Gap Semesters ~ Fellowships ~ Short Courses


Thoreau College offers intimate and 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.  

Theater Set

March Drama Intensive

Join us in March 2024 for “The Art of Active Transformation,” a 3-week immersion for aspiring actors and theater artists incorporating acting history, set design and construction, movement and voice work, and performance of one-act plays by Anton Chekhov.

Standard Oil Octopus

The Organic Metaphor in Politics

Join us in January and February for a new 6-week winter program integrating rigorous academic study of political thought with experiences of craft, community, labor, and encounters with nature in the depths of winter.

Thoreau College Field School - Campus Wagon

Summer Field School

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.

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.



Why Apply to Thoreau College?

Why Apply to Thoreau College?

By Jacob Rowland, 2020 Fall Semester Program Thoreau College is a singular place, and perhaps a hard place to understand. The applicant process is, in a way, opposite to the ordinary college search process: most colleges have extensive websites, virtual tours, and brochures to appeal to...

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Student Body Report – Fall 2023

Student Body Report – Fall 2023

Participation in shared community self-governance is a key part of being a student at Thoreau College. This includes active participation in meetings of the Board of Trustees. The following report from the Thoreau College Student Body was presented to the Thoreau College Board of Trustees.

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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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