General Application Information

MArch, MLA, MAUD/MLAUD, MUP & DDes deadline: January 4th
MDes deadline: January 8th
MDE deadline: January 15th

Applications are due by 11:59 PM ET on deadline day.

Payment of Application Fee
The application fee must be paid in order for your application to be reviewed. Under the ‘Review' section of the application, click ‘Finalize Application and Pay,' then follow instructions for payment. Payment must be paid by credit card only. When entering your card information, please be sure that your address matches the billing address on your credit card account. If your payment gets rejected more than once, please use a different credit card.

Application Status Page
If after submitting your application, the status page shows that a document you submitted is missing, do not worry. This simply means our system has not refreshed since your application was submitted. Please allow several minutes to an hour for this refresh to occur. At that time, your document will appear as received. Please monitor your application checklist for an update. 

Financial Aid Information
Please make sure that is on your safe sender list so that the financial aid email that will be sent in January does not go into your spam folder.  This email will include instructions on how to complete the GSD Financial Aid Application. Be sure to open and read the message carefully so that you don't miss any deadlines!  If you apply on time, financial information will be available at the same time as your admission decision. Please note that admissions committees do not consider financial status when making admission decisions.

Admission decisions will be communicated by email only in early March. We do not give out decisions over the phone.  You will receive an email with “Harvard GSD Decision Update” in the subject line.

Transcript Q&A

When should I request my transcripts from my school?

Transcripts must be submitted when you submit your application.

If you have already graduated, you should request your transcripts now. If you are currently enrolled in an institution of higher learning and are hoping to include your fall grades in your application, we recommend contacting your Registrar’s Office to see when those grades will be added to your final transcript. If your fall grades won’t be included in your final transcripts before the application deadline, you should request your most updated transcripts and upload those to the Education section in the application. You can then add unofficial transcripts or grades from your fall term in the additional documents section if they are available before the deadline. We do have many successful applicants each year who are not able to submit their fall semester grades at the time of application.

How do I submit my transcripts?

You should upload your official transcripts for all degree bearing institutions directly into the Education section of the application. These can either be official physical transcripts that you receive from the school to scan and upload, or official digital transcripts uploaded to the application. Official transcripts must include dates attended, major and degree information, grades, and courses taken or in progress. Please do not send any physical or digital official transcripts to the GSD as these will not be added to your application.

I received an official digital transcript from my school but am unable to upload it into the application because it is encrypted. What should I do?

Some official digital transcripts are encrypted for security purposes, meaning that you may not be able to upload them directly to the application. To bypass the encryption, open the document in Adobe or any PDF reader. You should then select “Print to PDF” or “Microsoft Print to PDF,” save the new copy, and upload. Oftentimes, decrypted digital transcripts will reveal a water-mark that says “unofficial” or “copy.” This is not an issue for the purposes of the application.

My transcript is not in English. What should I do?

Transcripts in languages other than English should be accompanied by an official translation. We don’t recommend or require a specific translation service. As long as the translation is official and verified, you can select one of your choice. Be sure to upload both the original and the translated transcripts into your application.

I attended an international school. Do I need a WES evaluation?

Not at this time. If admitted, we will require that you submit a WES iCap evaluation, but it is not required now.

How should I enter my GPA?

You should enter your GPA exactly as it appears on your transcript.

My school doesn’t use GPA. What should I enter for GPA?

You should leave the GPA field blank.

Should I convert an international GPA to the American system?

No. You should enter your GPA exactly as it is listed in your transcript.

Portfolio Q&A

What programs require a portfolio?

Applications for all degree programs except the MUP require a portfolio.

I am a MUP applicant and don’t have a portfolio. Should I create one?

Our faculty often say that if you have a portfolio, include it in your application. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. We admit many students to the MUP program each year who did not include a portfolio in their application.

Can I submit a website as my portfolio?

No. Your portfolio should be in the form of a PDF.

What is the page limit for the portfolio?

30 pages. The 30-page limit refers to individual pages in your PDF file, not spreads. If you wish for certain pieces of content to be viewed at the same time, we suggest putting that content on the same page, which would count as one page. A title or cover page does not count towards the page limit.  Below is the recommended layout for portfolios.

Portfolio layout example.

Do MDes portfolios have to be design portfolios, strictly speaking?

