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Should You Apply to Sotheby's Summer Institute as an Art Buff in High School?

As a high schooler with a passion for art and history, it is important to find ways to amplify your college application while showcasing your skills. One excellent way to do this is by participating in specialized summer programs, like Sotheby's Summer Institute that we will be covering in this blog post. These programs not only deepen your understanding of art but also add a unique flair to your college applications, showcasing your diverse interests and your dedication to developing them.

What is Sotheby's Summer Institute?

Sotheby's Summer Institute is a two-week immersive in-person experience for rising high school students at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York. From the nuances of gallery and museum operations to the evolution of painting and drawing techniques, the program is designed to engage and inspire your passion for art. Taught by leading scholars and professionals, it offers behind-the-scenes access to museums, galleries, auction houses, and artists' studios.

Sotheby's Institute of Art has a rich history dating back to 1744. It's a hub where art meets business, offering a comprehensive understanding of art's value and history, combined with business acumen. With campuses in London and New York, two of the biggest art capitals of the world, the Institute stands at the forefront of art business education.

Is it prestigious?

Sotheby's Summer Institute has the prestige of being associated with the Sotheby’s Art Institute, one of the most recognizable names in the world of art. The program is fairly exclusive, with small cohort sizes and a selective admission process, though the in-person requirement and the higher fee somewhat dilute this selectivity. The most important factor that counts towards the program's prestige is the level of exposure you receive. Almost regardless of which specific course you choose to attend, you will not only be face-to-face with some of the up and coming names in the world of art, you will also get to visit private artists’ studios, private collections and arts foundations. The networks you can build here can do wonders for your future education and career in art.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be able to apply for Sotheby’s Summer Institute, you must be:

  • A rising high school student (grades 10-12) OR a graduating senior.

  • 15 years old by the program's start date.

  • Able to attend the program in person in New York City. While international students can apply, you’ll have to make your own visa application arrangements.

How does the application process work?

The application process requires submitting the following:

  • Your basic information.

  • Your course preference from their course catalog. You will also have to choose which term you will attend, depending on when your course is available.

  • Answers to some short answer questions that help you showcase your interest and passion.

  • A $50 application fee.

  • Some supplementary materials: unofficial high school transcripts and a reference (both mandatory), along with an optional work or writing sample.

The applications are currently open, and you should submit an application at the earliest if you’re interested. Early decision will be finalized by February 5. Applicants who submit a priority application (returning or deferred students), or those who have applied for financial aid, can expect to receive a decision by March 11. The regular decision is due April 8.

How much does Sotheby’s Summer Institute cost?

The cost of attending the program varies depending on whether you opt for the residential option or the commuter option. The fee breakdowns are as follows:

  • Residential: $6,845 (tuition, room, board) + $275 (materials) + $100 (health fee) = $7,220 total

  • Commuter: $5,560 (tuition, room, board) + $275 (materials) + $100 (health fee) = $5,935 total

  • Note that you can attend both terms if you wish, for a discount of $425 on the total tuition.

Financial aid is available based on merit and need, and you’ll have to submit a financial aid application alongside your program application by March 11.

How is the Summer Institute structured?

Across two terms, Sotheby’s Summer Institute a solid variety of courses that together cover a vast array of subjects within the world of art:

  • Art History - In the Art History course at Sotheby's Summer Institute, you embark on a journey through the history of art, exploring masterpieces from antiquity to the present day. Utilizing New York City's rich museum landscape, you'll engage in an intensive study of major artists, movements, and global cultures. The course includes visits to iconic museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters, offering you a hands-on experience of various art forms and styles. You'll learn about different cultures and periods, from ancient Egyptian art to contemporary works, with insights from guest scholars. This course is perfect for you if you're interested in a comprehensive understanding of art history, enhanced by real-world exposure to masterpieces.

