The Fall 2020 Studio Lottery will be held Monday, August 31. The following guidelines will help you navigate the Lottery and the results.

Option Studios Descriptions

Descriptions for studio options will be posted on the GSD Course Listing. You will find the studios’ scheduled meeting times there as well. Please note that the course bulletin is an active document; updates to the course bulletin will be taking place until lottery day, and in some cases, after the start of the academic term.

Lottery Day

The order of presentations, information about studio field trips, and appropriate backgrounds will be made available in the lobby. Dean Sarah Whiting will offer her welcoming remarks promptly at 9 AM, after which Rahul Mehrotra, host of the Option Studio Lottery Presentations, will open the presentations.Please be sure to join the presentations by 9 a.m., as they will begin promptly at that time.


To participate in the studio lottery, you must be enrolled in one of the following:
– MArch I, 5th or 6th term; MArch II, any term
– MLA I, 5th or 6th term; MLA II, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th term
– MAUD or MLAUD, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th term
– MUP, 3rd, or 4th term

If you are in MArch I or MLA I, you may take no more than one studio option outside of your department (except by prior approval of your Program Director). MAUD and MLAUD in their second term must take a studio offered in the Department of Urban Planning and Design. If you have any questions concerning your eligibility, please consult your Program Director. MLA II students must take at least one option studio offered by the Department of Landscape Architecture. MArch II students must take at least two option studios offered by the Architecture department during their time enrolled in the program.

While the studio site visit is a requirement, if you should be unable or unwilling to travel, your critic will assign alternative work for you in lieu of participation in the trip. Please note that travel is always accompanied by certain risks. If the trip includes travel overseas, please keep in mind that immigration regulations are making it more difficult for international students from some countries, including many Asian nations, to leave the U.S. and then return. Please be sure to investigate and fully understand the implications of travel. Please note, if the studio is traveling in the first two-three weeks of the term and you need a visa to travel, it is likely that you will not be able to go on the trip. Please refer to the International Travel section below.

Please be sure to use your legal name exactly as it appears in your passport for all transactions such as airline tickets to avoid any confusion. For students selected for studios with trips, please bring a photocopy of your passport with you to the first studio meeting. Please also note that there will be one set itinerary planned and arranged for all students in a studio. Any modifications are the responsibility of the individual student (including costs incurred). Teaching Assistants are not permitted to travel unless they are enrolled in the course/studio that is traveling.

Students are expected to cover their own meals and incidentals for all GSD related travel. Incidentals can include visas, taxis, airport taxes, meals, fees, immunizations, and other costs associated with the trip. These costs are in addition to the amount of term bill listed. Students participating in international site visits will be term-billed $300 unless otherwise noted on the Student Travel Information and Costs handout. Students participating in domestic site visits will be term-billed up to $300. Note online information WILL CHANGE over the next week. An official handout will be distributed on lottery day with this information. All studio trips are subject to security and safely considerations and may be cancelled at the last minute.

Not all students in all programs will possess the capabilities necessary to undertake certain projects that may be proposed by critics. See the Recommended Backgrounds for Option Studios page for more information.  This information should be taken into consideration when you rank your choices on the lottery ballot. Please note that appropriate background means that you are currently enrolled in a degree program in this discipline, or previously obtained a degree in this discipline. Failure to select studios that you are eligible for will result in you being randomly assigned in a studio in which you are eligible.

International Travel

Harvard Global Support Services (GSS) will have representatives available in the lobby of Gund Hall immediately following the lottery presentations.

Students are responsible for obtaining the necessary visas for the trip, including all costs associated with these visa(s). Please proceed immediately with getting your visa. Do not delay! To obtain expedited visa assistance at a heavily discounted rate, please use the online visa services portal of Harvard’s preferred visa services vendor, Travel Document Systems, Inc. (TDS).

If you have questions about traveling internationally, including specific visa questions, please visit the Harvard Global Support Services table in the lobby of Gund Hall from 12:00 AM – 1:30 PM on lottery day. If you can’t stop by on lottery day, visit the Global Support Services website to access travel and logistical resources.

GSS is a University-wide office dedicated to supporting and enabling Harvard’s international projects and travel by providing tools and guidance to faculty, students, and staff studying, working, and researching overseas. Their flagship resources include the Harvard Travel Registry and their Emergency Response Program, which provides 24/7 medical and security support and evacuation services abroad. Their ability to provide assistance is directly tied to the Harvard Travel Registry, so it’s crucial that you enter your itinerary in the Registry before you leave and keep it up to date during your travels.

Stop by the GSS table to learn more about obtaining your visa, or to ask any questions about the studio locations.  They can also show you how to register your trip and sign up for safety and security alerts for your country of travel. They are happy to help!

