Below are general guidelines as you think about preparing your application, but please see the instructions within the application for the most up-to-date information for the fall 2023 application.
|GSD Offices Closed December 23rd – January 2nd (no email responses during this time)|
Deadlines for Fall 2023
|Jan 4, 2023||MArch, MLA, MUP, MAUD, MLAUD, MRE, DDes|
|Jan 9, 2023||MDes|
|Jan 12, 2023||MDE|
Submission time is 11:59pm Eastern Time.
- Review the academic program descriptions and prerequisites, with particular attention to the previous degree required in order to apply. Read our Admissions FAQ for more details.
- You may apply a maximum of three times to the same GSD degree program. If an applicant has been denied admission for the third time, further applications to the same program will not be considered.
- If you’d like to apply to more than one program at the same time (but only wish to enroll in one), you will need to submit a separate application and supporting materials for each program. Please indicate your first choice on the application.
- If you’re looking to concurrently pursue two masters degrees offered by the GSD, you will need to submit a separate application fee and form for each program and must be admitted into each degree program independently.
- If you’re looking to simultaneously pursue degrees offered by the GSD and another Harvard University graduate school, you must apply and be admitted into each school independently.
- If you’re a prospective Ph.D. student, you must apply through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
- Please note that if you are currently enrolled at another graduate school, the GSD does not accept transfer credits for work completed at another institution.
- Gather Your Transcripts
You are required to upload transcripts from all colleges and universities from which you will or have received a degree. Make sure the scanned version is legible and oriented properly. Uploaded transcripts should include your name, school name, degree name, major, degree date if awarded, and a semester-by-semester course breakdown with corresponding grades. Screenshots of course websites or student self-service sites are not acceptable. Appropriate transcripts are very important for the application review process. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. Applicants are only required to request official transcripts to be sent directly from their previous institution to the GSD if they are admitted and decide to enroll at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Do not request that official transcripts be sent to the GSD prior to receiving an admissions decision; we do not retain any transcripts received prior to decision release. All previous degrees must be conferred by August 15 in order to enroll in the fall.
- Request Three Letters of Recommendation
Applicants are required to obtain three letters of recommendation, ideally at least two from college or university instructors. If you have been out of school for awhile, you may request letters from employers or other persons in a position to evaluate your professional abilities and academic potential. Pay close attention when selecting your option about waiving your right to see your recommendation. If you wish to change your waiver selection, then you will need to exclude that recommender and add them again. Recommenders will receive instructions via email once the applicant has registered them via the online application; only online recommendations are accepted. Up to five recommendations may be submitted. You can still submit your application even if your recommenders have not sent in their recommendations. MArch II applicants should solicit at least two recommendations from individuals involved in the supervision of at least one project in the applicant’s portfolio. For example, an applicant who includes their thesis in their portfolio might ask their thesis adviser for a recommendation, and ask the adviser to write about the thesis. The same would hold true for an office mentor or supervisor.
If you’ve… Recommendation Letter Requirements Attended Design Discovery You should upload a copy of your evaluation if you want it included as part of your application. If included, you should request three additional letters of recommendation. Applied to the GSD before Recommendations can be imported from previous applications submitted within the last two years. Within the Recommendations section there will be an option to choose the appropriate person from the drop-down menu. We encourage reapplicants to have at least one new letter of recommendation. Applied to multiple programs In the online application, please register your recommenders for each program. Even if they submit the same letter, they need to upload it for each program.
- Have your GRE Scores Sent to the GSD.
The GRE will be either ‘optional‘ or ‘not required or accepted’ for our degree programs for the fall 2023 application. The requirement will be re-evaluated for subsequent years. Please see the chart below for the GRE requirement by program.
Optional: If you have taken the GRE and would like to submit scores in support of your application, you are welcome to do so. If you have not taken the GRE and have not submitted scores, the weight of other components of your application will be spread out across your materials during the review process. Your application will not be disadvantaged if you choose not to submit GRE scores.
