Trying to get into Harvard


I would like some advise from those who have recently applied to the GSD and have been accepted. It is a goal of mine to get into this school and would greatly appreciate any help.

Mar 8, 13 1:56 pm

first step is to have back up schools. 

Mar 8, 13 2:49 pm

lets see your portfolio first and we can give you better/realistic advice. ;D

Mar 8, 13 3:01 pm

do career discovery to see if you like it

have interesting projects

good gres

develop a stance, push it.

Mar 8, 13 4:07 pm

I have no idea why I got accepted. Worked for some talented people. Had a unique view point. I demonstrated how I think more then the extent of what I can do. I didn't have a very polished portfolio but it really demonstrated how I think.

I also demonstrated exactly why Harvard over any other school and exactly why their program.

Work Hard!

Mar 8, 13 4:24 pm

sandhill - care to show us your portfolio?

Mar 8, 13 4:29 pm

Unfortunatly I can't. There are projects that are for private clients and they do not want them published. It was difficult to get them to give a release for the Universities. I had to get a sign off that the Universities would not publish the work and the portfolio would remain private.

Really wish I could share it because the projects are pretty sweet.

Mar 8, 13 5:11 pm

"Go somewhere else. Harvard has a negative EROI:"

Yeh. Right. Always trust a website that has an advertisement for an animated video game blinking on the border that says "One click for a roman orgy". Journalistic merit at its finest.

Only one advice for all schools. Bust your ass.

Mar 8, 13 5:22 pm

And to be more specific.

* Start your application process around June.

*Create a schedule outlining key dates you would like to have your 'draft' stuff done for critique.

* Rework the portfolio almost entirely beginning in late summer.

* Have lots of peer reviews of your letter of intent and your portfolio.

* Post your portfolio on archinect for a review and critique, well in advance of applying.

* Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite you letter of intent.

* Contact to schools to verify that your research interest is in parallel with theirs (if nothing else this initiates communication)

* Don't overstudy for your GRE. Take it early so you can retake it if necessary.

* Call your 'references' rather than email. Contact them early - give them time.

* Lastly, do what you are doing, talk to current students, talk to people that get accepted, go to open house.

I was probably a little overboard (applied for a research master's so also had to have a 2000-3000 word research proposal for each program), however I started everything in June. Spent about 400-500 hours working on my applications. No BS. Redid my portfolio entirely. Rewrote my research proposal at least 8 times. Remember, its less depressing and daunting to do a little at a time, 10-20 hours a week, rather than 80 hours each of the last 3 weeks.

Mar 8, 13 5:58 pm

Yeh. Right.

mtt9999, don't like the message? Shoot the messenger. That always works.

Mar 8, 13 6:50 pm

I really do not think that evaluating architecture courses using ROI is a good idea, because it would mostly be bad for all schools, unless you get a scholarship. I have seen GSD grads at very high posts in corporate offices, even if their work sucks.

Back to the original question, the portfolio (which goes hand-in-hand with employment history) and recommendations are what will get you in. GRE is important, but not very much.

A very good strategy, if you really want to get into the GSD is to work with someone who teaches there for an year or two. If you are good, you might end up with a free ride!

Mar 8, 13 11:29 pm

Thank you all for your input. I am aware that I will have to redevelop my portfolio . Please give any advise you deem necessary.

Mar 9, 13 1:23 am

ibp, harvard is not a bad choice at all, regardless ROI calculations by people looking to take a chunk from the elite.  it offers opportunity otherwise not available and only a fool would not try to grab opportunities if they can.

as for the portfolio, it is hard to see a point of view or an intention with the work and is rather generic.  if you are redoing your portfolio you might think about how to tell a story and not just show off technical accomplishments.