  • Art Crime - In the Art Crime course, you delve into the thrilling world of art heists, forgeries, and legal battles. You'll take on the role of an art detective, exploring high-profile cases and learning the basics of art law. The course includes site visits to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Galerie, as well as interactions with FBI Art Crime Unit members and art lawyers. You'll cover topics like Nazi-looted art, forgery detection, and the legalities of art restitution. This course is perfect for you if you're fascinated by the intersection of art, crime, and law.

  • Art Business - In the Art Business course, you get an insider's view of New York's contemporary art market. The course covers the primary and secondary art markets, exploring the evolution of art commerce, including digital art and NFTs. You'll visit galleries, auction houses, and studios, meeting with artists, gallerists, and auction specialists. You'll learn about the relationship between the art marketplace and non-profit sectors, focusing on museums. This course is ideal for you if you're interested in the commercial aspects of art and its global market dynamics.

  • Museums, Galleries, Auction Houses - This course offers you an in-depth look at the three pillars of the art world: museums, galleries, and auction houses. You'll explore how these institutions operate and influence the global art scene. The course includes visits to major art establishments in New York City and discussions on the evolving use of technology in these spaces. You'll engage in projects exploring potential careers in each field, guided by expert instructors. This course is perfect for you if you're interested in the business and operational aspects of art institutions.

  • Art, Luxury, Fashion - In the Art, Luxury, Fashion course, you'll explore the historical and contemporary relationships between these three fields. You'll learn about the influence of art movements on fashion and luxury goods, examining collaborations between artists and luxury brands. The course includes visits to fashion ateliers and luxury brand stores, providing a comprehensive view of the industry. You'll engage in projects like curating exhibitions or designing fashion lines, making this course ideal for you if you're interested in the creative and business sides of fashion and luxury.

  • Painting and Drawing - In the Painting and Drawing course, you'll focus on fundamental techniques in a studio environment. Aimed at beginners and intermediate artists, it offers an interactive approach to learning and refining your artistic skills. The course includes visits to museums and artists' studios, complemented by lectures and hands-on activities. You'll work on a final project, receiving guidance from practicing artists. This course is suitable for you if you're eager to explore your artistic talents and prepare for college-level art studies.

  • Art Conservation / Art Appraisal - In this course, you'll explore the fields of art conservation and appraisal. You'll gain behind-the-scenes access to museum conservation labs and learn from experts about preserving and valuing art objects. The course covers the art historical context and ethical considerations of art conservation. You'll engage in hands-on activities, developing skills in evaluating artwork condition and value. This course is ideal for you if you're interested in the scientific and commercial aspects of art preservation and valuation.

You can explore the full course catalog here, and check which course is available in which term here.

Considering pros and cons


  1. You’ll get comprehensive exposure to the art world: Through your instructors, with the field visits to museums and galleries, and through the projects you will be pursuing, you will get real, hands-on exposure in the world of art. It will help you develop the actual skills that are in demand for a career in art.

  2. You’ll get a lot of networking opportunities: The in-person structure of the program, coupled with the numerous field visits and workshops, means that you will be face-to-face with many of the leading names in art. You will be able to build a valuable network that will help you establish your future academic growth and career.

  3. It’ll enhance your college applications: Being associated with Sotheby’s, and also learning the skills taught in these programs rounds out your profile and makes you a stronger and more robust applicant for any higher education course in the world of art.


  1. The program is expensive: At nearly $6000 even for the commuter program, Sotheby’s Summer Institute is quite pricey. Though financial aid is available, it is still limited. Factor this into your decision.

  2. There is no online option available: The program is structured to be an in-person immersive experience, so if you’re unable to travel to New York to attend the course, then you will unfortunately not be eligible for it.

Conclusion - should you apply?

Sotheby's Summer Institute is an excellent opportunity if you’re a high schooler deeply interested in art. Its association with the prestigious Sotheby’s Institute of Art, the comprehensive curriculum of each of the courses it offers, and the hands-on immersive experience it provides make it a worthy consideration. If you're able to secure the funds for it, are able to travel to New York, and are actually considering a career in art, then this program should surely be on your radar.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. 

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image Source: Sotheby's logo


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