Not required or accepted: GRE scores are not required. If submitted, GRE test scores will not be considered when applications are reviewed.
If you are applying to more than one degree program and choose to submit scores for the ‘optional’ programs, submitted scores will not be considered for the ‘not required or accepted’ programs.
Program Optional Not Required or Accepted MArch I x MArch II x MLA I x MLA I AP x MLA II x MUP x MAUD x MLAUD x MRE x MDE x MDes x DDes x
- Have your TOEFL Scores Sent to the GSD
International Students Only
International students, except those from countries where English is the native language, must submit scores from the TOEFL internet-based test (TOEFL iBT). When requesting that scores be sent to Harvard University, applicants should use the institution code for the Graduate School of Design (3455); a department code is not needed. However, if you are required to enter a department code, choose the department that best aligns with the program you are applying to. Note that we will receive the scores regardless of the department code you submitted. Applicants required to take the TOEFL should schedule their test in time to receive at least their unofficial scores prior to submitting their application. Overall and individual section scores should be reported on the application form. To ensure that your official scores arrive by the deadline, we recommend taking the test no later than December 16, 2022. TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the date of the test, and we are not able to accept test scores for expired tests. Please note that we do not accept the IELTS.Read our TOEFL FAQ for more details and for an update regarding test types for the 2023 application. (Please note we do not accept MyBest TOEFL score reports.)
- Edit your Resume
Upload a resume that includes: employment; education; extracurricular collegiate and community activities (note whether an office held was elected or appointed); honors, awards, professional registration, professional societies, publications; avocations, hobbies, travel; if you served in the military, indicate rank on entry and rank on separation.
- Write Your Essay
Essay prompts vary by program. The chart below lists requirements for the fall 2023 application, but please see the instructions within the application for the most detailed and up-to-date instructions
Program Essay Requirements MArch I MArch I applicants must provide a response to the following question:
In the 1923 manifesto Toward an Architecture, the architect Le Corbusier proclaimed, “A house is a machine for living in. Baths, sun, hot-water, cold-water, warmth at will, conservation of food, hygiene, beauty in the sense of good proportion.” His contemporary Eileen Gray later responded, “A house is not a machine to live in. It is the shell of man, his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation.” How would you respond to this exchange, given the environmental and social concerns of the present day? Limit your response to 300 words.
In addition, please provide responses for any two of the following prompts. Limit each response to 300 words.
(1) Please tell us about a work of architecture or an experience in the built environment that you find engaging and why.
(2) How have your experience and background prepared you for your studies at the GSD?
(3) Please tell us about a time when you had to overcome a challenge or difficulty.
MLA I, I AP, II MLA applicants must provide responses to the following questions:
(1) How have your experience and background prepared you for your studies in landscape architecture at the GSD, and what do you envision for your future career? Limit your response to 250 words.
(2) Please tell us about a work of landscape architecture that you have visited and what stirs you about the work. Focus on your personal impressions rather than information that might be found in design publications. Limit your response to 250 words.
(3) Water is central to life, and it can be serious or fanciful, simple or complex. Describe something you find compelling about water—for example something experiential, systemic, chemical, spiritual, or political. Limit your response to 250 words.
MAUD, MLAUD, MUP, MRE Please submit an essay that addresses your background as it relates to your academic and professional interests, and why you wish to pursue the GSD degree program to which you are applying. Limit response to approximately 1,000 words. MArch II Submit a response to the following:
Discuss the differences and similarities between two or more buildings of your choice, historical or contemporary, that represent issues of importance to the discipline of architecture. Limit your response to 500 words.
MDes Please submit a statement addressing your reasons for pursuing graduate studies, your academic and professional goals, potential research topics, your specific interest in this program, and any other information you feel will assist the committee in evaluating your application. Limit responses to approximately 1,000 words. Note: Although there may be some overlap, please avoid a narrative version of your resume.
