Chip getting evaluated by a health center professional

Health issues are more common than you may think among college students. Here are some of the most common health concerns you may experience in college and what you can do about them. 

1. Stress, anxiety and depression 

Many students experience mental health challenges in college, whether it’s related to stress, anxiety or depression. Increased responsibilities, time management, changes in routine, self-care and other personal circumstances can all impact mental health in different ways. 

If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to know that resources are available to help you cope and feel better. Here are a few to check out: 

Anxiety Toolbox

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a free weekly workshop to help students address anxiety related to relationships, friendships, exams, workload and more. These workshops will help you learn about what may be causing you stress or anxiety, coping strategies and additional resources you can use on campus.

Let’s Talk

Talking through challenges can be a great way to gain insight, come up with a game plan and connect with resources. CAPS offers free drop-in hours as part of their Let’s Talk program where you can meet informally with a counselor for free to chat through a variety of concerns, including stress, anxiety and depression. 

Peer Wellness Coaching

Sometimes the best advice comes from other Buffs. That’s where peer welllness coaches come in. You can meet with a trained student to talk through things and get advice about time management, academics, test prep, relationships and more. 


Students can access free, virtual counseling and psychiatry appointments online through AcademicLiveCare. This service is available to all students, regardless of your insurance plan. 


Did you know acupuncture can be used to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression? Join Medical Services every week for ear acupuncture and acupressure services for $15 per session.


WellTrack is a free interactive and self-guided app that can help you identify, understand and address issues like stress, anxiety and/or depression. 

2. Sleep 

Getting enough sleep can be tricky in college. Work, classes, extracurriculars, exams and social engagements can all impact how much or how little rest we get. With everything going on, it’s important to remind yourself that sleep plays a critical role in your overall health and well-being. In fact, getting enough sleep can help keep your immune system running smoothly, improve your mood, help you retain information from classes and more. That’s why it’s best to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to feel your best. 

If you’re struggling to get into a good sleep routine, here are some tips that can help: 

  • Reduce your caffeine consumption during the day, especially in the late afternoon and evenings. 
  • Avoid taking long naps during the day. Instead, focus on taking naps that are only 20 to 30 minutes long. 
  • Reduce your screen time at night. This includes your phone, laptop, gaming devices and televisions. 
  • Get more natural light during the day by spending time outside. 
  • Go to the gym earlier in the day to avoid releasing adrenaline into your system that may keep you up at night. 
  • Make a nightly routine that helps you relax and prepare for bed. For instance, you can try brushing your teeth, reading a book, stretching, meditating or sipping sleepy time tea. 
  • Pick up free sleep supplies like sleep masks, tea, ear plugs, aromatherapy rollers and more from the Wellness Suite on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center or have them delivered to your residence hall through Buff Box
  • Consider making an acupuncture appointment if you struggle with insomnia. Acupuncture can help increase your melatonin, reduce stress and improve the overall quality of your sleep. 

Learn more about improving your sleep

3. Sexually transmitted infections 

Did you know that about one in five people in the U.S. has a sexually transmitted infection (STI)? These types of infections are common in young adults and can pass from person to person through sexual activities like oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, genital contact or sexual fluids like semen.  

Common STIs include human papilloma virus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and herpes simplex virus (HSV), among others.  

If you plan to be sexually active, here are some tips to follow

  • Use protection, like dental dams, condoms and finger caps. Free supplies are available at Wardenburg Health Center and in Buff Boxes
  • Get tested with your partner before hooking up. Keep in mind that the most common symptom of an STI is no symptoms at all. 
  • Talk openly with your partners about your status or test results. 
  • Get vaccinated for human papilloma virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B. 
  • If you’re at an increased risk of contractive HIV, Medical Services offers Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

If you or a partner ends up contracting an STI, don’t worry. Most types of STIs are treatable, and Medical Services offers a variety of testing and treatment options

Learn more about STIs

4. Seasonal illnesses 

College campuses are crawling with germs and viruses. This is because students often live in close quarters, attend more social events and may have many others in their classes. Some of the most common seasonal illnesses to watch out for include the common cold, flu and COVID. 

Avoid getting sick this year by: 

  • Getting a free flu and/or COVID vaccine
  • Washing your hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the restroom. 
  • Staying hydrated and getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep. 
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes. 
  • Reducing your contact with others if they're feeling under the weather. 
  • Disinfecting common surfaces in your home regularly. 

