The Fall 2020 lottery for Module 2 option studios will open at 9:00 am (EDT) on Monday, October 19 and close on Wednesday, October 21 at 11:00am (EDT)

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 the lottery, and in some cases, after the start of the academic term.

Lottery Presentations

This semester, all option studio presentations have been prerecorded, and are available accessible through the Option Studio Presentations page. 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.


Many option studios are offered as modules this semester. There will be two lotteries for fall option studios.

The lottery for full-term and module 1 studios took place on Monday, August 31.

The lottery for Module 2 option studios will open at 9:00 am (EDT) on Monday, October 19 and close on Wednesday, October 21 at 11:00 am (EDT). Studio presentations will be pre-recorded and posted online. Students who are enrolled in Module 1 studios will be able to update their ballot selections during this 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.

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 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.

For module 2, your on-line ballot must be submitted before 11:00 am (EDT) on Wednesday, October 21. Lottery ballots will be available on my.Harvard on Monday, October 19 at 9:00 am (EDT).

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. Urban Planners should consult the email sent by their Program Coordinator.

Note that you will be allowed to adjust your ballot between October 19 at 9:00 am (EDT) and October 21 at 11:00 am (EDT). Please make sure your submitted choices are correct before the 11 AM (EDT) deadline on October 21, for Module 2. 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 Thursday afternoon. 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 the Academic Affairs Coordinator (Estefania Ibanez-Moreno) by 9 AM (EDT) on Thursday, October 22. 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. 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, on Wednesday, October 21 the results of the lottery will available via my.Harvard. You will be automatically enrolled in the studio in to which you are lotteried.

First studio meetings will be held at 7:30 PM (EDT) on Wednesday, October 21, OR at 7:30 AM (EDT) on Thursday, October 22.

Students must refer to their course Canvas site for the link to attend their first meeting. 

Start of Classes

Option Studio Module 2 classes begin on Thursday, October 22.

Faculty were asked to hold two hours in the morning and/or the evening in order to provide flexibility for students residing in international time zones. Faculty will work with students to identify these mutually-agreeable times, which will be used for individual crits as well as for group sessions.

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.

Note, that this semester, final reviews for module 1 studios are scheduled for Thursday, October 15, and/or Tuesday, October 20. Final reviews for full-term and module 2 studios are scheduled for December 9-11.

Updated 10/15/2020