MDes applicants must also submit a short essay specific to your Domain in the MDes Supplement tab of the application. Prompts for each Domain are listed below:
What is your reaction to the phrase, “Nature is a social construction”? Limit response to 300 words.
What is your reaction to the phrase, “Being for, by, or in the public is a spatial, cultural, and political construct”? Limit response to 300 words.
Agree or disagree with the declaration, “Technology is social before it is technical.” Limit response to 300 words.
Write an essay about what it means to put architecture into words. Limit response to 300 words.
Narratives Additional Writing Sample
In addition to the statement and short Domain specific essay, Narratives applicants must also submit a recent example of written work. Writing samples should be uploaded into the MDes Supplement page.
DDes DDes applicants must submit both a personal statement and a research proposal.
Personal Statement (limit response to approximately 500 words):
Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing research at the Doctor of Design level. Comment on the experiences that have shaped your past work and current research ambitions as well as indicate your career objectives.
Research Proposal (limit proposal to approximately 2,000 words):
Submit a concise proposal describing the research in which you plan to engage during your studies. Include a clear articulation of the driving question(s) as well as the methodologies that frame your project. Highlight, as part of this articulation, some of the significant precedents and disciplinary approaches that have shaped your thinking. Make sure to summarize the relevance of the project by pointing to the ways it will develop or challenge existing literature and/or practice. How will the project contribute to your intended field(s) of study? Finally, include a project timeline that underscores its feasibility given the three to four-year structure of the program (one year of coursework, six months to one year for general examinations/prospectus defense, one to two years for research and writing).
The proposal will be evaluated based on the following:
(1) promise for original contribution to the design professions;
(2) feasibility of completion within the time constraints of the program;
(3) congruence with the research interests of at least two GSD faculty members who may eventually serve on the thesis committee.
DDes applicants are also asked to indicate two GSD faculty members with whom they wish to work and/or who will act as their primary academic advisors.
MDE Please submit a statement that describes your interest in addressing complex human problems, your particular domain of interest, and how you will utilize this degree to achieve your goals. Your statement should be concise and should not exceed 1,000 words.
- Prepare Your Portfolio (when required or optional)
Portfolios must be uploaded as a single PDF and include your most important and representative visual arts, design, research, and/or professional work. Projects should include a description as well as any supporting documentation, which may include images or a video. All work must indicate the date of the project and whether the project was academic, office-related, or personal. In the case of collaborative work, the contribution by the applicant must be described precisely. If any part of an image or process is not your own work, the source must be cited. Embedded links are deactivated when you upload your portfolio. We do not have any sample portfolios; a wide variety of design work and portfolio styles are submitted, and there is not one type of correct or successful portfolio. Please note, we do not accept materials from third party services such as Interfolio. Website portfolios are not accepted and will not be reviewed.
Recommended File Set-up:
30 max(Cover pages or table of contents don’t count)
40MB maxPage Layout:
12” x 18” or A3, two-page spreads should be combined into one page.(recommended)
You have the option of submitting one video as a supplement to the PDF portfolio. In exceptional cases where video has been a primary focus of an applicant’s previous design work, up to three video files may be submitted.
640px x 480px
Note: Videos can serve as a supplement to but cannot replace or waive the PDF portfolio requirement.
Program Portfolio Requirements MUP Submitting a portfolio is optional, not required. MRE Do not submit a portfolio. MArch I MArch I portfolios should show work in the visual arts or design executed by the applicant. Candidates without previous training in architecture, landscape architecture, or related fields may demonstrate design aptitude by submitting examples of freehand drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic design, furniture, product design, etc. The purpose of the portfolio is to demonstrate creativity, aptitude for design, and a capacity to think and design in three dimensions. Those who have participated in Career Discovery/Design Discovery/Design Discovery Virtual (or similar programs at other schools) are encouraged to include this work in their portfolios.
MArch I portfolios should include an applicant’s recent creative work. The admissions committee strongly prefers to see a majority of individual projects rather than collaborative group work and if possible, not more than one group project and not more than one office project. Should such group work be presented (either academic collaborations or from a professional office), candidates should clearly identify their role in the project.
