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I will soon be finishing my undergraduate degree. My university has requested my "preferred name" to display on the diploma. I think it would be funny to submit "[my name], King of the Rats". I also intend to apply to law school within the next year. I have 2 questions:

  1. Are diplomas submitted in law/graduate school applications, or just records containing GPA and the like?
  2. If yes, is it a real concern that doing this might hurt my prospects? I personally feel it is a harmless bit of self expression, but I could see the possibility that a recruiter considers it a sign that I'm not "serious".
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    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 25 at 14:39
  • "bad idea" it's pretty much the definition of "silly" isn't it?
    – Jasen
    Apr 27 at 3:24

14 Answers 14

86

Yes, this is a bad idea.

For 1): yes you will probably need to submit diplomas. Here's an example from Harvard Law school. They want:

  • Online application form
  • CV/Résumé
  • Personal statement, parts (A) and (B)
  • Transcript(s) (including diplomas for all degrees that have been received)
  • Recommendations (at least two)
  • Official TOEFL report (if applicable; please note that we do not accept MyBest™ TOEFL score reports)*
  • Financial Aid application (if applicable)
  • Application fee of US$85**

For 2): when you go to interviews the interviewer will, by default, assume you're both being serious & on your best behavior. After all, you are trying to impress them. Calling yourself King of the Rats is at best humorous and at worst a death sentence to your application. Humor does not translate well across cultures or across words, and furthermore, humor does not usually get you jobs. Take a law firm that's looking to hire a lawyer. Will they take a lawyer who's funny, or one who's good at law? Even if both candidates are good at law, will they take a lawyer who's funny, or one who can project a professional image to clients?

Your diploma is worth thousands of dollars (possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars), plus several years of time. Don't put something silly on it.

5
  • 2
    I know that you're using the example illustratively, but it's not a good one. Almost nobody graduates law school ready to practice and the ones who are do not need to show one's diploma. In essence, a law school diploma is performative and I didn't even pick up my diploma since I was in trial that day - my state had limited practice licenses and I obviously passed my classes. Your diploma at law school really doesn't say all that much. Your transcript might, but I actually never had to show that either to an employer, just the bar association, and you can't put "king of the rats" on that.
    – Jim Zhou
    Apr 24 at 13:11
  • 1
    @JimZhou I didn't study law, so if you did and know the field's practices better than me, feel free to edit this answer.
    – Allure
    Apr 24 at 13:58
  • 3
    I'm not in the law field, but I'd also find it surprising if a law firm looked at anything from your undergraduate college. They'll just care about how you did at law school.
    – Barmar
    Apr 24 at 14:28
  • 33
    Humor does not translate well across cultures or across words --- not being a native speaker of English, I am still processing the "King of the Rats" trying to understand if this is supposed to be humous (I do not have the reference then), or something more philosophical. If I had OP in front of me during an interview, these thoughts would take all my CPU power.
    – WoJ
    Apr 24 at 18:20
  • 8
    @WoJ: I believe it's supposed to be humorous, but it's not a reference to anything; it's just absurd, which some people find funny.
    – jwodder
    Apr 25 at 2:07
63

My university has requested my "preferred name" to display on the diploma. I think it would be funny to submit "[my name], King of the Rats".

You likely exaggerate the latitude that the university gives you in choosing your name. What is meant is mostly related to spelling, including possible middle names, and other small nuances where they would not like to do a mistake. In other words, the University may well demand that you specify a more conventional name... unless you can confirm that you are legally the King of the Rats.

As an example, foreigners coming to the US from abroad may have their names spelled differently in the documents issued by their countries and by the US immigration authorities, due to the use of different transliteration systems - this is particularly common for Asians, but also for countries using other scripts (Cyrillic, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew), accentuated scripts (Polish, French, German) or simply different ways to designate a sound (e.g., French ou usually corresponds to English u: Habsbourg/habsburg).

