Winter Start Program

Each year about 30 first-year students start their CC careers in January as Winter Starts. Being a Winter Start gives you a unique opportunity take the fall semester to reflect, explore, and grow before jumping into your college experience at CC. In the past, Winter Starts have chosen to spend their time in countless ways, whether it be working, traveling, doing an internship, or engaging through a semester program. We are confident that this time contributes to personal growth and will enhance students' unique adventure once at CC. Whatever you choose to do, we know that our Winter Starts will spend their fall semester in meaningful acts of learning and contributing. 

Winter Start Calendar


As is true in the fall, Colorado College offers a variety of First-Year Program (FYP) courses from which you will choose your first two blocks. These courses introduce you to the college's library, Writing Center, and other academic support systems specific to Colorado College. You will also be provided with a student mentor, and get a chance to meet other first-year students, as well as the larger college community. You will find descriptions of these courses on the FYE website. You may choose among any of the college's courses offered in Blocks 7 and 8 (the remaining blocks of your first semester). Please note prerequisites and course numbers.

Colorado College also has an impressive Summer Session, which runs from early in June through the end of July. Many Winter Start students choose to participate in the Summer Session following their first year. After the first year, Winter Starts can - and generally do - enroll in courses for the typical fall-spring calendar.


While the Winter Start program is a little atypical, we have a number of programs in place to help make your college transition smooth. Once at CC Winter Starts kick off their experience with a New Student Orientation (NSO) trip to Baca, our satellite campus in the San Luis Valley. You will then join your CC peers on campus and begin your double block introductory course (CC100/120) which is designed to facilitate the academic transition to the Block Plan. In terms of graduation time, many winter starts get extra credits during CC's summer block offerings, half blocks, or during their pre-CC semester and graduate in May with the rest of their class. However, others choose to finish in December, fulfilling a full four years on campus.


Winter Start students will receive access to pre-registration materials in mid-summer. There will be an advising questionnaire to fill out so that we can match students appropriately to advisors on campus. There will also be a 'Snapshot' questionnaire to complete in preparation for First-Year Experience excursions and activities.

Academic Advisors

Winter Start students will work with Dr. Aaron Stoller, assistant vice provost for first year student success and director of academic programs, in mid-November to enroll in their FYP courses as well as Block 7 and 8 coursework. As part of Winter Start Orientation, Winter Start students can expect to receive an advising questionnaire, which will be used by our Student Opportunities and Advising Hub, to assign students to a faculty advisor. Students will then meet with their advisor again during the all-college, fall pre-registration period to select their Block 1 through 4 courses for the following academic year.

Winter Transfer Advising

All incoming Winter Transfer students will work with the Registrar's Office and Advising Hub in early December to select their spring courses, Blocks 5 through 8. During this time, the Student Opportunities and Advising Hub will work to assign students to a faculty advisor within their intended major. Winter Transfer students should plan to meet with their faculty advisor as needed throughout the spring semester to discuss major requirements, transfer credits, and remaining all-college requirements. Winter Transfer students will also need to meet with their advisor during the all-college, pre-registration period to select their Block 1 through 4 courses for the following academic year. Students should continue to work with the Student Opportunities and Advising Hub as needed to change faculty advisors or majors.

Room Assignments

Room assignments are made after the deadline to submit the online housing agreement has passed. The preference questionnaire that you will be asked to fill out as part of the online process is especially important. We will make every effort to take your preferences into consideration; however, we believe strongly that first year students benefit by starting their on-campus residency in one of our large residence halls with their peers. Assignments will be based on mid-year housing availability in those halls. You will be notified of your room and roommate assignment when the college re-opens after Winter Break, immediately prior to orientation. We will include contact information with your assignment and strongly encourage you to connect with and get to know your roommate.

ideas for the fall

Fall Program Options for Gap Semester

If you will be joining CC in January as a Winter Start, or taking a gap year, you may have a variety of goals for the time before you arrive at CC; these sometimes involve earning academic credit, but other times do not. We recommend that you think first about what your goals are for you, both academically and personally, and what your needs for transfer credit are in consideration with AP/IB credits you may already be bringing to CC. Remember all students at CC also receive one free Wild Card block of Summer Session tuition, as well as Half-Block opportunities to earn credits at no charge every January. Establishing your own goals will help you decide which options to pursue during the fall semester or gap year.

