Gap Semesters ~ Fellowships ~ Short Courses

Iintimate and Affordable

Thoreau College offers close knit, affordable place-based gap year programs, short courses, and fellowships for young adults in beautiful rural southwestern Wisconsin. Our programs immerse students in authentic community, practical labor and homesteading skills, and deep engagement with the natural world and great works of human culture.

The Metamorphosis Gap Semester

Join an intimate community of peers and mentors for a semester-long journey of metamorphosis through the seasons. Explore place, purpose, and belonging through rigorous reading and academic discussion, hands-on farming and homesteading, folk crafts and fine arts, wilderness expeditions and solos, and shared community life. 

Come for one semester or stay for a year! There are a few spots left for Fall 2024 (August 22- December 13) and we are now accepting applications for Spring 2025 (January 23 – May 30).

My expectations were more than surpassed, and I loved having the greater context of the driftless to better inform what we were doing in labor.

Meghan Murray- 2024 Thoreau College Student - Field School Program

Folk Education Association of America
Gap Year Association
League of Nunnian Schools
Summer Storm - Julia Ugo

The Green Heart of the Midwest

Thoreau College is rooted in the vibrant rural community of Viroqua, Wisconsin, in the heart of the Driftless Region, a scenic unglaciated landscape of ridges and valleys traversed by countless small streams and dotted with organic farms and small towns. Viroqua and the Driftless Region is our campus and our home.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

~ Henry David Thoreau


Rooted in the ridges and valleys of the Driftless Region of the upper Midwest, Thoreau College models a transformative liberal arts curriculum that immerses students in authentic community, shared labor and governance, and rigorous engagement with great works and natural phenomena. Thoreau College creates a context where students can nurture their sacred curiosity, connect with their deepest selves, and cultivate the capacities they will need to manifest their highest aspirations for the world.

Thoreau College understands liberal arts education to be fundamentally concerned with the cultivation of free human beings who have the capacity to impart direction and meaning to their lives and bring about positive transformation in the world. In our striving to realize an education that meets the needs of the whole human being–body, soul and spirit–we have been deeply informed by the lives and work of Henry David Thoreau (author of Walden), Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf education), and LL Nunn (founder of Deep Springs College.


Alumni Reflection – Nanami Nishiyama

Alumni Reflection – Nanami Nishiyama

Nanami Nishiyama came from Japan to participate in the 2023 Thoreau College Spring Semester Program.  Photography by Leeza Gavronsky, Jacob Hundt, and Nanami Nishiyama “What is the rich life for me?”: Finding a compass for my life at Thoreau College Why did I come to Thoreau College? Frankly...

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Support Financial Accessibility for Students

Support Financial Accessibility for Students

As a socially conscious grassroots educational nonprofit, Thoreau College is committed to making our programs financially accessible to all admitted students.  To do this, we use a flexible pledge process that works with students and families to set tuition payments to work for them.  In this way,...

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2023 in Review

2023 in Review

There is no denying that 2023 has been a hard year here on Planet Earth.  In late May, as Thoreau College was staging our first Summer Field School program with 14 students from across the United States and around the world, the skies turned red and the air became acrid with woodsmoke as forest...

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