Here you'll find a summary of the documents and materials that you will need to prepare and submit with your online application.


Deadline Program
Jan 4, 2022 MArch, MLA, MUP, MAUD, MLAUD, DDes
Jan 10, 2022 MDes
Jan 13, 2022 MDE

Submission time is 11:59pm Eastern Time.

Before Applying

  • 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.

Application Checklist

  1. Gather Your Transcripts
    You are required to upload transcripts from all colleges and universities from which you've received credit. You should request either an official paper transcript or a digital version to be sent to you from your school. You will then upload it to your application. Make sure the scanned version is legible and oriented properly. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. If the university or college does not issue transcripts, a certified letter and certified English translation must be provided. It should list courses and examinations taken, grades, and degrees and dates of degrees received. 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 March 1. All previous degrees must be conferred by August 15 in order to enroll in the fall. 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.
  2. Request Three Letters of Recommendation
    Applicants are required to obtain three letters of recommendation: at least two from college or university instructors and, if appropriate, one from an employer. 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.

    If you've… Recommendation Letter Requirements
    Been out of school for a while You may request letters from employers or other persons in a position to evaluate your professional abilities and academic potential, although letters from college instructors are preferred.
    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, you may import submitted letters of recommendation from one application to another.
  3. Have your GRE Scores Sent to the GSD. Update: Not required for the 2021 admissions cycle.

    UPDATE: For the 2021 admissions cycle, the GRE requirement is waived. The GRE is not required for the 2021 application and will not be included in the review process. At this time, the change to the GRE requirement is for the 2021 application season only.

    Program GMAT Option
    MDE Applicants may submit the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) in lieu of the GRE  NOTE: not required for MDE for the 2021 admissions cycle.
  4. Have your TOEFL Scores Sent to the GSD
    International Students Only
    TOEFL scores are required for all international students. Scores are valid for 2 years. When requesting that scores be sent to Harvard University, use the institution code for the Graduate School of Design: 3455. Read our TOEFL FAQ for more details and for an update regarding test types for the 2021 application. As with GRE scores, we will save TOEFL scores in our database until they expire. (Please note we do not accept MyBest TOEFL score reports.)
  5. Edit your Resume
    Upload a resume that includes: employment; education; extra-curricular 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.
  6. Write Your Essay
    The requirements of your essay depend on the program you're applying to.

    Program Essay Requirements
    MArch I All MArch I applicants must provide a response to the phrase, “Less is More,” an aphorism found in many disciplines. (300 words)

    In addition, applicants must provide responses for two of the following prompts (300 words each):

    (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.



    MArch II

    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 responses to approximately 1,000 words.

    MArch II offers further opportunities of study to professionally qualified graduates. Please describe a professional experience, concurrent with or subsequent to your undergraduate study course, and explain how this experience helped shape your perception of practice, and perhaps contributed to your decision to return to school. Limit responses to approximately 1,000 words.

    MDes 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.
    DDes Submit a proposal describing the research that you plan to engage in during your studies. The proposal will be evaluated based on: (1) its promise for original contribution to the design professions; (2) its feasibility to be completed within the time constraints of the program; and (3) its congruence with the research interests of at least two GSD faculty members who may eventually serve on the thesis committee. The research proposal should not exceed 1,500 words.DDes applicants also will be asked to indicate two GSD faculty members with whom they wish to work and/or who will act as their primary academic advisors.
    MDE 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.
  7. Prepare Your Portfolio
    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. Embedded links are deactivated when you upload your portfolio. Please note, we do not accept materials from third party services such as Interfolio. We do not have any sample portfolios. A wide variety of design work and portfolio styles are submitted; there is no one type of correct or successful portfolio.Recommended File Set-up:
    Pages: 30 max (Cover pages or table of contents don't count)
    File Size: 40MB max
    Page Layout: 12” x 18” or A3, two-page spreads should be combined into one page. (recommended)
    Color Format: RGB (recommended)
    Resolution: 150 dpi (recommended)Video Requirements:
    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.
    Format: .MOV or .WMX
    Length: 60s max
    Dimensions: 640px x 480px

    Program Portfolio Requirements
    MUP Submitting a portfolio is optional, not required.
    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.
    MDE You should provide three to five examples of your work, design and/or research, which 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, buildings, mechanical systems, electronic systems, organizational systems, and recommendations regarding processes. Demonstration of technical literacy and innovation is desirable.
    MArch I MLA I Portfolios should show work in the visual arts or design you've executed. If you don't have any previous training in architecture, landscape architecture, or related fields you 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. If you have participated in Design Discovery (or similar programs at other schools), you're encouraged to include this work.
    AP & Post Professional Programs If you're applying for advanced placement in the professional degree program in Landscape Architecture or for post-professional degree programs you are expected to submit examples of work demonstrating your ability to pursue study at an advanced level.
  8. 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.
  9. 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

Please note that the GSD does not grant deferrals. If you are admitted but unable to attend, you would need to reapply.

Nondiscrimination Policy

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


The Annual Fire Safety Report is available at