The GSD considers certain courses intrinsic to the well-rounded education provided to our students. However, we understand that some students feel that their academic background may have already given them sufficient exposure to the content taught in some of those courses. In such cases, it is possible that the requirements be waived or substituted for courses that are more suitable to your experience.

Please note that two semesters of the history of architecture (together covering Renaissance through Modern periods at minimum) are mandatory pre-requisites to the MArch I program.  By definition, pre-requisite courses are required, foundational courses taken prior to admission to the GSD and are a basic condition of preparedness to study at the graduate level. Pre-requisites will not be considered substitutions to the Buildings, Texts, and Contexts (BTC) sequence for MArch I students; moreover, it is extremely rare for students to be given permission to waive the GSD’s BTC curriculum.

In addition to required courses, students are also subject to certain distributional elective requirements. Please see the MArch distributional electives info page for further details.

Course Waiver and Substitution Policy

  • The GSD assumes that upon acceptance students have a comprehensive understanding of the degree requirements of their program. Therefore, students who wish to be considered for a course waiver of a required course that is offered in the first semester of their program must submit course waiver materials by August 15 of the year in which they are enrolling. If a student wishes to be considered for a course waiver of a required course in any subsequent semester, then they must declare this by submitting course waiver materials by November 15 of their first semester of study at the GSD. Course waiver materials submitted after August 15 for first semester courses or November 15 for subsequent semester courses will not be reviewed and waivers will not be considered.
  • A course taken previously may not be used in substitution for more than one course at the GSD.
  • Each waived course must be replaced by the equivalent number of elective units. (For MArch I AP students, only courses waived beyond the MArch I first-year curriculum must be replaced by elective units).
  • In the case of – but not limited to – the courses listed with asterisks (*) below, the department requires students to take an alternate, more advanced course in the same distributional area as the class they are waiving.

Course Waiver and Substitution Procedures

  1. Contact the designated faculty member for the class you wish to waive (see list below) and send the faculty member a list of comparable courses that you have previously taken elsewhere. Please include course syllabi, copies of your official transcripts that demonstrate that you passed those courses, and relevant work samples (i.e. papers, exams). Assemble all of this material into one PDF document with your name in the file name.
  2. Wait for the instructor to confirm with you whether these courses and the related grades you received are indeed sufficient justification for course waiver. Please keep the instructor’s confirmation email for your records.
  3. Discuss with the instructor whether they require that you take an advanced course in the same area as the waived course. If so, discuss other possible GSD or external courses as alternatives with them.  See courses listed with asterisks (*) below.
  4. Once you have completed steps 1-3, download the Course Waiver Form available in the “My Documents” section of your my.Harvard profile. Fill out the form and have the instructor sign it. If you were required to take an alternate course in the same content area, please include that information in the form and provide a proof that you took and passed the alternate course. After your instructor has signed the waiver, send the waiver and the instructor’s email from Step 2 to [email protected].

2023-24: Course waivers must be signed by the following faculty:

Architectural Representation I and II
VIS 2121 and  VIS 2122: Elle Gerdeman

History and Theory
Please note: HIS 4223 cannot be waived. Waivers for HIS 4100 and the additional 4 units of Building, Texts, and Contexts requirements are rarely considered. 

Digital Media
Please note: beginning in 2019, the Digital Media requirement cannot be waived. All MArch I students must take one approved Digital Media course.

SCI 6121* and SCI 6122*: Holly Samuelson
SCI 6123: Eric Höweler
SCI 6125: Holly Samuelson
SCI 6126: Jonathan Grinham
SCI 6227: Patrick McCafferty
SCI 6229: Martin Bechthold
SCI 6230:  Eric Höweler

*see “Course Waiver Policy” section above for more details about these particular courses.