Preferred First Name (and Legal First Name)

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

Entering Your Preferred First Name (Optional)

To enter or update your preferred first name, students can do so at any time by logging into ESTHER, navigating to the new interface, and clicking on the Personal Information box.

Step-by-step instructions can be found at Updating Personal Information.

Please note: Students can enter or update their preferred first name regardless of whether or not they have legally changed their name. Electing to use a preferred first name does not change your legal first 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 first name (example: Joe instead of Joseph)
  • A chosen American first name (example: Wendy instead of Haiyan)
  • A first name to which you are in the process of legally changing
  • A first 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 First Name Is Used

Preferred first names are used in most of Rice's internal systems and external lists. The university will maintain a record of the student's legal name which will be used when required by university business, or legal need. When required by law, regulation, or business need, external reporting of your name will be your legal name. A student's name, including both the preferred and legal first name, is considered to be directory information under FERPA. (Please see Keeping Your Legal Name Private below.)

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 Preferred First Name is Used

  • Rice University ID Card (please see Changing Your Rice University ID Card below)
  • Canvas (the university’s Learning Management System)
  • Course Rosters, Waitlist Rosters, and Grade Rosters (in ESTHER)
  • Degree Works
  • Navigate
  • Online Directory Listing at (unless you withhold your directory information via ESTHER)
  • Unofficial Academic Transcripts (in ESTHER)
  • 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.

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

Keeping Your Legal First Name Private

Under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, directory information may be disclosed to the public. At Rice, FERPA directory information includes, but is not limited to, the student's preferred first name and entire legal name. Please note that FERPA directory information is different from an online directory search, such as on While Rice may include any and all FERPA directory information in an online list, we do not do so as a business practice.

Rather, Rice displays a student's preferred first name in the online directory, along with some other limited FERPA directory information. 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) without your written consent. 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 small replacement fee. Rice IDs are maintained by the Identification Office, operated by and housed within the Rice University Police Department near the football stadium.

Changing Your Legal First or Last Name

Students who wish to change their legal first or last 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 First Name) FAQs

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