Applicants to the MDes program come from a variety of backgrounds and have shown a spectrum of work as part of the portfolio component. Successful applicants have included relevant design work, academic research projects, data compiled from spreadsheets, and other professional projects.

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.

I am applying for the MArch I/MLA I, but I don't have a design background. Do you have any advice?

The GSD admits numerous non-background students to our professional programs each year. Through your portfolio, it is important that you demonstrate a creative aptitude for design and the ability to think in both two and three dimensions. Many non-background applicants use fine arts or other creative visual work in their portfolio, such as sketches, ceramics, painting, photography, graphic design, etc.

Are there any resources available through the GSD to help me craft my portfolio?

Current GSD students released an InDesign Bootcamp tutorial to help you develop your portfolio. You can view it here. Please note that the link will expire on January 4th.

Test Score Q&A 


Do you require the GRE or GMAT this year?  

The GRE has been waived for all programs this application cycle.  

Why was the GRE waived this year? Will it be waived in the future? 

The GRE was waived in large part due to the ongoing pandemic. The requirement will be reevaluated for the 2022 application cycle.  

Can I send GRE or GMAT scores even though it is waived for the 2021 application? 

You can send your scores to us, but they will not be seen by the admissions committee. In the case that we require the GRE again in the future, we will have your scores on file.  


Can I submit the application even if I have not yet taken the TOEFL? 

Yes! TOEFL scores are due by the application deadline, but you can submit your application before official scores arrive. If you have self-reported scores, please include them in your application. 

One of my section scores is below the minimum of 23, can I still submit my application? Will it be reviewed?  

Your application will still be reviewed even if one or more sections falls below our minimum. This may make your application less competitive, but it is up to you as to whether you would like to retake the test.  

If you are admitted and any of the individual section scores are below 26, you will be required to take the summer English for Design course prior to enrollment. 

I sent my TOEFL scores but they still haven’t appeared in my application. Should I resend them? 

Please check to make sure that you sent your scores to the correct institutional code. It is a common error to send scores to Harvard College, but they must be sent directly to the GSD. Please resend to institution code 3455 if you have made this mistake.   

If you can confirm that you sent your score to the GSD using institutional code 3455, we likely received them or will receive them shortly. If you used different identifying information when you registered for the TOEFL than you did in the application such as email, address, phone number, or name, they may not appear in your record automatically upon receipt. We will match these scores manually in early January to ensure that they are included in your application.  

I sent multiple scores to the GSD. Can you delete one?  

Once we receive a score, we are not able to delete it from your application. The admissions committee will review all scores received, including your most recent scores. 

I was able to waive the TOEFL due to my undergraduate degree, but I already sent my scores. Can you delete these from my application? 

Unfortunately, we are not able to delete your scores from your application. However, the admissions committee will consider your previous educational background. 

I am eligible for a TOEFL exemption. How do I indicate this in the application? It is still showing up as a requirement 

If you meet our requirements for a TOEFL exemption, you need to complete the TOEFL Supplement section of the application and upload your undergraduate transcripts to the Education section. You do not need to contact us to confirm eligibility 

What is the latest date that I can take the TOEFL for my scores to arrive by the deadline? Will you accept an updated TOEFL score after the deadline?  

Due to complications with test dates as a result of the pandemic, we are offering the following option this year. If you are taking the TOEFL after the deadline, please submit Duolingo scores as a placeholder while we await your TOEFL results. We recommend taking the earliest test available. We cannot accommodate test dates later than January 2021. 

The TOEFL remains a requirement, so please be sure to take the test on your registered date and send your scores to institution code 3455. You should include your scheduled test date in the application before submitting. 

I studied for two years towards my undergraduate degree in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, can I waive the TOEFL?  

No. You must have studied at least three years during your undergraduate degree in an institution in one of those countries.  

I received masters or PhD degree from a school in the USUK, IrelandAustralia, or New Zealand, can I waive the TOEFL? 

No. You must have studied at least three years during your undergraduate degree in an institution in one of those countries. 

I am an Iranian citizen living in Iran. The TOEFL test is still not available in my country. What should I do?  

In your case, you should submit Duolingo scores in lieu of the TOEFL.  

Recommendations Q&A

My recommender is not able to find the email link to upload their letter. What should I do?