For applicants wishing to be considered for Advanced Placement, please see the AP Guidelines accessible through the sidebar of the application.
MLA I MLA I portfolios should show work in the visual arts or design executed by the applicant. Candidates without previous training in architecture, landscape architecture, or related fields may demonstrate design aptitude by submitting examples of freehand drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic design, furniture, product design, etc. The purpose of the portfolio is to demonstrate creativity, aptitude for design, and a capacity to think and design in three dimensions. Those who have participated in Career Discovery/Design Discovery/Design Discovery Virtual (or similar programs at other schools) are encouraged to include this work in their portfolios. MLA I AP For advanced placement in Landscape Architecture, particular importance is placed on portfolio review. Applicants are expected to submit examples of work documenting design projects, particularly from advanced studios. Complete documentation should include two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional views, including hand drawings, computer renderings, and models. Conceptual clarity at each scale of a design proposal is an important goal of the graphic layout. Any professional projects should be labeled clearly, and the applicant’s role in collaborative projects precisely described. MArch II, MLA II, MAUD, MLAUD For post-professional degree programs, applicants are expected to submit examples of work demonstrating their ability to pursue study at an advanced level.
Portfolios should include as many individually authored projects as possible. Group projects and projects completed in professional offices should be clearly identified as such.
MDE Applicants should provide three to five examples of their work, design and/or research that are most relevant to the MDE program. Examples may be professional or academic and may encompass designed, researched, and/or actualized work. Projects may include, but are not limited to, products, mechanical systems, buildings, functional materials, electronic systems, organizational systems, and recommendations regarding processes. Demonstration of technical literacy and innovation is desirable. Projects should be submitted in pdf format and include a description of the project as well as supporting documentation, which may consist of images or a video (uploaded separately from the portfolio pdf). Applicants may also include a list of additional relevant projects. MDes Portfolios should consist of scholarly, academic, and/or professional work, and at your discretion, may or may not include visual material as related to the proposed research.
MDes portfolios should specifically reference methods, media, and models (physical and intellectual, digital and analog, historic and contemporary, built and proposed) that demonstrate spatial fluency and intellectual depth in contemporary research questions and critical areas of inquiry.
DDes Portfolios should consist of scholarly, academic, and/or professional work, and at your discretion, may or may not include visual material as related to the proposed research.
Compile your Prerequisite Information (MArch I, MLA I, & MLA I AP, MRE applicants only)
The MRE program prefers that its applicants have two or more years of experience in real estate or related fields (related fields include, for example, planning and design professions). In the application you will be asked to list the specific dates of your real estate or related experience, where you obtained your experience (for example, the name of the organization for which you worked), your title, and the name and email address of a contact person familiar with your experience.
MArch I /AP and MLA I /AP
The MArch I /AP and MLA I/AP degree programs require several prerequisite courses, which are detailed in the text and chart below.
MArch I/AP and MLA I/AP prerequisite courses must be taken at the college level, for credit, and be completed with a grade of B- or higher. In the application, you will be asked to indicate how you have fulfilled, are in the process of fulfilling, or will fulfill the prerequisites. You will need to upload a course description, syllabus, and transcript for each course. While it is not a requirement that you complete all prerequisite courses before applying, it is recommended that you complete or are in the process of completing as many as possible at the time of your application.
If admitted, applicants will be notified as to whether the courses they submitted have satisfied the prerequisite requirements. If an admitted applicant has not fulfilled a prerequisite, they will be required to do so before enrolling at the GSD.
Although we provide examples of pre-approved courses below, we accept a wide range of courses, including courses taken at your undergraduate institution, online at an accredited institution, and at community colleges. Note that Coursera and similar programs do not fulfill these requirements because they cannot be taken for credit. Please see our Prerequisite FAQs for answers to commonly asked questions about the prerequisite requirements.
