What’s In A Name: Issues Related To Your Name While Applying To Universities

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Perhaps one of the most quoted dialogues ever, is picked from Shakespeare’s genre defining love story “Romeo and Juliet”. But little did the bard know how important one’s name was when it came to GRE. Obviously he never tried applying to universities abroad.

As Asians, especially from the Indian sub continent, we are very likely to have rare and unique names that symbolize our rich heritage.

Mentioning our names correctly in our online application forms for graduate studies is extremely essential to successfully complete your forms in time. While you fill your applications, you will find, that writing your name is the very first step to complete. Many students can find some trouble here, especially if your name has initials or you have middle names. In most of the online application forms you will find that you are asked to enter your First Name, Last Name and your Title if any. This sounds simple enough for domestic applicants (US Residents) but could be your first potential hurdle in completing your applications correctly.

In the US, families have a defined way to name their children. Example: William(First Name) Jones (Family Name) or Bella(First Name) Margaret (Middle Name) Thomas (Family Name) and Daniel (first name) Nicholas (Family Name) Jr. (Title). This is pretty much the norm, without much exceptions. The situation in India and some other parts of the world is a little more complex. In India, the norms followed while naming the children depends on the region the family is from. So, if you are from parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh your name could be something like Kunwar Ajay Singh Rajput. Now, how does one figure out which part of this is the first name, last name and title?  Or we have many here with names like P.Manish Annadurai. If I were Manish I’d be quite puzzled about how to mention the ‘P’ in his name in the application. The luckier ones among us have names like Swati Pandey with a clear first name and last name.

In the Indian scenario it is very likely that your name has multiple versions in multiple places.

  • The Passport may show a blank in your last name, or it can show your initial in expanded form in place of your last name.
  • While your certificates, transcripts and degree show your name is another form.
  • Example Kunwar Ajay Singh Rajput, may use Kunwar Ajay as first name and Singh Rajput as last name for his passport, but to make life easier, he may have used only Ajay Singh while enrolling to his school and colleges. So he will essentially have two names – one as mentioned in his Passport and another as shown in his college and school documents (10th/12th mark sheets or transcripts and degree).

You may now wonder what name should we use when we have different versions of our names in various documents?

The first and most important thing to do is, check your documents to see if your name is mentioned accurately everywhere. The golden rule is to mention your name as given in the passport. If the name in your passport alone is different or incorrect, you need to get your passport re-issued. It is a very simple procedure that can be completed in 15 days or less (using tatkal services). If you have multiple names in multiple documents, we need to complete two steps before we apply:-

  • Write to the university.
  • Get a Name Affidavit made with the help of any notary public that mentions all the possible versions of your name and ascertains that it is the same person.

It is important to write to the university because each university has its own norms in resolving this issue, such as:

  • University can ask you to leave your ‘last name’ field blank.
  • University can ask you to put a symbol (- or .)
  • University can ask to put FNU- first name unknown as your first name.

If you are advised in this way, then you have nothing to worry! You know exactly how to continue. You can also get the name affidavit to be on the safe side.  A name affidavit like any other affidavit is a notarised document and looks like this: –

E-stamp for application forms

E-stamp for application forms

Notary for application forms

Notary for application forms

With proper guidance you can understand when your name can cause a problem for your application forms and when not. You may also have the advantage of understanding well in time that this is a situation to plan for. We may overlook this small detail, but it can have some serious repercussions not only when you apply to universities, but also when you book your exam dates, apply for scholarships and even after you reach the university!

Did you know that if you don’t have a last name, it could be difficult to apply for a license or get security numbers issued in the US?

It can also have direct implications on your application procedure, such as:

  • University may not be able to attach your reported scores to your application
  • University may not mark your file completed within the prescribed deadline
  • University may delay the review of your application
  • Your application may not be considered for reviewing at all

If you have anymore admission related queries, please leave your doubts in the comments below.

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A stitch in time, saves nine! So before you get down to filling your online application forms, do ensure that you have the smaller details in place, starting with your name! Happy learning with GREedge.

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15 Responses

  1. Diksha Garg says:

    Hi
    I have two questions.
    First, I have already given my GRE general exam and the name I registered was my full name, but on my passport I have only first name registered. At my test center, after a little discussion they allowed me to give the exam. Now my question is will it be a problem for me when I will apply to the universities with my passport which has just my first name while my GRE scores will have my full name? On all other documents I have full name.
    Second question is, I am yet to give GRE subject test and there also I registered with my full name, will there be any problem? Can I change my registered name on GRE website?
    Lastly, you mentioned that if I don’t have full name then I will face problems, should I get my registered name changed on passport?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Apurve says:

    Hi, I have a question. My passport has my first name and surname but all my college documents (marksheet+ degree) have only first name. I have already taken my GRE with the name mentioned on passport. Will it be a problem to have different names on passport and college documents?

