Below is an outline of the Option Studio lottery schedule and process. Please check back for updates to confirm these details before finalizing plans.

The following guidelines will help you navigate the lottery and the results.


The Spring 2022 lottery for Option Studios is scheduled to run on Thursday January 20th, 9:00am (EST).

The lottery will open at 9:00am Friday, January 14th. Students can submit ballots at this time and will be able to change their ballots prior to the deadline of Thursday January 20th at 9:00am (EST).

Please note that these dates are subject to change.

Option Studios Descriptions

Descriptions for option studios have been 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 the lottery, and in some cases, after the start of the academic term.

Studio Presentations

Option studio presentations will be prerecorded, and accessible through the Option Studio Presentations page. Critics were 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.

Videos will be posted prior to the lottery on the Option Studios Presentations page.


The lottery for option studios is set to open on Friday, January 14th at 9:00am (EST) and will remain open until 9:00am (EST) on Thursday, January 20th.

Students will be able to update their ballot selections during the open submission period and will be notified of results via my.harvard prior to the first studio meetings.


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. Please be sure to investigate and fully understand the implications of travel.

Please be sure to use your legal name exactly as it appears on your identification for all transactions such as airline tickets to avoid any confusion. 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.

For more information on specific sites for each studio, please see the travel information and costs page.

Students are expected to cover their own meals and incidentals for all GSD related travel. Incidentals can include 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 domestic site visits will be term-billed up to $250. Note online information WILL CHANGE over the next week. All studio trips are subject to security and safety 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.

Lottery Ballot Procedures

You must cast your ballot online via my.Harvard. You won’t need to submit hard copies of your ballot. Program Coordinators will be available if you have any questions.

Your online ballot must be submitted before the deadline of 9:00am (EST) on Thursday, January 20th.

Lottery ballots will be available on my.Harvard in advance.

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. Use the pull-down menu on the ballot to select studios only offered by your department. 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 have questions about the lottery procedure or your eligibility, please contact your departmental Program Coordinator immediately. Urban Planners should consult the email sent by their Program Coordinator.

Note that you will be allowed to adjust your ballot between the time that the lottery opens and closes – from 9:30am (EST) on Friday 1/14 until 9:00am (EST) on Thursday 1/20. Please make sure your submitted choices are correct before the deadline. 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 ([email protected]).

Notes: The GSD lottery procedure is designed to assign as many students as possible to their highest-ranked studio. Assignment to the options studios 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 shortly after the lottery has concluded. Petitions will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the Program Directors, the Executive Dean, and the Director of Administration for Academic Affairs. Students should submit a written appeal to their Program Coordinators (Sarah Hutchinson for UPD, Tiffany Yee for LA and Estefanía Ibáñez for Arch) by 9:30am (EST) on January 21st. 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 of students per studio instructor, and by expense considerations. 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.


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

On Thursday, January 20th the results of the lottery will be shared, when completed, via my.Harvard. You will be automatically enrolled in the studio in to which you are lotteried.

Introductory studio meetings

Introductory studio meetings will be held online in the evening on Thursday, January 20th. Students must refer to their studio’s Canvas site for the link to attend their first meeting. These are relatively brief and casual meetings for making personal introductions, providing any necessary logistical details, and beginning to go into more depth about your studio’s plans.

Full studio sessions will be held at regularly scheduled days and times, the week of January 24th.


You will be notified when studio desks will be available for occupancy; we expect studio locations to be announced on the afternoon of Monday, January 24th. 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 and End of Studio Classes

Option Studios will begin holding full studio sessions the week of January 24th (at regularly scheduled days and times) and will meet through the week of April 18th.

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 these dates.

Final reviews for Option Studios are scheduled for April 29, May 2 & May 3.

Final Exams are scheduled for May 4, May 5, May 6 & May 9.

Updated 1/11/2021