REQUIRED COURSES PRE-APPROVED COURSES One semester of calculus – Typically satisfied by a college-level calculus course. Straighterline Online General Calculus I One semester of physics – Typically satisfied by introductory algebra-based or
calculus-based physics courses for science majors. The course should cover basic mechanics topics, including linear,
circular, and projectile motion, vectors,
forces, inertia, torque, energy, impulse,
and momentum. Ideally, the course would also cover waves and thermodynamics.
Straighterline General Physics I Two semesters of architectural history –
Typically satisfied by survey courses covering Ancient-to-Renaissance and Renaissance-to-Modern, or one history of architecture survey course that covers the
Renaissance to Modern periods plus a course that focuses on a particular time
period or topic in the history of architecture. If admitted, students will have the opportunity to take the GSD’s special section of the online course The Architectural Imagination.
HarvardX: The Architectural Imagination
- (Please note that if you choose to take this course prior to admission you will be required to retake it if admitted to the program. We recommend waiting to see if you are admitted before enrolling.)
REQUIRED COURSES PRE-APPROVED COURSES One semester of environmental science –
May be satisfied by a college-level course in
environmental science, biology, ecology, geology, and/or botany.
Straighterline: Introduction to Environmental Science One semester of history of the built environment –
May be satisfied by a college-level course in the history of architecture (preferred),
the history of gardens and designed landscapes, environmental history, and/or urban history.
Harvard Extension School: Designing the American City: Civic Aspirations and Urban Form One semester of visual arts –
May be satisfied by a college-level course in drawing (preferred), painting, sculpture, and/or graphics.
Academy of Art University: LAN 605 OL, Drawing as Process
- Pay the Application Fee
There is a $90, non-refundable fee for each application submitted. In order for your application(s) to be reviewed, the fee(s) should be paid, by credit card only, immediately after submitting your application. Try again with a different credit card should the system reject your card.If the application fee presents a financial hardship, please see our FAQs for information about the fee waiver request process. Please note that you will need to start an application in order to access the fee waiver request form.
- Apply for Financial Aid
Prospective students interested in receiving aid should complete the Financial Aid application. Read more information about paying for your program.
After You Submit
Once submitted, changes, additions, or any other edits cannot be made to the application and/or portfolio. Application materials, including the portfolio, become the property of the GSD and cannot be returned or forwarded to any other party.
All decisions are released within the first week of March. You will receive an email indicating that there is an update on your Applicant Status Page. We do not give out decisions over the phone. If you have not received notification by April 1, please contact the Admissions Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the GSD does not grant deferrals. If you are admitted but unable to attend, you would need to reapply.
In accordance with Harvard University policy, the GSD does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status or handicap in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities. Every effort will be made to ensure fairness and consistency in the school’s relations with its students, faculty, and staff.
Annual Security and Fire Safety Report Availability
The University is required by federal law (The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, 20 U.S.C. 1092(f), known as the “Clery Act”) to publish an Annual Security Report and an Annual Fire Safety Report.
The Harvard University Police Department publishes the Annual Security Report, entitled “Playing it Safe,” which includes information about the HUPD, how to report a crime, HUPD’s crime prevention programs, substance abuse, sensitive crimes, emergency notifications, and other important information about security and HUPD services on campus. It also contains three years of statistics on reported campus or campus-related crimes. A hard copy of “Playing it Safe” may be obtained by contacting the Harvard University Police Department at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue, 6th floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, (617) 495-9225.
The Harvard University Environmental Health and Safety Department publishes the Annual Fire Safety Report, which includes fire safety polices, evacuation procedures, and fire statistics. A hard copy of the Annual Fire Safety Report may be obtained by contacting Environmental Health and Safety Department at 46 Blackstone Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, (617) 496-7168.
The Annual Security Report, “Playing it Safe,” is available at www.hupd.harvard.edu/annual-security-report.
The Annual Fire Safety Report is available at www.ehs.harvard.edu/programs/higher-education-opportunity-act-heoa.