International Students

International students

Participants of Design Discovery come from across the globe, with international participants making up 43% of the program’s population. With such a culturally diverse student body, Design Discovery’s learning environment provides a unique perspective of the impact of design across nations.

International applicants are encouraged to apply early and to begin the I-20 application process by early March. Additional information regarding the I-20 process is provided upon admission.  A brief overview of visa requirements is outlined below.

Important Visa Information

Design Discovery is considered a full-time academic program. International participants entering the U.S. must enter on an F-1 student visa. Neither Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) nor the B-2 visa allows full-time study. ESTA and B-2 visas are only for international travelers whose main reason for visiting the United States is tourism. Do not attempt to enter the United States on either ESTA or the B-2 visa. Attempting to enter the United States on ESTA or the B-2 visa to attend a full-time non-degree program is a violation of US visa policy and you risk being denied entry to the United States.

Canadian applicants

If you will be enrolled in courses as specified above, you are required to request an I-20 certificate. However, you do not need to obtain an F-1 visa stamp in your passport prior to traveling to the US. Instead, you will present your I-20 certificate at the port of entry.

International applicants currently studying in the United States

If you are currently studying in the U.S. and will not be graduating this spring, you do not need to apply for a new visa sponsored by Harvard; you may attend Design Discovery on your current F-1 visa. You must, however, ask your school’s international office for approval to attend our program. If you are studying in the U.S. and graduating this spring, you may want to consider transferring your F-1 visa to Harvard. You may download the transfer form at:

English Proficiency Test

International applicants, except those from countries where English is the native language or who are currently enrolled in a university within the United States, must submit ONE of the following:

  • A valid score from the TOEFL internet-based test
    The minimum required TOEFL iBT total score is 92, with the following minimum section requirements: reading, 23; speaking, 23; listening, 23; writing, 23. Please have test results submitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, institution code 3455. For further information about the TOEFL exam, please visit
  • Duolingo test
    The minimum required score is 115.

International Student FAQ

Q: I am an international student. Do I need to apply for a visa if I am currently attending a U.S. college or university?
A: No. You must ask your school’s international office for approval to attend our program in lieu of applying for a new visa.
Q: For international students, is there a minimum TOEFL score that must be achieved?
A: Yes. The minimum required TOEFL iBT total score is 92, with the following minimum section requirements: reading, 23; speaking, 23; listening, 23; writing, 23. The preferred total TOEFL iBT score is 104 or above, with individual section scores of 26 or above.
Q: Can other tests of English proficiency be substituted for the TOEFL?
A: Yes, applicants may take the Duolingo test in lieu of the TOEFL.