The following is a list of options that other students have participated in before arriving at Colorado College as a Winter Start student, or during a gap year. Some are credit-bearing (either a full semester or year's worth, or offering partial credit), while others are oriented towards service, personal growth & challenge, language immersion, or experiential learning.

For-Credit Options

Verto Education
This fully accredited program through the University of New Haven allows for seamless transfer of coursework to Colorado College and will prepare you for success in an increasingly global marketplace. You can start your college experience by studying with Verto Education in one of their five global locations, and join CC with college credits that are already approved for transfer. Verto has programs in the following cities:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • London, England
  • Florence, Italy
  • Seville, Spain

CET Gap Year Programs
CET Academic Programs is a study abroad organization that has been developing and delivering innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. They offer language intensive gap semester programs in six locations:

  • Beijing, China
  • Shanghai, China
  • Siena, Italy
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Amman, Jordan
  • Taipei, Taiwan

SEA Semester
Spend a semester learning to sail a tall ship, being part of a small and rigorous community, doing scientific and cultural research, and developing independence out on the open ocean in New Zealand waters and beyond. SEA offers specific Gap Year voyages (with for credit or not-for-credit options), and doesn't require that you know how to sail before you begin the semester. While the academic focus varies, each program offers an interconnected suite of courses designed to explore a specific ocean-related theme using a cross-disciplinary approach. Leadership and personal growth outcomes are tremendous through this adventure, and most all of the SEA courses are transferable back to CC.

School For Field Studies
School for Field Studies is a leader in environmental field study semester programs, offering programs in Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Kenya, Panama, Peru, Tanzania, and Turks & Caicos Islands. A full semester of credit can be earned on SFS programs. Gap year students and Winter Starts are welcome to apply; contact the SFS Admissions Office early in the process if you have any questions about pre-reqs. SFS programs require a college-level science course as a prerequisite, although if students have already taken an AP/IB environmental science, biology, etc course then they may fulfill the requirement.

Hebrew University in Jerusalem: Freshman-Gap Year Program
This program of the Rothberg International School is specially designed for first-year students, whether they plan to continue their studies in Israel or back home. Students may enroll for the entire year or for either the autumn or spring semester. A variety of first-year courses are offered in academic areas such as Middle Eastern Studies, Religion, Brain & Behavioral Sciences, and Environmental Studies. A special gap year option also exists in the new "STEAM for Social Change High-Tech and Social Innovation" program for science students. All Freshmen students participate in the Freshman Seminar, which provides first-year college students with a strong foundation to assist in the transition from high school to college. It provides academic and social support while strengthening the students' skills in academic research and writing.

College Year In Athens - Semester program
This program will consider Winter Starts on a case-by-case basis. A full semester of credit can be earned on the CYA Semester, in academic areas such as Classics, Art History, Archaeology, Economics & Business, Politics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Literature, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Modern & Ancient Greek language, and Urban Planning & Sustainability. Students can choose from a homestay (highly recommended) or live in the heart of Athens' Pangrati neighborhood in apartments with other CYA students, a close walk to the CYA campus.

American University Gap Program in Washington D.C. 
This program is specifically designed for winter start and gap year students, and allows students to access the top-notch Washington Semester internship network of opportunities, take seminars from American University faculty as well as optional elective courses, and earn between 12 to 15 regular semester credits. Choose from a variety of courses, see program websites for more information. 

