How to Apply

Join us for one of our virtual information sessions, hosted weekly by Admissions staff. Interested in seeing the campus? RSVP for a tour! We also encourage you to explore the GSD through student work and the pages below to learn more about our degree programs, application requirements, student life, and financial aid.

Students Nick and Bae present their 2022 IDEP project to a group, which a screen showing two people with their hands together behind them.


Consideration will be given to applicants who are ready to tackle the world’s most complex challenges and:

  1. have at least two years of professional experience in engineering, design, business, government, or other fields;
  2. hold a degree in design, engineering, sciences, social sciences, or a related field; and 
  3. have demonstrated technical literacy (see below) and multidisciplinary design interests.  Applicants must be prepared to submit a portfolio/set of project descriptions.

Applicants should have a broad set of interests and be ready to embrace studies in a fast-paced, interdisciplinary setting that relies heavily on collaboration.  In addition to a portfolio, applicants will be required to submit a brief essay that describes their interest in addressing complex human problems, their particular domain of interest, and how they will utilize this degree to achieve their goals.

Technical literacy might include mathematical skills at the level of calculus, statistics, and/or experience in coding applications and using advanced computer simulation tools. For students without sufficient experience, a small number of electives and/or online courses can be used to “top up” their technical background. All students are required to participate in a preterm workshop that focuses on skills related to the Collaborative Design Engineering Studio.

The design portfolio should provide a representative number of relevant examples of the candidate’s work, design, and/or research. Examples may be professional or academic and may encompass designed, researched, and/or actualized work. Projects may include, but are not limited to, buildings, products, mechanical systems, electronic systems, organizational systems, and recommendations regarding processes. It is understood that portfolios will vary widely in content and graphic quality based on the educational background and work experience of individual applicants. Projects should be submitted in PDF format and include a description of the project as well as supporting documentation, which may include images or a video (videos must be uploaded separately from the PDF). Applicants may include a list of additional relevant projects. Please see admission instructions for more details on portfolio submittal.

The application of every applicant will be evaluated by a joint committee of GSD and SEAS faculty, who will evaluate and determine the suitability of applicants based on their demonstrated capabilities, statements of purpose, and design portfolios, with consideration toward creating a well-balanced cohort.

Note: While the Master in Design Engineering is a collaborative degree program between the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the admissions process is administered by the GSD. 

To learn more about admissions and how to apply

See also:

Navigating the Application – Harvard Graduate School of Design

MDE Program Frequently Asked Questions

If approved, an MDE student may take a full-year leave of absence (LOA). Due to the sequential nature of the program, students may not take a single-semester LOA.

Yes. Students in the program are required to take graduate-level courses at both the SEAS and GSD, but also have freedom in cross-registering for courses beyond the two schools. Decisions are guided by the program elective policy.

Elective choices are flexible and allow students to complement their backgrounds, and pursue their interests and passions. The goal is for students to acquire entirely new skillsets while also diving deeper into particular subjects.

Distance learning options are not available.

MDE Merit Scholarship

  • Each year, two incoming student will be selected as recipients based on overall merit. In this case, we define merit as a holistic combination of academic credentials, financial circumstances, social engagement and leadership, and interdisciplinary experience. This is not to suggest that applicants must excel equally in every single category (academic, social, and interdisciplinary experience), but all categories will be taken into consideration.
  • All incoming students will automatically be considered, and recipients are informed alongside their notice of admission. Each scholarship totals $15,000, which is spread across a student’s two years in the program ($7,500 per year).

Federal and/or private loans: Applicants for the Master in Design Engineering (MDE) degree program are eligible to apply for federal and/or private loans options. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for federal aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), choosing school code E00212 for the GSD. Applying by the February financial aid deadline will allow us to award your federal aid at the same time as your admission decision. Currently, we are not offering any need-based or merit-based grant options for this program.

Program Directors’ Award: at the end of their first year in the program, up to five students are awarded the Master in Design Engineering Program Directors’ Award, which is merit-based.

MDE Fellowships: At the end of their first year in the program, students may apply for an MDE Fellowship. These fellowships are need-based and awarded to a limited number of students going into their third semester.

Project Funding: all MDE students receive a set amount of funding for studio projects and Independent Design Engineering Projects.

External Scholarships: MDE is eligible for a number of STEM-related external scholarships. International students should review government-sponsored funding opportunities. International students, as well as U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply for private loan options. Some private loan options may require a US co-signer. Applications for the private loans are not initiated until the spring.

All applicants are encouraged to review information about Outside Scholarships on the GSD Financial Aid webpage.

At this time, no concurrent degree options are available. Multiple degrees would be obtained consecutively.

At the time of applying, applicants should have at least two years of professional experience in engineering, design, business, government, or other relevant field. Real-world professional experience and the application of that experience to the MDE program is a primary consideration for admissions. Ideally, experience will show evidence of engaging in an interdisciplinary, collaborative setting, and an interest in addressing complex problems.

The Master in Design Engineering is a two-year (four-term) program requiring full-time residency. This means full-time enrollment in the fall and spring terms of two academic years. Ex) Students who arrived in the fall of 2016 graduated in the spring of 2018.

Due to the highly immersive nature of the MDE program, working full time would not be possible. However, some students do have part-time positions, mostly as teaching assistants, teaching fellows, or research assistants.

The MDE program is designated as a STEM program. Accordingly, international students holding F-1 visas may be eligible for a 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension on top of their initial OPT of 12 months, for a total of 36 months, following graduation.  Each F-1 student must petition United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve the 24-month STEM extension, and Harvard does not represent or warrant that USCIS will grant any individual petition.