Mar 9, 13 1:46 am

Unfortunately on Archinect, you have a rather large percentage of people who only go into threads to shout "It doesn't matter where you go go school, go to the cheapest" that is not soo incorrect for the 80% of students who are forgetable, but if you are someone who is pro-active, passionate and live architecture, it very much matters where you go to school. Harvard will have a network and connections you will not get at other schools and if you aprove yourself you will have many doors opened up for you that some shill at a mediocre state school never will get.

With that said, looking at your portfolio I would say that you should focus on drawings, schools don't care about renderings, and your renderings are very week and look like default revit renderings. They do not possess any sort of emotion of feeling, they do not emphasize the building or design. They are really bad, and what is left is pretty mediocre drawings. So I would first focus on producing quality drawings, proper axo's, iso's worm's eye where you are exploring the structure. You can find great drawings on +

If you know Rhino, (if not learn it, it is easy) you can produce very high quality, innovative drawings since you already have your 3d models, very quickly. ONce you have outstanding drawings, then focus on proper renderings, get proper, 1 or 2 high quality renderings look far better then 30 crappy revit renders.

Best of luck!

Mar 10, 13 1:37 pm

^ ouch but probably one of the most constructive advices.. none of those fake, wishy, washy, fairy tale advice.

One advice I got from a female classmate who got accepted to GSD is they don't like boxy, typical architecture... Your work must be heavily design oriented.. They seem to like organic design, with innovative forms/shapes with a strong concept ofcourse.. Not purely graphic.

I suggest looking into the Masters applicant threads and look at the portfolio of those who got into GSD.

Mar 10, 13 2:05 pm

I appreciate everyone's input. Thank you.

Mar 10, 13 8:05 pm

would reiterate that drawings can look like anything if the concept is strong and clear.  awesome renders without idea or reason are a dime a dozen and basically its what gets built in half of asia, but it ain't what the best schools are looking for in their students.  find a point of view and show it.  do it in crayon if you like.

Mar 10, 13 8:12 pm

Harvard will have a network and connections... 


if you want to teach at mediocre state schools.

Mar 11, 13 12:18 am

Toasteroven, where did you go to school and what have you accomplished in your career?

At Harvard, and at many well regarded schools, students who prove themselves, who lead in their class have many doors opened for them that reach far beyond what anyone will gain from at a middle of the road state school. Harvard is a program where the discourse on the future of architecture is happening in, they attract quite influential people to lecture, speak and teach. Like with most well regarded schools there are going to be many people who hate them because they never had the ability to attend them, and probably work at a firm that specializes in McDonalds and CVS locations... and no, I do not go to Harvard.

Mar 11, 13 10:29 am
vado retro

For anyone looking to develop a portfolio who wants some inspiration, find a copy of Cooper Union's Education of an Architect. Although it is from the early 90's, the book is full of great projects that may give you some ideas on drawing and physical models. I doubt that any Architecture department is looking to hard at computer renderings and are more interested in conceptual thinking coupled with a "hand" that demonstrates some individuality. Good Luck.

Mar 11, 13 11:12 am

Thank you guys!!

Mar 12, 13 10:52 pm

Does anybody know anything about the MDesS at Harvard? especially the energy and environments specialization.

I'd really like to get some insight from applicants or graduates of the program! I'm assuming this thread is only about the MArch at Harvard?

Sep 26, 13 6:27 pm

To cut to the chase the school should provide placement rates and average starting salaries for their recent graduates as well as their level of indebtedness at graduation.

Sep 26, 13 8:46 pm

One thing you might have missed out is the "MAX. NUMBER OF PAGES" limited by the school.

On a side note, I feel that you really need to put some time to refine your portfolio. You don't need a full cover of a render in a spread( which is still raw ) and you're doing it in your entire portfolio. You're wasting spreads, is all I can say.

I feel that you need to put more time in the conceptual process of the design and presents that ,rather than putting mere plans and elevations.

You need to stand out just to be seen by GSD; and you need to put more effort in your current stage of portfolio 

Oct 1, 13 12:26 am

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