Preferred First Name (and Legal Name)

Rice University recognizes that students may choose to use a preferred first name other than their legal name to identify themselves. The university allows a student to submit a preferred first name that will appear with or in place of the student's legal name in certain university-related records.

Entering Your Preferred First Name (Optional)

To set or update your preferred first name, students should first log into ESTHER. At the Main Menu, select Personal Information and follow the prompts to Preferred First Name. Step-by-step instructions can be found at Updating Personal Information. Students can enter or update their preferred first name at any time within ESTHER, regardless of whether or not they have legally changed their name. Electing to use a preferred name will not change your legal name.

Acceptable Uses of Preferred First Names

Acceptable uses of preferred first names include, but are not limited to:

  • A middle name instead of first name
  • An abbreviated name (Joe instead of Joseph)
  • A chosen American name (Wendy instead of Haiyan)
  • A name to which you are in the process of legally changing
  • A name that better represents your gender identity

The university reserves the right to remove any preferred first name that is deemed to be inappropriate, derogatory or misrepresentative (e.g., is being used in an attempt to avoid legal obligations or confuse one's identity with that of another). Those who intentionally misuse the preferred first name option may be subject to disciplinary action.

Places Where Preferred and/or Legal Name Is Used

Preferred first names that differ from an individual's legal first name will be used solely for Rice's internal systems. The university shall maintain a record of the student's legal name which will be used when required by university business or legal need. All external reporting of your name must, by law, use your legal name. A student's name, including both the preferred and legal first name, is considered to be directory information. Students should use their legal name when conducting university business.

The university is working to expand the use of preferred first names across its systems. We will continue to update these lists as modifications are made.

Places Where Legal First Name Must be Used

  • Official Academic Transcripts
  • Official Enrollment and Degree Verification Requests
  • Financial Aid
  • Student Accounts Receivable
  • International Students Status
  • Student Employee/Payroll Information

Places Where Preferred First Name is Used

  • Rice University ID Card (please see Changing Your Rice University ID Card below)
  • COMING SOON: Unofficial Academic Transcripts (in ESTHER)
  • Course Rosters, Waitlist Rosters, and Grade Rosters (in ESTHER)
  • Degree Works
  • Canvas
  • Online Directory Listing at (unless you withhold your directory information via ESTHER. Please see Keeping Your Legal Name Private below)
  • Rice University Diplomas (when students formally apply for graduation, they are given the chance to provide the name to appear on the diploma). More information on the Application for Degree process can be found at Degree Application.

Keeping Your Legal Name Private

Under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, directory information may be disclosed to the public. At Rice, directory information includes, but is not limited to, the student's preferred first name and entire legal name. A student who does not want to be included in the online directory can withhold their directory information via ESTHER.

It is important to know that withholding directory information means that you will not be listed in the online directory and the university cannot confirm your student status (e.g., for the purposes of insurance verifications, graduation application, or potential employment). For information and step-by-step instructions as to how to withhold your directory information via ESTHER, please see the FERPA Student FAQ, "How do I withhold my directory information?"

Changing Your Rice University ID Card

Rice University ID Cards display the preferred first name on the front of the Rice ID. Rice community members (including faculty and staff, as well as students) may request a new, replacement ID card, for a $10 replacement fee. Rice IDs are maintained by the Identification Office, operated by and housed within the Rice University Police Department near the football stadium. Note: For identity verification purposes, students should use their legal name. To facilitate this, the full legal name (including legal first name) is printed on the back of the Rice ID card.

Changing Your Legal Name

Students who wish to change their legal name must supply supporting legal documentation and complete the Biographical and Demographical Update Form for submission to the Office of the Registrar. More information can be found at Updating Personal Information.

Preferred First Name (and Legal Name) FAQs

More information on this can be found on the FAQs page.