Some names may sound odd in English or lead to confusion - e.g., I have heard of somebody named Jane (pronounced Yahneh), who began spelling their name as Jané to avoid confusion.

Another case (brought up in the comments) is the order of names: Name Surname or Surname Name, where conventions differ by country. E.g., Édouard Philippe vs. Philippe Édouard (a former French prime-minister) where both words can be a name and a surname (not uncommon in France.)

15
  • 3
    There used to be times when the name being put on a Latin diploma was Latinized as well. E.g., upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/… Apr 24 at 13:09
  • 41
    There are risks that OP is seen as unserious or unfunny as others point out, but I think this answer highlights a more important risk which is that OP is seen as insensitive to the people who need to actually use this field for something legitimate, like the reasons given in this post. "Oh, you want to be known by a name different than the one printed on your passport? Well, then, I guess I'm King of the Rats" gives quite a rude message.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 24 at 17:39
  • 4
    I had two students, brother and sister, in my class. They did not appear on my list as having the same surname: one was "Name Surname" and the other was "Surname Name". I suspect their applications were handled by different people, and one of them wasn't aware of the Chinese naming format.
    – Davidmh
    Apr 25 at 9:24
  • 3
    Another example: In Germany you can have multiple given names, and while the one by which you go in everyday life ("Rufname") usually is the first given name, people can choose otherwise. I had a fellow student, David, and when it came handing out diplomas - which typically had all given names on them - lecturers always searched for Thomas, because that was the first given name, while his parents had decided that he should go by the second name.
    – Sabine
    Apr 25 at 9:30
  • 5
    To clarify on this point, the school registrar's office has explicitly affirmed their willingness to print a diploma with this name.
    – je je
    Apr 26 at 3:50
40

In addition to the objections in the other answers: ask yourself how long the joke is going to stay funny. I made some weird comments in my high school yearbook that seemed funny at the time, but twenty years later, they just make me cringe.

28

Yes, it's a terrible idea. I would not hire someone who is willing to joke with an official document. I prefer to work with serious and professional individuals.

Consider that in a few years, you might no longer find this funny. What would you do then? Do you think it's worth the potential headache?

Just don't do it.

21

You may wish to use your diploma in the future for legal purposes. E.g., work permit, immigration or hiring rules may require a diploma.

Besides making a bad impression, your idea could lead to your diploma being rejected in this context.

2
  • 1
    Also you might find your opponent in a court case referring to it "in a legal context" to demonstrate that you're an arsehole. You might in fact find one at some point who digs up your OP question... Apr 25 at 7:19
  • 1
    It might make it hard to prove its actually your diploma - unless your passport also has "King of Rats". Apr 26 at 14:14
18

Bad idea. A diploma is not something that is meant to be funny. It is an official and professional document. At best, your example would signal a lack of maturity and disdain for official procedures. Now, if you plan a career as a stand up comedian, then by all means go ahead, since SNL will probably never ask for your diploma. But in all other cases ...

Also, when they asked you what to put on the diploma, I doubt they meant any random blurb of text. Back in the days it used to be your official name, or the whole thing would be invalid to begin with.

Do your future self a favor and err on the side of boring here.

17

As many others have said, don't do that. Even if the college were willing to do you such a 'favor', the decision would come back to bite you.

If you truly want such a document (to hang in your home office or some such), you can scan your real diploma and edit the change to your name. It will look real enough for a quick chuckle, but won't effect you when you need to use your real diploma.

Also, there are likely places you can order from for a joke diploma that could satisfy your funny bone.

2
  • 5
    This is a helpful answer going far to the need wanting satisfaction in a fairly mature manner.
    – civitas
    Apr 24 at 23:26
  • Agreed - speaking as someone who once entered my religon as "Sufi" on a census form . . . This mad act is now a matter of public record.
    – Trunk
    Apr 26 at 18:10
6

There are strong arguments for presenting CVs without a photo of the person, to avoid bias, prejudice and non-relevant informations.