Lottery Presentations

Studio critics will present their studio option offerings on Monday morning. The presentations will be in random order as detailed in the Order of Presentation document. Presentations will take place online, and you will be notified of the platform that will be utilized for the presentations, which will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. Critics are encouraged to be thorough in their descriptions, including pedagogic objectives, appropriateness to students in programs outside the department offering the studio, course schedule, critic attendance (for visiting critics), and travel plans. Please pay close attention to these details and consider them when you rank your choices on your ballot.

Lottery Ballot Procedures

You must cast your ballot on-line via my.Harvard. You won’t need to submit hard copies of your ballot. Program Coordinators will be available if you have any questions or need to modify your submission. Your on-line ballot must be submitted no later than 2 hours after lottery presentations have concluded. Lottery ballots will be available on my.Harvard as soon as presentations have ended. Logging in to my.Harvard requires a HarvardKey. After logging in to my.Harvard, you will find the studio lottery on your Student Home tab. Contact CRG if you have problems logging in.

You must select six studios on your ballot, unless you wish to be assured of a studio option from your department. If you want to be assured a studio option from your department, use the pull down menu on the ballot to select studios only offered by your department. If your department lists less than six, you must choose all of them in order of preference. Failure to do so will result in preferences being randomly assigned up to the correct number of preferences. If you wish to select studios outside your department then you must select six.

If you have questions about the lottery procedure or your eligibility, please contact your departmental Program Coordinator immediately.

Note that you will be allowed to enter the lottery only one time. Please make sure your choices are correct before submitting the form. If you need to change your entry, you must report to the Program Coordinator immediately. As with any on-line transaction, please do not hit the ‘SUBMIT’ button more than once. For technical issues with the lottery process, contact the Help Desk (

Notes: The GSD lottery procedure is designed to assign as many students as possible to their highest-ranked studio. Assignment to the studio options is determined by a computer program, which seeks to maximize ‘Total-Highest-Choice’ across all students, limited by available studio spaces. No priority is given on the basis of department, degree program, or semester. Failure to submit a lottery form on-line will result in a random assignment to a studio. The lottery will be supervised by the Program Directors and witnessed by a Student Forum representative. The submitted on-line lottery form and lottery results are binding. Any exceptions to this rule will be made by Tuesday afternoon, by a committee consisting of the Program Directors, the Associate Dean of Administration, and the Director of Administration for Academic Affairs. Students should submit a written appeal to your department’s Program Coordinator by 9 AM on Tuesday, September 1. Exceptions are seldom granted.

How it works

The lottery procedure uses a technique called ‘linear programming' to find an optimum solution which minimizes ‘unhappiness': the sum of assignments that are not first choice, weighted by how far from first choice they are –so a fourth choice is much more unhappy than a second choice, e.g. (This is not exactly the same as maximizing the number of first choices; although the effect is pretty much the same, a single first choice may be sacrificed for greater overall ‘happiness'.) Whenever there is a tie, a random choice is made.

The number of students in each studio is constrained by the faculty member, department guidelines which specify a maximum number (usually 12) of students per studio instructor, and by expense considerations if the studio has funded travel, etc. The enrollment number for each studio may be adjusted by a small amount in iterative runs of the lottery program by the program directors in an attempt to increase first choice assignments or overall ‘happiness'. The lottery software is blind to individual students' names, departments, or previous lottery results.

While there may be an advantage in certain cases to stacking your lottery choices by placing what you think will be popular studios behind your first choice, this approach is not reliable for a number of reasons. The lottery is unpredictable: your perception about which studios are popular may not be accurate. While most students get their first choice, many also get second and third choices.


Always list your choices in order, from 1 (most desirable) to 6 (least desirable).  Never list any studio in your rankings that you do not want to take or are ineligible to take.

Announcement of Results

By approximately 6:30 PM, results of the lottery will available via my.Harvard. You will be automatically enrolled in the studio in to which you are lotteried.

Room assignments for first studios meetings may be updated online at that time. Please be sure to double check times and locations for first meeting times as they may change throughout the day.


You will be notified when studio desks will be available for occupancy; this process typically takes place in the afternoon on the day after the lottery. Given the overall logistics, we cannot give an exact time, and we would greatly appreciate your patience during the process. Please do not enter the trays until the announcement is made that the trays are open.

Start of Classes

Classes begin on Wednesday, September 2, but most option studios, particularly those with irregular schedules, will be meeting on Tuesay, September 1. Please check the First Meetings for Option Studios page for more information.

Final Reviews and Exams

After the start of the semester the final review schedule will be posted on the Information for Current Students area of the GSD website. All students should plan on being present throughout the ENTIRE option studio final review period, as well as through the ENTIRE final exam period.  Please consult the Academic Calendars & Schedules for the0se dates.