kept for an indefinite amount of time. Most states require that records be kept forever.
- Can I get a high school diploma from my online school? As long as your online high school is accredited, you can find it on the NCES search engine (as mentioned above) and contact them to get a copy of your high school diploma.
- Is it possible to get a fake diploma from a fake college? No, it is illegal to fake a diploma.
- I also have lost my college diploma, how can I get it back? Follow the instructions from this article to get your diploma back.