What is the first-impression that a funny nickname can have on a written diploma?

Bonus disclaimer: I would find "Tom "king of the rats" Sawyer" funny and "J. Paul "Paulie Jr." Getty " offensive , but I am neither a lawyer nor a big client of lawyers, so go figure ...

0
6

Is it a bad idea? Yes. If you want another reason, in addition to the excellent ones that others have given, your diploma can look like test data.

I have sometimes created demo or test output from software including silly names, because I didn't want anyone to mistake it for real data. For example, I wanted to be absolutely clear that I wasn't divulging actual patient data, so I might attribute that data to a patient named "Miss Carriage" or "N O Body-Home". Since I'm not the only programmer who does this, I suspect that it leads people to assume (unconsciously) that silly name implies fake certificate.

9
  • 1
    what do you mean? I am simply pointing out that there are a number of 2falsehoods programmers believe about names" similar to "Falsehoods programmers believe about addresses" gist.github.com/almereyda/85fa289bfc668777fe3619298bbf0886
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 25 at 9:51
  • 2
    I do not understand your point, but I feel you are taking things a tad too personally.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 25 at 10:16
  • 3
    @EarlGrey That was actually the article that started off the trend, not "...believe about addresses": kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/… There's a compilation of "Falsehoods programmers believe..." pages here: github.com/kdeldycke/awesome-falsehood
    – Idran
    Apr 25 at 13:34
  • 1
    @SimonCrase "Since I'm not the only programmer who does this" I was simply pointing out this, and pointing out how names are subjects of a lot of (wrong) assumptions from the programmers. This does not make your answer less true or less useful, because you are describing what is happening.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 26 at 4:56
  • 1
    @SimonCrase There is a (small) risk that your fake name corresponds to a real person.
    – gerrit
    Apr 26 at 8:12
6

The place I work recently rejected an otherwise promising candidate for a job, because of a 'funny' Github name.
The explained reason was "You should expect some level of seriousness when applying for a job!"
So just to chime in: Don't do that. It only imply a risk, no gain whatsoever.
And you should never take a risk, if there's no gain.

2
  • 5
    I sure hope that wasn't the primary rejection reason
    – Luc
    Apr 25 at 18:22
  • 1
    #Luc It was. But on the other hand, there were over hundred applications for one job, so there probably was some kind of hard weeding first... Apr 26 at 7:06
2

Is putting a silly name on a diploma a bad idea?

Yes, with conditions.

If it is a military law school then any aka might be viewed as having a lack of self confidence in your given name, and thus a potential lack of confidence elsewhere, not a good thing for a military lawyer. But, maybe "Devil Dog" might work for a JAG position.

If you are planning to be a divorce lawyer then maybe "Get It All" might draw in more clients.

Generally, yes it is not a good idea. But that depends upon where you intend to be in the law field.

Are diplomas submitted in law/graduate school applications, or just records containing GPA and the like?

In my experience, both with conditions. The more arrogant and disdainful for the masses of common folk that a department chair is, the more that they might request up front or before the interview a full disclosure of transcripts of classes and grades (sent to them directly from the attended colleges). Some might be casual but still request these records to be sent to them from previous colleges that you attended. Some might just request that the attended colleges send them a single sheet copy of your graduation diploma. Hope for the easiest, prepare for the not so easy. It does not stop there. I once applied for a master's level degree program and they required that I attend two (2) weeks of pre-approval classes wherein the students were required to attain and maintain a 4.0 average for that class before being admitted into the program. I once applied for a doctorate program which required the applicants to take an hours-long computer software based psychological evaluation. Be prepared. Know ahead of time what you will tolerate and have other degree/school/university options already researched and considered.

"I personally feel it is a harmless bit of self expression"

There are consequences to all actions.