Partial academic credit (less than a full semester) may be available on the following programs:

Global Citizen Year
The "Take Action Lab" semester through Global Citizen Year engages students in an immersive semester in South Africa. You'll live in a house with several students from around the world and apprentice at a human rights organization to learn how to tackle global issues from the ground up. The Take Action Lab program offers a Fall Semester option to enroll and receive academic credit for one course, "Systems and Societies" (4 semester credits, which equals one CC unit). Colorado College will accept this course for one unit of credit; please make sure to officially opt in for the credit-bearing option, and have your final transcript sent to CC upon completion of the program (transcripts are issued by Minerva Schools at KGI).

NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School)
If you are interested in outdoor leadership, NOLS offers worldwide semester programs in East Africa, India, New Zealand, Patagonia, Alaska, Mexico, and in multiple locations and ecosystems across the continental United States. Partial academic credit may be possible at CC for some NOLS courses; transferable coursework offered by NOLS includes: their Environmental Studies (ENVST3011) courses and/or the Cultural Studies (PRT3046/5046) courses (4 semester credits = 1 CC unit). Additionally, Colorado College will also grant a maximum 0.5 units of credit for completion of the NOLS Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course, consistent with what we offer here at CC. CC will not award transfer credit for courses such as Group Leadership Techniques, Wilderness First Responder (WFR), Wilderness Skills Practicum, Expedition Planning, or Risk Assessment/Management, as these are not liberal arts in nature. Students must specifically request the academic credit for transferable courses be issued through a transcript from the accredited University of Utah or Western State Colorado University partnerships that NOLS has in place. 

Where There Be Dragons
The Gap Programs offered through Where There Be Dragons are designed to immerse students into different cultures through the nine core program components: rugged travel, homestays, trekking and wilderness exploration, service learning, survey of development issues, internship/independent study options, language study, introduction to philosophy and comparative religions, and focus of inquiry. These 3-month programs are offered in Indonesia, South America (Andes & Amazon), Nepal, Southeast Asia, Guatemala, Morocco, Senegal, Taiwan, China, Bhutan, and the Colorado River Basin. Some of the coursework may be transferable to CC through Naropa University.

CIEE Gap Year Semesters
This semester-long program is designed for gap year/winter start students, and includes language immersion program classes, English-teaching internship/community service, and housing and meals with families. Programs exist in Japan, France, Spain, Germany, Morocco, and Italy. Depending on the level of language and classes completed, some academic credit may be possible at CC by completing this program. Please note that only CIEE gap year programs which give students the option to receive a transcript (not certificate of completion) from an accredited local host university will be considered for potential language transfer credit at CC.

HMI Gap (High Mountain Institute)
HMI Gap semesters are designed to be a unique and refreshing break from our busy world, an uninterrupted journey of adventure, self-discovery, and growth. With rock climbing and wilderness travel focused programs in Patagonia and the American West, students spend three months traveling to some of the world's wildest places, gain independence as outdoor adventurers, and give back by getting their hands dirty helping with real-world conservation projects. One class from HMI is transferable to CC for credit: Land Conservation Ethics (3 semester credits = 0.75 unit at CC). If you participate in a semester where this course is offered, and wish to transfer this class, you must request the transcript from Western State Colorado University.

HMI gap

"One of the best decisions I've ever made was taking a gap year. Once at Colorado College, I knew I could follow my passion for international environmental studies and outdoor education. I had the awareness and strength to answer my calling because I had taken a gap year to explore who I was, work, travel, and deepen my connection to the outdoors. I am thrilled to be able to offer such a transformative experience through HMI Gap."
-Becca Schild, CC Alumna '05, Gap Coordinator at High Mountain Institute


Non-Credit Options

Many experiential programs exist to challenge and inspire your growth and inquiry before you join us at CC, without offering academic credit. Past Winter Start students have enjoyed:

Outward Bound: Gap Year Expeditions
Outward Bound, founded by educator Kurt Hahn, is a non-profit educational organization and expedition school that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through challenging learning expeditions that inspire self-discovery, both in and out of the classroom. Students explore unfamiliar settings as a way to experience adventure and challenge to discover that they can do more than they thought possible. These Outward Bound 30-day to 85-day courses are opportunities to gain real wilderness skills and develop life skills in decision-making, problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Alzar Gap
Alzar Gap provides high school graduates with life changing experiences while offering tangible leadership training in world class destinations.  If you are seeking something more from your traditional university experience and are excited to learn more about yourself, gain a broader world view, and make authentic connections with diverse people in wild and untamed parts of the world, then Alzar Gap could offer your next step.


Naya in Indonesia

"My semester before starting CC as a Winter Start was completely unforgettable. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Indonesia with an organization called Where There Be Dragons. I traveled with a group of 15 other people, staying in 4 different homestays in the city, jungle, mountains and in stilted huts above the ocean. We participated in Muslim culture, lived with sea nomads, watched a buffalo sacrifice, and so much more.

When I came to CC, I met 40 other students right away that were also winter starts, each with totally different experiences. It was easier in many ways to make friends with that core group, and then branch out to the rest of the freshman class and other students. You don't have to leave the country in order to have an amazing fall semester before college, but Indonesia changed my life and has shaped my experiences at CC. I came in to college with a deeper sense of self, and a fresh perspective on how to make the most of my new home."

- Naya Herman, Winter Start, Jan 2013

Study Abroad and Transferring Credits

If you choose to take part in a credit-bearing study abroad program before you join us, you may have questions about how those credits will transfer to Colorado College, and if the program you have chosen to participate in meets Colorado College guidelines for study abroad programs. This information is designed to help you know in advance what kind of credit you will obtain at Colorado College for your proposed international academic experience before you join us.

There are many options listed above that have worked well for previous CC Winter Start students, to meet their unique academic and personal goals for their time between high school and arriving at CC. If the programs listed above do not meet your academic or personal goals, there are many other high quality options for programs that you may consider from around the world. As you select a program to participate in, if you are looking to earn credits that may be acceptable by CC, keep the following standards for off-campus study at CC in mind. Keep in mind that 4 U.S. semester credits = 1 block unit of credit at CC.

Please familiarize yourself with the Colorado College Registrar Office's overall guide to transferring credits in to Colorado College. To be eligible for credit transfer in to Colorado College, your study abroad/gap year program must specifically do two things:

  • Be offered by an accredited, degree-granting institution of higher post-secondary education, or an educational organization (often these educational organizations use an accredited "school of record" to issue their transcripts). They must be able to issue you an accredited transcript upon completion of your program; Colorado College cannot accept certificates, nor issue Colorado College credit for hours spent learning elsewhere.

  • Offer coursework that is liberal arts in nature, if you wish for the class to be eligible for transfer to Colorado College. This means, broadly speaking, it should fall under a discipline/academic field offered here at Colorado College.

In addition to these two requirements above for yielding transferable credit, Colorado College would also encourage you to look for a program that aligns with the educational study abroad philosophies that Colorado College uses when selecting our partner programs:

  • The program abroad offers a curriculum that reflects or utilizes the resources of the area to a considerable degree, and provides a cross-cultural experience, with significant opportunities to interact with the host culture.
  • The program provides significant opportunities to advance knowledge of a foreign language if the program is based in a non-English speaking country.

  • The program will provide robust health & safety support, including major emergency/hospitalization coverage, emergency insurance & coordinated evacuation coverage if needed.

If you have questions about the specific program you are considering, and to learn more about if the courses will be transferable to Colorado College, we invite you to contact our Center for Global Education, who will coordinate with the Registrar at Colorado College to review the courses you hope to take and transfer back to Colorado College. You may email information about the program (please include a link to the URL, as well as specific course information if you have it) to start a conversation:

Heather Powell Browne, Assistant Director
Center for Global Education & Field Study
(719) 389-6918

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/11/2023