Gap Semesters ~ Fellowships ~ Short Courses


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

September 2023 Student Body

Join an intimate community of peers and mentors for a 4-month journey of metamorphosis through the transition from summer through autumn and into winter. 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.  


Living on the Land Program

Join us in April 2024 for a 3-week exploration of how to grow food and care for the land in a sustainable way, including workshops on biodynamics and regenerative agricultural design, farm visits, and hands-on homesteading skills such as seed starting, composting, animal husbandry, and more.

Thoreau College Field School - Campus Wagon

Field School Program

The Summer Field School offers a 4-week immersion into the ecology, culture, and agriculture of rural southwestern Wisconsin in May and June, one of the most dynamic times of the natural year.  Activities include farm visits, hands on gardening and foraging, folk arts, and more.

VSF 2024 detail

Summer Shakespeare Intensive

Join us in June for a 3-week deep dive into Shakespeare and theater arts, focusing on basic stagecraft and carpentry, stage voice and movement, and scene and text analysis, all grounded in rehearsal and performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V during the Viroqua Shakespeare Festival.

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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