If you are seen as silly or a clown once, by one person, then the average dimwit (which seems to be average in itself) person, might in their desire to play along, long after the joke, verbally assault you to get more laughs, thus transferring their actions to other mentally challenged persons viewing the event. This can snow-ball quickly. This can last for the rest of a person's life. It should be stopped with all necessary (and in case some dimwit needs it to be said, "legal") force. This seems to be common among humans and even among some animals. Avoid being perceived as silly.

4
  • "If it is a military law school " interesting insights. As a side note, what you write is true,but these psycho-attitudinal tests often are anedoctically/empirically-based and not scientifically-based. I know that religious schools had similar beliefs in psycho-attitudinal tests, for example "draw something from teh world in this box" and if you drew mountains, they would categorize you as a "loner, afraid of opening up, not suitable for leadership" . John Hunt with his 400 men expedition to Mt. Everest is still laughing ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_British_Mount_Everest_expedition )
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 25 at 11:02
  • @EarlGrey, If I recall your comment, and if I am requested by such to draw something from the world, I might line-draw a picture with two hills, a house on the hill to the left, and 4 stick figures on it. One person is on the left walking down the hill away from the house. The next person is laying down in the house. The next person is running up the hill from the right side. The next person is on the top of the other hill.
    – Line Item
    Apr 25 at 19:39
  • @EarlGrey, continuing: If they ask what this means, I can say of the person in the house, "He is sleeping thus Himalayan". Then I can say of the person on the right of the house, "He is running up the hill thus Him a Russian." Then I can say of the person on the furthest to the left, "Him a Finnish." then I can say of the person on the other hill, "Him a whatever from a group that you do not like, because he is on the wrong hill." But, they have to ask ME for the interpretation.
    – Line Item
    Apr 25 at 19:39
  • You do not need to worry, they never ask you for your drawings'meaning. Not even to Picasso about the meaning of Guernica!
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 25 at 20:02
1

Prefereed name is for a alternative version of your given name, or an alternative given name (if you were given more than one name). "Rick", or "Dick" instead of "Richard". "Bob" instead of "Roberto" etc.

Now if Benjamin Dover, prefers to be known as "Ben", or Mikhail Hunt prefers "Mike" then I suspect that would pass review, but applying fictional titles and honorifics is probably not going to fly.

1

Don't do that. I've needed my diplomas to apply to jobs and I have them on LinkedIn. You might hypothetically hang them somewhere. They make a good backdrop for a serious website or social media account. You might like to have them later. I really doubt that King of the Rats would stick well as a professional looking thing to put on a LinkedIn profile, if you find that for some reason people need additional verification of your credentials (perhaps because you are named King of the Rats). In my case it is because I use a preferred name.

0

A general answer to the titular question calls for a flowchart.

  1. A name is something that you go by. Do you actually go by "King of the Rats"?
    • If not, the question of whether the name is "silly" is immaterial. Don't give as a "preferred name" something that isn't your name.
    • If so, continue to 2.
  2. Consider: in what contexts do you use this name? In what contexts will you use your academic qualification / diploma? What's the overlap?
    • If you would use that name in all circumstances you'd need the diploma, skip to 4.
    • If you would not use that name in any circumstances you'd need the diploma, don't use it.
    • If there's partial overlap, continue to 3.
  3. Do you have another name that better matches the contexts you'd need the diploma in?
    • If so, consider using that name (go to 2).
    • If not, continue to 4.
  4. Is this name likely to cause problems for you, in the contexts where you'd need your diploma? (Here's where a name being "silly" might factor in.) Don't expect to see all potential problems straight away, and make sure to read up about other people's experiences.
    • If so, reconsider 3. If you're still here after that, continue to 5.
    • If not, go ahead and use that name.
  5. Is your integrity / self-expression / etc. worth the problems your name might cause you?
    • If so, use that name, and prepare for the consequences.
    • If not, consider choosing a new name. If you can, seek advice specific to your situation.

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