Degree In Sight

The decision to change one's name upon marriage may be something graduate students grapple with more than any other wedding decision--with the exception of whom they marry. Luckily, today's couples have many options when it comes to choosing their newlywed names.

Tanya Broesch, a developmental psychology student at Emory University, chose to take her new husband James's last name after their August wedding because she felt it symbolized the start of her new family. This traditional option is still the most popular among American brides, with 81 percent choosing to take their husband's name upon marriage, according to the American Wedding Study 2006, conducted by The Conde Nast Bridal Group. However, many graduate students say they take their husband's name for personal matters but keep their maiden name for professional use.

Karen Stamm, a behavioral science student at the University of Rhode Island, kept her maiden name mainly for professional reasons, she says. She had a publication in press at the time of her wedding and liked the fact that her maiden name was short and easily pronounceable. Some new brides--including fourth-year clinical doctoral student Kelly Anne Constant Bhatnagar--make their maiden name part of their middle name. Bhatnagar says this helped transition to her new name, though she plans to go only by "Dr. Bhatnagar" when she completes her degree.

Another popular option for newlyweds--and the one Wright State University clinical psychology student Andrea Current will go with after her October wedding--is the hyphenated name. Hyphenating, says Current, will allow her to connect her previous work and publications under her maiden name to any new work she'll do. Other couples have both partners take the new hyphenated name, and some create a hybrid last name for the bride and groom to both take. And, of course, many of the women who keep their maiden name do so to make a statement about their independent identity from their husbands.

No matter which option you choose, make sure the name you'd like to use is written on your marriage certificate, as this is the document that you'll need to legally change your name with the Social Security Administration and on your driver's license. You may also need this information when changing your name with your school and employer. Many students say that it is not necessary to change the name on your transcripts, as most schools ask for any previous names you may have used when a transcript is requested.

And be sure to budget time into your busy student schedule to make the legal switch, advises Jessica Alexander, a cognition and development student at Emory University.

"I took two days off and just ran around town changing my name at the Social Security office, DMV, bank and university," she says. "It was much more trouble than I expected."

-A. Novotney