Please have your recommender check their spam and junk folders. The email will be sent by It is also possible that there is a typo in the email address you entered in the application (see below for how to fix this). We also suggest that you ask your recommender to add the email address to their safe senders list and then resend the email from your application. If they still can’t find our message please send us an email with the subject line “URGENT: Recommender Issue” that includes your application reference number and your recommender’s name. We will resend manually.

I need to change my recommenders contact info. How can I do this?

If you have not yet submitted the application, please “exclude” your recommender and re-add them with the updated contact information. Excluded recommendations will not be reviewed. The old link will expire and a new link will be sent to your recommender. Please be sure they are aware that they should use the newest version of the link. If you have already submitted the application, you will not be able to modify your recommenders. If this is the case, please send us an email with the subject line “URGENT: Recommender Issue.” We are not able to accommodate all requests, but will assess the situation and see what can be done. Be sure to include your reference number and your recommender’s name.

I accidentally checked the wrong box and waived/did not waive my right to see the letter like I intended. What should I do?

If you have not submitted the application, you will need to exclude the recommender and re-add them, being sure to check the correct box. If they have already submitted their letter, they will need to resubmit, so we recommend reaching out to them ahead of time to let them know. Once you re-add them, they will receive a new link to upload their letter again. If you have already submitted your application, it is too late to make this change.

Can I submit my application before my recommendation letters have been submitted?

Yes, you should submit your application by the deadline even if we haven’t received your letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters can still be received after you submit. You can monitor the status of your letters through the Application Status Page. You can also send your recommenders reminders from this page.

What is the deadline for recommendation letters? What do I do if I can’t get in touch with my recommender?

All application materials, including recommendation letters, are due by the deadline. Letters received more than five days after the deadline may not be reviewed by the admissions committee. If you are only submitting three letters of recommendation and you can’t reach a recommender, you may want to consider adding an alternative recommender to your application as a backup keeping in mind that you can submit up to 5 letters of recommendation.

I’m applying to multiple programs. Do my recommenders need to submit separate letters for each program?

Recommenders should submit separate letters for each program, so you should enter their information in each application.

Prerequisite Q&A (MArch I/AP & MLA I/AP only)

Do I have to have completed all the prerequisite courses before applying?

While it is to your benefit to complete as many prerequisite courses before applying as possible, we do admit a number of students each year who have not completed one or more prerequisite requirements. If admitted, you will be required to complete all prerequisite courses before enrolling.

Can courses taken online at a Community College count towards prerequisite requirements?

Yes! Classes taken at a Community College or other accredited institution may be used to fulfil the prerequisite requirements.

The Admissions FAQs include a list of pre-approved prerequisite courses. Do I need to take those courses specifically?

You do not. You can use those courses as examples of the sort of courses that satisfy prerequisite requirements. You are welcome to shop around for courses that fit your budget and timeline.

For those applying to the MArch I, can advanced placement (AP) courses satisfy the calculus or physics requirements?

Upon review, scores of 4 or 5 on AP exams can fulfill certain prerequisite requirements. Please see the Admissions FAQs for more details.

I’m not sure if a course will satisfy a prerequisite, what should I do?

It doesn’t hurt to include a course in your application even if you aren’t sure it will satisfy the requirement. We won’t be able to advise on whether a course will satisfy a requirement at this time. This is something that is determined during application review.

I no longer have a syllabus for the course in question. Is there any alternative documentation I can upload?

Syllabi provide important information to the faculty who determine whether a particular course will satisfy a prerequisite. If possible, we recommend trying to locate the syllabus. You might be able to find a copy by contacting the school’s Registrar, an old classmate, or the professor of the course. If this isn’t possible, you should be sure to include your transcript and an official course description along with any other documentation that demonstrates the content of the course.

My syllabus is in a language other than English. Do I need to include a translation?

Yes. You should have the syllabus translated by an official translating company. We don’t recommend any specific companies, but the translation should be certified.

One or more of my prerequisite courses was taken in Spring 2020 during university COVID-19 closures. My school allowed pass/fail at that time. Do I need to retake the prerequisite to receive a grade of B-?

While we wouldn’t normally accept a pass/fail course, courses taken at schools that allowed a pass/fail system in Spring 2020 will most likely be accepted.

When will I know if my prerequisite courses have satisfied the requirements?

Once admissions decisions are released, admitted students will be informed at that time if they have any remaining prerequisite requirements to complete before enrolling.