Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions quick links:

Admissions Details

COVID-19 and Fall 2020

Will the Fall 2020 semester be delayed?

All incoming and current students will be able to start on time for Fall 2020. New student orientation will begin on August 17 and classes start on August 24. 

Will the Fall 2020 semester be offered online? If so, what can I expect?
Yes, we are offering remote options for all new students who are unable to travel to Chicago. We will also be offering a hybrid program with both in-person and online classes for all students who are on campus. We are actively working on adapting and optimizing our remote learning experience and are confident that Fall 2020 will have options for students to work remotely through a variety of learning formats and experiences.

Will I be able to obtain my visa in time to join for the Fall 2020 semester?
We are processing I-20 requests for Fall 2020 as normal. Once your financial affidavit of support form and supporting documents are received, please allow 5 to 7 business days for processing. Tracking information will be provided. Please submit all documents to as soon as possible. (Our university is working closely with US authorities to ensure that visa processing, which is currently closed, will open again soon.)

Can I defer my admission to next year in case COVID-19 is still a concern this fall? If so, when do I need to decide by? How do I defer?
Yes, you can, but we do not recommend it. As outlined above, we are committed to providing an immersive and effective learning experience for Fall 2020/Spring 2021. If for personal reasons you need to defer, our standard policy is that you may defer admission until Fall 2021. However, all scholarships and fellowships will need to be reconsidered as part of the full Fall 2021 cohort of incoming students. If you need to defer, please email to discuss further.

I would prefer to do an ID program online. Will you be offering your programs online going forward—will an online degree from ID be an option I can rely on?
We are planning to offer our MDM program online starting this fall. If you are interested please contact We do not currently have plans to offer the entire MDes program remotely.

 Admissions Details

How long will the decision take?
After you submit your application, our admissions team will confirm when we have received all required materials. If you have not received confirmation within one to two weeks of submitting your application, please feel free to email us at Admission decisions typically take up to four weeks, at which time we will notify you of the decision.

What should I include in my portfolio?
Our portfolio requirements vary depending on the program to which you are applying. You’ll find details for what should be included in the portfolio section of the application information page. 

Do I need to submit a GRE or GMAT?
We do not require a GRE or GMAT score for any application. However, if you have a score you would like to submit we are happy to include that in your application evaluation. We will accept either the GRE or the GMAT.

Who needs to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores?
Any applicant with an undergraduate degree from an institution where the primary language of instruction is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores. If you are unable to take the IELTS or TOEFL test due to exam cancellations, you may submit Duolingo English Test results instead. 

The minimum TOEFL score accepted is 100. The minimum IELTS total score accepted is 7.5. The minimum Duolingo English Test total score accepted is 125. All applicants with lower scores may be admitted with additional English + Design requirements.

Do you accept Duolingo English Test scores?
If you are unable to take the IELTS or TOEFL test due to exam cancellations, you may submit Duolingo English Test results instead. 

Is prior work experience mandatory?

  • For MDes, two to four years is typical, but not required.
  • For MDM, eight to ten years is typical and a minimum of five years is required.
  • Pro bono, freelance projects, and full-time internships will be considered.

Does the Master of Design have STEM eligibility?
Yes, as of fall 2018, the Master of Design is considered STEM eligible. The MDM and the PhD programs are not. See the US government’s website for more information about STEM programs.

How diverse is ID?
ID believes that diverse perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds are essential to an innovative and vibrant learning environment. We pride ourselves on our historically even gender balance, as well as a globally diverse student body reflecting a wide range of work experiences. 

It is now past the final application submission date, can I still apply?
Yes, space permitting and depending on the program, you can still apply after the normal deadlines. Please email our staff at to inquire about late applications.

I have been admitted, how do I secure my spot in the program?
You will need to submit a $500 tuition deposit and complete an intent to enroll form through the application portal to confirm your intent to join our program. We cannot hold a place for you if you do not send a deposit.


Will I need to complete a thesis project if I’m in a master’s program?
Not as a single capstone project. Instead, we use our workshops as opportunities for integration and application of our theories and methods. Students typically accumulate eight to ten workshops (some with outside corporate sponsorships) over the course of four semesters.

What is the class experience like?
All of our classes, seminars, and workshops, are active experiences. We use a combination of lectures, discussions, short exercises, and bigger projects to explore the content of a course and learn how to apply its teachings to design work. Depending on the size and nature of a course, some are team based while others focus on individual learning. Most classes have an average size of 15 students; more popular classes can get as big as 25, and some are as small as three.

Can I work on an idea I want to take to market?
We encourage students to follow their passion and some students have been able to bring concepts worked on in class to commercialization. However, we believe that our program is best suited to those interested in building a range of professional skills and the deep theoretical knowledge necessary for a successful career in design. Entrepreneurial pursuits are just one aspect of this education.


