woman wondering where lost diploma might be

You thought you knew exactly which drawer you left it in or where your parents may have stored it after graduation, but it’s nowhere to be found: You lost your college diploma. It’s an all-too-common occurrence. The main problem is that most people don’t stop to think about how much that delicate piece of paper is actually worth.

Luckily, receiving a replacement diploma is possible. Read on to learn more about what to do if you lost your college diploma and how to get a copy of your college diploma so you can be prepared if it ever happens to you.

two female grads holding diplomas

How Much Is Your Diploma Worth?

Have you considered how much you’ve personally invested in your college education? Not just in terms of the tens of thousands of dollars you’ve paid (or that you owe in student loans) but the countless hours spent studying, the years of family sacrifice, and the blood, sweat, and tears that went into earning every grade. When you consider the true cost of your education, you’ll quickly realize something extraordinary about that slip of paper you received at graduation, it’s absolutely priceless!

This realization can make the “I lost my diploma certificate!” moment that much more stressful, but also serves as a reminder to protect your degree before the possibility of it getting lost in the shuffle. Important degrees include your high school diploma, grad school degree, associate’s, and bachelor’s. These are all professional degrees that speak to your credentials and should be framed. And did you earn a doctorate? Make sure you protect and preserve as soon as you receive it.

graduate with u of california berkeley double doc frame

Show Your College Degree Some Love

It bears repeating: Your college diploma is one of the most valuable documents you’ll ever own. It’s why you should preserve it and protect it as soon as you receive it in the mail from your higher education institution. Important paper documents like undergraduate degrees, professional certificates, master’s degrees, and community college awards can easily get lost in an apartment or office move or destroyed by mold, flooding, or a fire in your home.

Probably the most common reason people need to replace their university diplomas is due to carelessness and improper storage. Most students don’t realize that leaving their degree in its original envelope, cardboard tube, or plastic diploma holder can cause irreversible damage. Over time, the acids in these storage holders will eat away at the cellulose in your diploma, causing the delicate paper to yellow, become brittle, and eventually crack. That’s why storing your degree safely within museum-quality framing materials that meet the Library of Congress’ stringent guidelines for document preservation is key.

How to Get a Copy of Your College Diploma

No matter when or how you lost your associate of arts (AA), bachelor’s, graduate degree, or or doctoral degree, you should take steps to obtain a replacement as soon as possible. After all, degree programs take years to complete for your field of study. But how do you replace a lost college diploma? Just follow these simple steps for how to get a copy of your diploma from your alma mater.

Contact the registrar’s office at the college or university you attended.

The registrar’s office is responsible for maintaining student records and transcripts, keeping track of class schedules, and registering students for classes. One of their primary responsibilities is fulfilling all requests for diploma copies and replacements. To get in touch with the registrar’s office at your alma mater, search for their contact information on your school’s web page or call the school’s main phone number to be transferred to their department. They understand that a lost diploma happens and will be able to handle sending you a replacement diploma after a few more steps.

No one else can request a new diploma for you.

Since the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was passed in 1974, student records in the United States are protected and kept private. Family members or spouses are not permitted access to your student records; you are the only person who can officially request your academic information. However, if you’re looking to replace the diploma of a deceased alumna or alumnus, you are able to do so if you are the next of kin or the executor of the former student’s estate.

Although the specific requirements will vary according to the university, you’ll most likely need to submit a request with a photocopy of your driver’s license or passport, proof of your relationship to the deceased (such as your birth certificate or mention of your name in the obituary), the student’s death certificate, and a notarized copy of the Letter of Appointment of Executor or Power of Attorney.

closeup of hands taking money out of wallet

Expect to pay a fee.

Although every university offers copies and their rules may vary, you’ll most likely need to pay a fee to obtain a replacement diploma. The fee for a new diploma can range anywhere from $25 to $150, depending on the school and the type of degree you’re replacing. This is just another reason why it’s important to try to avoid needing a diploma replacement in the first place. Only signed and dated consent forms will be processed.

Since most schools are FERPA compliant, a signed and dated request is required when inquiring about a replacement college or graduate school diploma. This process eliminates fraud and identity theft. You can find online applications for replacement diplomas on the registrar’s office page of most school websites. This is typically a PDF that can be printed from your computer, filled out by hand, and then mailed to your alma mater’s registrar. A typical request for liberal arts colleges may include:

  • Reason for replacement diploma
  • Birth date
  • Social Security number
  • Name of college or university
  • Graduation date
  • Degree(s) earned (master of science, doctor of philosophy, etc.)
  • Current mailing address
  • A notarized sworn statement proving the diploma has been lost

The process for receiving a replacement diploma may seem cumbersome, but it’s necessary to ensure this important document is ending up in the right hands.

notary stamping diploma document

Find out if you need a notary.

Some requirements might be more inclusive or exclusive than the above requirements. You’ll most likely need to have your application request form or some of your documents notarized. Very often you can schedule an appointment with a notary public at a UPS store. Check online to find local UPS institutions that offer licensed notary public services.

Expect the process to take some time.

On average, it should take anywhere from four to six weeks, although some schools may take up to ten weeks to send out your new diploma.

Signatures may be different on your replacement diploma.

If you graduated several years ago, your replacement degree will indicate the year that you graduated but may bear the signatures of the school’s current faculty members.

smiling grad on couch with juilliard frame

Protecting Your Diploma

Once you track down your replacement diploma, don’t take any chances, frame it right away. A college diploma frame will not only guard against incidental damage but will also allow you to proudly showcase your academic achievement in your home or office! Housed in a degree frame, you’re also less likely to misplace your diploma during a move or while your items are being held in a storage facility.

You’ve taken the time to get your records in order, track down a notary public, and pay for a copy of your treasured diploma, so be sure to give it some much-needed TLC and the protection it deserves for a lifetime! Don’t take risks with cheap hobby store frames that will cause your valuable document to yellow, fade, and disintegrate over time and require you to purchase a replacement diploma at some point in the future. Instead, showcase your degree with pride in a premium, archival-quality frame that will protect it for years to come and will make for a beautiful display in the future alongside the degrees and accomplishments of other family members.

Church Hill Classics offers a beautiful selection of handcrafted styles, including our double diploma frame, which holds dual degrees. Our products feature official school names, university seals and logos, and a variety of customizable designs, like our very popular diploma frame with tassel option. Our school-specific college option offers graduate programs in embossing beneath your university name. Browse our variety of custom diploma frames now and protect this invaluable document so you don’t have to go through the hassle (and cost) of ordering a replacement diploma anytime soon!

Lucie Voves

Lucie Voves

Lucie Voves is the Founder and CEO of Church Hill Classics/diplomaframe.com, a certified woman-owned business and 12-time Inc. 5000 Award Honoree.

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