August 10, 2012
To: All GSD Students
The GSD lottery procedure is designed to assign as many students as possible to their highest-ranked studio. A computer program is used to distribute students among studios. The lottery is supervised by the program directors and monitored by a Student Forum representative.
The lottery procedure uses a technique called 'linear programming' to find an optimum solution which minimizes 'unhappiness': the sum of assignments that are not first choice, weighted by how far from first choice they are --so a fourth choice is much more unhappy than a second choice, e.g. (This is not exactly the same as maximizing the number of first choices; although the effect is pretty much the same, a single first choice may be sacrificed for greater overall 'happiness'.) Whenever there is a tie, a random choice is made.
The number of students in each studio is constrained by the faculty member, department guidelines which specify a maximum number (usually 12) of students per studio instructor, and by expense considerations if the studio has funded travel, etc. The enrollment number for each studio may be adjusted by a small amount in iterative runs of the lottery program by the program directors in an attempt to increase first choice assignments or overall 'happiness'. The lottery software is blind to individual students' names, departments, or previous lottery results.
While there may be an advantage in certain cases to stacking your lottery choices by placing what you think will be popular studios behind your first choice, this approach is not reliable for a number of reasons. The lottery is unpredictable: your perception about which studios are popular may not be accurate. While most students get their first choice, many also get second and third choices.
THERE IS NO WAY TO BEAT THE LOTTERY.
Always list your choices in order, from 1 (most desirable) to 6 (least desirable). Never list any studio in your rankings that you do not want to take.