  3. Ratnatulasi u says:

    My all certificates ratnatulasi u but my passport ratnatulasi uppala shell i go study in usa any problem tell please reply

  4. Atif Nawaz says:

    Hi ,

    My name is school certificates , birth certificate and Adhaar card is Atif Nawaz .
    My father use surname which is Ansari but I don’t so technically my full name is Atif Nawaz in documents that is required to make passport . I want to know how I should fill the passport application form. Should I be using Nawaz in Surname column and Atif in first name column .
    Place _ India Maharashtra.
    Kindly help.

  5. Neena says:

    Hi, I am Neena and got admitted to MS programme in Business Analytics at the University of Colorado Denver, US for Fall 2018. I submitted the application last year with the help of an agent,who uploaded the documents and filled the application on my behalf. But he made a mistake while entering my Surname. In my passport my surname is written as ‘ Shereen Prathap’ while in the application he entered my Middle name as ‘ Shereen ‘ and Last name as ‘ Prathap’. Will this be a problem for my visa and future dealing with the university?Should I need an affadavit clarifying the name change? I mailed the front page of my passport along with my application to the university. Please respond….

    • Shruti Ganesh says:

      Hi Neena,

      First of all, I would like to say, don’t worry.

      This is definitely a fixable issue.

      At this point in time, we advise you to call the university and talk to them personally about this issue because this entirely depends on how the University issues your i20 form. Some universities tend to use only initials while others may use the full names.

      If you’ve already sent an email and they haven’t responded yet, the best is to call them & talk to them.

      If the i20 issued carries your full name, then the university might require you to submit an affidavit and therefore issue a new i20.

      We hope this helps.

      Good Luck Neena!

  6. Sandeep Singh says:

    Hii, I have a question.
    My Name is Sandeep Singh.My all documents of school or college are without last name. And
    I don’t have my last name “Virdi” on my passport. So how I should fill my GRE application form because they want my last name.
    And if I fill my Name as-
    First Name- Sandeep
    Last Name – Singh
    Then, will it create a problem for me in future. I want to apply in Canada. So plzzz Help me.

  7. Tulika says:

    My name is Tulika . I don’t have a surname . how can I apply to a foreign university

  8. Madhavi says:

    My son has initials in his marks memo. Where as Aadhar, PAN and birth certificate his last name is complete. My doubt is should I have to take passport with initial in place of last name or completely expanded?

  9. Nira says:

    if your name is too long:
    like : AAAAAAAAA PPPPPPPPPPP NNNNNNNN RRRRRRRR KKKKKKKK
    they reply me in email:

    Please be informed that the system will not allow you to register the name more than 24 characters. Therefore, you may split your name and enter it into your surname field.

    You will not face any problem on the day of the exam if your complete name will be same as per your passport in the GRE registration records and only order of the name is different.

    We appreciate the opportunity to assist you. If you have additional questions, please contact our Customer Service team at (866) 473-4373 or (609) 771-7670, or visit our website at http://www.ets.org/gre. If you contact us via e-mail, please include all previous correspondence or a summary of information regarding your inquiry.

  10. Ketan Shah says:

    Hi, I’m Ketan, my father’s name has a mistake on my all BE semester mark sheets. Will it be any problem in the whole process of going to the USA- from applying to univ, getting VISA and going to the USA, if anywhere I write the correct spelling, the spelling of my father’s name on my semester mark sheet will be a problem??, all other documents have the correct spelling. only my semester marksheet have wrong spelling and as it is a minor mistake, my univ. is not issuing fresh mark sheet, there will correct on that existing marksheet by hand and they stamp on it.

  11. Ric says:

    Hi
    I have
    Surname: Abc Xyz
    Given name:
    Will that be a problem when applying for university in USA, when getting Social Security Nunber and Driving License?

  12. Lakhjeet says:

    I am going to file a study visa for Canada. I noticed that the spelling of my dad’s name is incorrect (LAKHVINDER instead of LAKHVINDRA) in my graduation degree (and semester dmc’s) is this going to be a problem and can lead to refusal? What can I do for this? This issue is only in my graduation certificates. Will an affidavit be sufficient?

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