Who is eligible to apply?

If you’re interested in getting involved with Thoreau College in some way, shape, or form, please reach out—our community is full of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. For Metamorphosis Year applicants, we are seeking up to 12 participants who have completed high school (or equivalent) and who have not yet completed a college degree. The typical ages of Metamorphosis Year participants are 18-23. Folks who are over the age of 25 or have completed a Thoreau College program, Deep Springs College or another Nunnian institution, or other college-level program are invited to apply for one of our Fellowship positions.

When does Metamorphosis Year take place?

August 23, 2021 through June 10, 2022

What is the application deadline for Metamorphosis Year?

The preliminary application has a priority deadline of March 12, 2021. After March 12, new applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the program cohort is full. If invited to continue the application, the full written application has a priority deadline of Apr 1, 2021, though rolling-basis applicants will be able to submit their full written applications after that.

Is the program accredited?

While we are currently exploring this possibility, at this time Thoreau College has not received formal academic accreditation and does not confer any formal qualification, certification, or transferable credits. If this is a concern for you, please contact us to discuss this further.

What’s the housing like?

Students and Fellows at Thoreau College live in one of three college residences – all 4-5 bedroom houses within the town of Viroqua. Residents of these houses have their own bedroom as well as shared kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces. House members work together to care for these shared spaces. Every year, some local Students or Fellows may choose to live “off-campus” in their own house or apartment.

What’s the food/diet like?

Members of the Thoreau College Community eat a delicious, healthy lunch together on weekdays in the Commons Cafe. For other meals, residents of each of the houses work together to coordinate their meal planning and grocery shopping using shared college funds for a weekly food budget. Vegetarian and vegan options are always included in meals, along with produce, meat, and dairy from the Thoreau College farm and gardens and from other local producers – of which there are many; the Driftless Region of western Wisconsin is one of the major centers of organic, sustainable, and regenerative agriculture in the United States. In short – a foodie and ethical-eater’s paradise!

Does Thoreau college accommodate students with physical and learning disabilities?

Thoreau College considers all eligible applicants for admission regardless of ability. Our curriculum includes various physical activities (walking on trails, canoeing, camping, gardening, farming, cleaning, minor construction, etc.), as well as academic activities such as reading, writing, and group discussions of ideas and texts. If you have questions about how your dis/ability may affect your participation at Thoreau College, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a conversation.

What are your COVID policies?

        Q: What are the policies of Thoreau College regarding COVID-19?
        A: Thoreau College does not require vaccination against COVID-19 to participate in our programs or community events.  At the present time, we also do not              require masks. Thoreau College takes the health and well-being of our students and community members seriously and periodically reviews all health            
        and safety protocols in the context of community self-governance. To see our current full COVID-19 protocol, please click here.                   

Can I participate/attend remotely?

The participatory and physical nature of Thoreau College requires that all students be present with us in person in Viroqua. If you are interested in shadowing or observing a class session remotely, please reach out to us.

What if I’ve never worked on a farm nor practiced self-governance?

No prior experience in these areas is necessary to apply to or attend Thoreau College! We look forward to meeting students where they’re at and facilitating an opportunity for growth and transformation.

Do you accept transfer applications?

We consider all applicants who are twenty-five or younger at the time of applying, regardless of whether or not you have taken college classes in the past. However, any college programs or courses you may have completed prior to attending Thoreau College will not count towards your completion of the Thoreau College program you are applying for.

Can you accept students from outside of the United States?

Thoreau College can accept students from other countries, but cannot grant I-20 forms for students requiring F1 student visas. For applicants from qualified countries, we can assist prospective students with getting a volunteer or tourist visa so they can participate in our programs, and which we have successfully done for international students in the past.

How much does it cost?

Thoreau College is deeply committed to making our programs financially accessible to all admitted participants. Your ability to contribute financially will not be considered as a factor in the admissions process, nor will it be a barrier to attendance. All Thoreau College programs use a pledge process to determine an individual contribution for tuition and living expenses for each individual participant. After admission, each participant meets with a member of our Finance Circle to learn about our costs of running the program and together they determine what they can contribute. The estimated “full pay” cost for the 2021-2022 Metamorphosis Year is $16,000, which covers room, board, tuition, books, art supplies, tools, and local transportation. It does not cover transportation to and from Wisconsin or medical insurance, which is required for all participants.

What is a “Microcollege”?

We describe Thoreau College as a “microcollege,” which we define as an institution of post-secondary education with fewer than 100 students (and usually far fewer) that offers a broad academic, practical, and artistic curriculum and with a strong commitment to shared governance and a strongly rooted sense of place. Our primary inspiration is Deep Springs College, an accredited 2-year microcollege in eastern California with 25-30 students that has been in operation since 1917. We see ourselves as part of a growing movement of small scale organizations seeking to transform higher education in a time when most colleges and universities are becoming bigger, more technologically dependent, more vocationally-oriented, more impersonal, and more expensive. Thoreau College is a young initiative with about 20 current participants in several programs and our goal is to have no more than 30 participants, including a foundational 1-2 year program (Metamorphosis Year) and several opportunities for deeper explorations of specific fields and careers (Fellowships).

Is Thoreau College a gap year program?

Our programs can function well as a complement or break from a traditional educational path, including as a gap year between high school and an ordinary 4-year college or as a gap between years of college at another school. The Metamorphosis Year can also serve as an excellent starting point for those considering attending a traditional college or interested in pursuing careers in agriculture, social entrepreneurship, alternative and outdoor education, manual trades, or the food and hospitality business.

Are there other microcolleges like Thoreau College?

Yes — please see our page on the growing microcollege movement.


Established in 2020, Thoreau's Garden is a greenhouse in Viroqua, Wisconsin run by students and faculty of Thoreau College. During the fall, students spent labor time repairing and re-roofing the greenhouses so they could be properly used again. We have three greenhouses offering a variety of plants such as flowers, winter greens, house plants, microgreens, and more. Thoreau fellows Sarah, Corinne, and Kaity currently run the greenhouse with faculty member Arwyn Wildingway.  To learn more and see what's available from Thoreau's Garden today, visit the Thoreau’s Garden website.