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Application
Prerequisites
TOEFL Exam

Application

I am in the final year of my undergraduate program and will graduate in the spring. Can I still apply?

We receive many successful applications from current undergraduate students for our professional degree programs–MArch I/AP, MLA I/AP and MUP. On the other hand, MDE requires two years of professional experience, not counting internships during your undergraduate degree, and many applicants to our post-professional degrees have work experience. All programs require a previous degree, and some require a previous professional degree, depending on the program. Be sure to read the departmental pages for each program for more information.

I don’t have a background in designcan I apply? 

Yes! Our first professional degrees (MArch I, MLA I, MUP) do not require a previous design background, although a four-year bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree or equivalent is required to apply. For architecture and landscape architecture you will need to submit a portfolio as part of the admissions process (a portfolio is not required for MUP).

Are test scores and recommendation letters due by the application deadline?

All materials, including test scores and recommendation letters, are due by the application deadline. Scores or recommendation letters received after the deadline will be added to your application, though we cannot guarantee that the admissions committee will see late materials during their review of your application.

I heard that GREs are not required this year—is that true?

For the 2021 application process, GRE scores are not required, with the exception of the Real Estate and the Built Environment concentration within the Master in Design Studies degree program. Applicants to that concentration are required to submit either GRE or GMAT test results. All other applicants are not required to submit the GRE during this admissions cycle. Please note that TOEFL scores remain a requirement.

If I am not an MDes REBE applicant, can I still send my GRE scores this year?

We do not recommend sending GRE scores if you are applying to a program other than MDes Real Estate and the Built Environment. Scores will not be included in the review process for any other program.

When is the latest date that you recommend taking the GRE or TOEFL?

Test scores take up to 14 days to reach the GSD, so we encourage you to take the test no later than the first week of December, earlier if possible. Some applicants take the tests well in advance in order to give themselves time to retake the test if needed.

Do you accept transfer students?

You are welcome to apply to the GSD if you are currently enrolled in a graduate program at another school, but the GSD does not accept transfer credit from other institutions. You will need to apply during our regular application process. If admitted, once you enroll it may be possible for you to waive a required course if you have completed the equivalent course at another institution. This would not shorten the length of your program, but it may allow you to take an elective instead of the required course.

How many times can I apply to the GSD?

You may apply a maximum of three times to the same GSD degree program. If you are denied admission for the third time, further applications to the same program will not be considered.

Can I apply to more than one program?

Yes, you can apply to a maximum of three programs during one application cycle. We strongly encourage you to think carefully about your interests prior to applying to more than two programs!

Applicants applying to more than one program must submit a separate application and supporting materials for each program.

Applicants applying to more than one program who are interested in pursuing a concurrent degree at the GSD will go through the same process, submitting separate applications for each program, and should indicate within the application their interest in a concurrent degree. Each application is reviewed separately by the respective departmental committees.

Do you offer joint degrees with other Harvard schools?

Master in Urban Planning (MUP) students are eligible to pursue joint degrees with Harvard Law School, Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Kennedy School. You must apply separately to both Schools in which you are interested.

All GSD students are eligible to cross-register in courses across Harvard and at MIT.

Are interviews part of the application process?

Interviews are not normally part of the application process, though on occasion some applicants to the Master in Design Engineering degree program may be asked to participate in an interview. You will be contacted if an interview is requested.

Can I submit a website for my portfolio?

Website portfolios are not accepted. Your portfolio must be uploaded as a single PDF file, no larger than 40MB, with a maximum page count of 30. Cover pages and table of contents do not count toward total pages. Please see the application instructions for more details.

Do you practice rolling admissions? Is there an advantage to submitting the application early?

We do not practice rolling admissions. All applications are reviewed at the same time after the deadline has passed. Admissions decisions are typically released in early March, and it is not possible to expedite individual admissions decisions.

What is your deferral policy?

The GSD does not offer deferrals. If you are admitted and are unable to accept the offer, it would be necessary to reapply.

I applied to the GSD in the past, but would like to reapply. What is the process for reapplying?

Any former applicant wishing to reapply, including GSD students applying for another degree, must resubmit all forms and documentation, with the exception of recommendations. If you applied within the previous two years, you may import previous recommendations. We strongly encourage that you submit at least one new letter of recommendation. If you are applying to a program different than the one you applied to previously, you may wish to submit all new recommendations.

If you previously submitted official test scores and they are still valid during the year in which you are applying (within five years for GRE, and within two years for the TOEFL), you would not need to resubmit those scores.

I submitted my application but would like to make a change to my portfolio/essay/resume, etc. Is this possible?