How much will it cost to attend?
Tuition varies for each program. Please consult program information pages for details.

Master of Design
Master of Design + MBA

Master of Design + Master of Public Administration

Do you have scholarships?
Yes, we offer a limited number of fellowships and scholarships. All admitted students are considered for a fellowship, with early applications considered first. No separate application is needed. You will find more financial aid information on our Fellowships + Financial Aid page.

What percentage of students receive fellowships and/or scholarships?
Financial awards are extremely competitive and the total amounts available are directly influenced by the generous donations of our community. Typically 20% of applicants receive a fellowship and/or scholarship to cover a portion of tuition costs.

How do I apply for a fellowship or scholarship?
As a newly-admitted student you are automatically considered based on your admission materials. No separate application is needed.

When will I be notified of an award?
We will notify you of an awarded scholarship or fellowship at time of admission.

Do you award fellowships or scholarship based on need?
At this time, we award all fellowships based on merit. Past, present, and likely future accomplishments are considered.

If I am admitted and do not receive a fellowship or scholarship, can I apply once I begin the program?
We only award fellowships and scholarships on the entering semester for newly admitted students to the program.

How much money will I be awarded?
Specific amounts will vary. In the past, our fellowships have provided from 10% up to 50% of tuition.

Can I pick which fellowship I want to apply for?
To maximize the impact of awards, our fellowship committee decides which fellowships are distributed to whom.

Do all your programs award scholarships or fellowships?
Our awards are available only for newly admitted Master of Design, Master of Design + MBA, and PhD students. We do not offer awards to newly admitted MDM students.

If I defer my admission, will I still receive my scholarship or fellowship when I enter the program?
Awards cannot be transferred from semester to semester. If you are unable to attend in the semester in which you were awarded a scholarship or fellowship, you will be considered again for the semester in which you enroll. However, due to the competitive nature of the program, we cannot guarantee an award will be available to you at that time.


I do not have a design background. Can I still attend?
Yes, we accept many students without a formal design education. Most often these students take one additional semester of Foundation courses or a customized set of bridge courses. Our faculty makes these decisions based on careful review of application materials.

My test scores are not great, what are my chances of getting in?
We carefully review all applications. While we have minimum standards, we are looking for students who we believe will excel in our program, and we understand that important qualities are not captured in a test score.

How many students are enrolled in the MDes program?
Every year is different and individual lengths of stay vary, therefore the total number of enrolled students ranges from 80 to 120 each year.

What percentage of applicants are accepted for the MDes program?
It depends on the year. Each program is competitive and we make sure there is a good fit between the school and the goals of the applicant.

Admitted students

I was just admitted to the Institute of Design. How do I secure my spot in the program?
Please navigate to the new student site to see a list of next steps you should take to secure your spot. This site should be your main resource during your transition to ID.

I’m moving to Chicago. When should I plan to arrive before the semester starts?
There is a required new student orientation for all students starting in Fall 2020 on Monday, August 17. Classes begin on Monday, August 24.

Am I required to live on campus?
No, but there is graduate housing available to you. You can learn more about your options from the Office of Residence Life.

I am an international student. How do I obtain my visa?
The first step is to submit a Financial Affidavit to You should also read through the full visa instructions on the new students site.

How can I connect with other new students before the semester starts?
Shortly after you were admitted, you were added to a Google Group that includes the entire incoming class. You will find the link to join this group in to your email.

I didn’t see a scholarship or fellowship in my admission letter. Does that mean I did not receive an award?
Most awards are granted at time of admission. However, if you have any concerns or questions about this please reach out to the admissions team at

When can I register for classes?
After you have connected with your advisor you will be able to register for classes. Please refer to your original admissions letter to get your advisor’s name and contact information.

When is tuition due each semester?
Generally, tuition is due a few weeks after classes start each semester. You will find this year’s tuition due dates on the Student Accounting website. You will find more information about how to make tuition payments on the payments page.

Join our Graduate Program

Get complete information on application requirements.

Application Deadlines

Spring 2021 admission
October 30, 2020
Fall 2021 admission
January 22, 2021 (early round)
March 5, 2021 (final round)
Late applications may be considered, please contact us
Admission to the MDes program with Foundation is offered for the fall semester only. Your application must be completed by 5pm (CST/Chicago time) on the due date to be considered for that round. You will receive an email confirmation when all of your materials have been received. Admission decisions will be communicated roughly four weeks after this confirmation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visit our FAQ page for more information. If you have additional questions regarding our application process or requirements, please send an email to or call us at 312-595-4900.