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Architecture Studio Lottery 

Over the last few decades, GSAPP Student Council has developed the structure and policy guidelines used to conduct the GSAPP Architecture Studio Lotteries. While the administration oversees the processes and checks the final results, Student Council members—two student representatives elected each year from the MArch and MSAAD programs—conduct the lotteries themselves.

Students rank studio preference on the ballot distributed by program representatives 

  • “#1” indicates first choice, “#2” indicates second choice, etc.

  • All studios must be ranked or the ballot cannot be accepted.

  • The ballot includes only the ranking and the student’s CU ID number, which is unknown to representatives sorting the lottery ballots. Therefore, the lottery process is anonymous.

  • Only the rankings are taken into consideration, and additional explanations regarding studio choice are disregarded.

Program Council runs the lottery.

  • First, all ballots are placed in their top choice studio.

    • The proceeding sorting process is based on two principles: One is to give each student as close to their first choice as possible; the second is to ensure that there are at least 8 students in each studio.
    • Therefore, the process varies slightly depending on the initial distribution of ballots in the first round. 

  • In the second round, representatives look through all ballots, starting with the most over-filled studios, to find ballots with that under-filled studios ranked 2. For instance, if Studio A has 15 ballots ranking it #1, and Studio B has room, representatives look for ballots in Studio A that rank Studio B as #2. 

    • If studios ranked highly are still overfilled and/or some studios are underfilled, representatives will continue this process looking at #3 options.
    • Depending on the distribution of ballots, representatives may also move students from filled studios they ranked #1 to a #2 ranked studio to make room for a student in an overfilled studio to move to a second-choice studio. In that situation the decision is made to move two students to #2 ranked studios than one student to a #3 or higher ranked studio from a #1 ranked studio. 

  • All lottery moves are recorded in an excel document that allows representatives and administration to track the average ranking (how many students end up in first, second, third, etc. studios divided by total students). The overarching goal is to have the lowest average number possible without sacrificing students to their lower choice studios. Both representatives and administration track this average number against previous years.

  • In the event that students must be moved to a studio that they ranked unfavorably (typically 6+ for Core 1 – Adv 4, and 8+ for Advanced 5 and 6) in order to fill studio quotas, they will be compensated with the option to select first choice in the following semester.

The Administration checks the lottery results.

  • Once lottery is complete, all ballots and excel documents are verified by administration and names are matched with CUID numbers. 
Once results are posted, students have the option to make one-to-one swaps between studios regardless of studio size. The total number of students in each studio section does not change. The identification of people to swap with, negotiation, and notification of administration is the responsibility of the student, not the representatives or administration. 

The best way to approach lottery is to identify your top studios and rank them honestly. There is a very high likelihood that you will receive your top studios and you must embrace that possibility instead of trying to trick the system.

Please note: GSAPP is one of the few schools that still performs the lottery by hand instead of computer. This is because every computer algorithm tested has proved less effective than hand sorting. There are more students sacrificed to studios they’ve ranked unfavorably in the algorithmic sorting. The school and representatives advocate for a more democratic system where everyone gets a higher choice.


Elected Program Council representatives perform the lottery for their own class. This means MArch I representatives conduct the lottery for their class beginning in the spring of their first year. The exception is the first AAD lottery for the summer semester, at which point the class has just begun and not yet elected representatives. Former and current student representatives conduct the lottery in this situation.

Note: The AAD election took place after the start of the Fall semester this year. The situation will be remedied in future years with the aid of a Program Council Constitution and Handbook.