Once you submit your application, you won’t be able to make any changes, additions, or substitutions. Please review your application carefully before submission.

Prerequisite Course Requirements

Do I need to have taken specific courses during my undergraduate studies in order to apply?

The MArch I /AP and MLA I/AP degree programs require specific prerequisite courses (see charts below). These courses must be taken at the college level, for credit, and completed with a grade of B- or higher. Although we provide examples of pre-approved courses below, we do accept a wide range of courses, including courses taken at your undergraduate institution, online at an accredited institution, and at community colleges.

Prerequisite courses, which you are asked to list on your application, will be evaluated during the application review process. While it is not a requirement that you complete all prerequisite courses before applying, it is recommended that you complete or be in the process of completing as many as possible before the application deadline.

 

MArch I/AP

REQUIRED COURSES PRE-APPROVED COURSES
One semester of calculus – Typically satisfied by a college-level calculus course. Straighterline Online General Calculus I

Harvard Extension School Math E-15: 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

Harvard Extension School PHYS E-1AX: Physics I (Lecture): Mechanics, Elasticity, Fluids, and Diffusion

 

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.)

MLA I/AP

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

UC Berkeley Extension School: American Environmental and Cultural History

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

What if I haven't met one or more of the course prerequisites? Can I still apply?

Yes, you may still apply. If you are admitted but have not completed one or more of the prerequisite courses, you will be required to complete the courses before enrolling in the fall semester. Keep in mind that it is in your best interest to complete most of the prerequisites before you apply. Not only will this strengthen your application, if admitted it will make the summer before you enroll more enjoyable if you don’t have to complete multiple classes.

Can I use AP classes to fulfill the prerequisites?

Upon review, scores of 4 or 5 on AP exams will fulfill prerequisites only if your undergraduate school has awarded credit for the relevant courses and the credits appear on your transcript.For physics, AP Physics 1 or C, or IB Higher Level Physics courses may satisfy the requirement if the course is recognized by the students' undergraduate institution and in accordance with the institutions' requirements.  (Test scores from AP Physics 2, the IB Standard Level Physics, and the gaokao university entrance exam do not fulfill the prerequisite.)

How are prerequisite courses approved? Can I have my courses reviewed before I apply?

There is a section within the application specifically dedicated to prerequisite courses where you will be asked to upload syllabi, course descriptions, and transcripts for classes that you believe will satisfy each prerequisite requirement. Admissions committees will review these materials as part of your application. If admitted, the prerequisite information you provide will be evaluated and you will be notified in your admitted student portal as to whether or not you have satisfied the prerequisites.While you are welcome to contact Admissions for general advice about prerequisites ahead of the application deadline, we cannot make a final determination or guarantee that a specific class will satisfy a requirement.

Back to TopTOEFL Exam

Who is required to take the TOEFL?

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.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, 2020.

What if the TOEFL iBT is not offered in my country or test centers are closed?

For the fall 2021 application, the GSD will accept the at-home or online versions of the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL iTP Plus (China only, in partnership with Vericant).

Can I waive the TOEFL exam?

International applicants who have studied or lived in English speaking countries are not exempt from the TOEFL requirement, with the following exception: if you have studied at least three years in full-time residence toward a bachelor’s degree in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, you are exempt from the TOEFL requirement. Please note that applicants whose native language is not English, and who are enrolled or have received a master's degree in the U.S. or the countries above, must submit TOEFL scores. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Is there a minimum TOEFL score that must be achieved?

The preferred total TOEFL iBT score is 104 or above, with individual section scores of 26 or above. The minimum required TOEFL iBT total score is 92, with the following minimum section requirements: reading, 23; speaking, 23; listening, 23; writing, 23. (Please note that we do not accept MyBest TOEFL score reports.)If one of your individual scores is below 26, you also may choose to take the Duolingo test in order to provide the admissions committee with additional information about your English language abilities. Please note that the Duolingo test is recommended, not required. Preferred scores for TOEFL iTP Plus, with the Vericant interview (China only), are: Listening Comprehension: 64Structure and Written Expression: 64Reading Comprehension: 63Total Score: 627(Note: the interview is not scored)If TOEFL iBT is not available, and the paper-based TOEFL is taken, applicants must achieve a minimum total score of 577 and a minimum of 57 on each section. A score of 600 is preferred, with individual section scores of 60.If you are admitted and your scores fall below our preferred score requirements, you may be required to take an English course in the Boston area the summer before enrolling at the GSD.

Can other tests of English proficiency, such as the IELTS, be substituted for the TOEFL?

We accept the TOEFL as a test of English language proficiency only. It is not possible to substitute other tests.

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