If you do get sick, monitor your symptoms, stay home and opt to wear a mask. It’s important to know that viral infections like the common cold can’t be treated by a doctor. In these cases, you can use at-home remedies like cough drops, herbal tea, honey sticks for a sore throat and other self-care tactics. Pick up free wellness supplies at the Wellness Suite in Wardenburg Health Center or get them delivered to your residence hall for free in a Buff Box.  

If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or difficulty breathing, it’s probably best to make an appointment with Medical Services. Students can also access care after-hours, on the weekends and during breaks through AcademicLiveCare

5. Meningitis 

Close proximity with a lot of other people can lead to more than just seasonal illnesses. This is especially true for those living in residence halls or high-occupancy housing units. In fact, college students are at increased risk of contracting meningitis. 

Meningitis is a serious, and sometimes life-threatening, infection of the brain and spinal cord. 

The best way to prevent the spread of meningitis is to get the Meningitis (Men-ACWY) vaccine. If you’re not already vaccinated, you can schedule a vaccine appointment with Medical Services. 

Symptoms of meningitis include: 

  • Confusion 
  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Stiff neck 

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment at Medical Services to be evaluated. It’s important to catch meningitis infections early to reduce the chances of spreading it to others and prevent serious nerve or brain damage. 

6. Substance use and misuse 

College can come with unspoken expectations around partying, drinking and substance use. 

Students may choose to use substances in an attempt to cope with mental health issues, manage stress, improve their energy to catch up on assignments, ease social anxiety and more. However, substances can also cause students to have unwanted experiences, such as worsening mental health issues, poor grades, reduced learning or performance, legal challenges, risky decisions or behaviors, accidents and reliance on unhealthy coping methods, among others. In some cases, substance use may result in increased emergency room visits, accidents, alcohol poisoning, overdoses, addiction and long term health effects. 

If you’re interested in exploring or changing your relationship with substances, you can schedule a Buffs Discuss Substance Use session. These sessions are run by trained undergraduate peer facilitators who can empower students to gain deeper understanding and be intentional about substance use. If you prefer to work with a professional staff member, check out the free and non-judgmental Exploring Substance Use Workshop

CU Boulder also has programs to help students who are in recovery or seeking recovery from a variety of unhealthy behaviors, including substance use. Health Promotion offers free support for quitting nicotine, including quit kits, coaching and more. Additionally, the Collegiate Recovery Community offers free peer support, weekly meetings and social events for students in recovery or interested in recovery from a variety of substances and other unwanted behaviors. 

Student can pick up free naloxone or fentanyl test strips on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center or by ordering a Safer Night Out Buff Box

7. Eating changes 

There are a variety of things that can trigger changes in our eating patterns. In some cases, these changes are temporary, for instance forgetting to eat lunch while studying for an exam. However, significant changes can lead to more serious or long-term eating concerns, such as disordered eating behaviors or eating disorders. 

For many students, college may be the first time that you have had the freedom or responsibility for deciding when, what and how to eat. This, on top of other stressors in college, can sometimes cause anxiety, especially for those who aren’t sure what food choices to make. Anxiety around food can also be compounded by things like cultural beauty standards, body image and comparing your body with those around you. 

Here are some factors that can lead to unhealthy eating patterns: 

  • Change or loss of control: Experiencing a lot of new things at once can be exciting, but it can also lead to stress or anxiety. As a result, people may compensate by exerting more control over what they eat. 
  • Academics: It’s normal to feel worried about grades, workload and studying every once in a while. However, if classes become too stressful, some may use food as a coping method or a way to create control and stability. 
  • Social groups: Friendships play a critical role in your college experience. However, it can also come with unspoken rules or peer pressure related to food, body image and exercise. 
  • Food availability: Previous food experiences and current circumstances can impact how we view or access food. If someone is food insecure, it can affect their eating habits because they lack proper access to food. 

If you feel lost when it comes to food or want to improve your relationship with food or exercise, there are resources on campus that can help. 

Nutrition Services

Meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to learn about intuitive eating, adequate food intake and ways to overcome food rules or restrictions. Appointment options range from free screenings to ongoing sessions.

Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides a free Food and Body Image support meeting every week. This drop-in meeting is a great place to build community and work with others who are in recovery from unhealthy relationships with food and body image.

Buff Pantry

If you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity or has trouble fitting groceries into their budget, the Buff Pantry provides a variety of food options for students in need.

Explore your relationship with physical activity

Participating in regular movement (i.e., physical activity or exercise) has proven benefits for both our minds and bodies. Here are some tools to help you move your body in a safe and healthy way. 

8. Unhealthy relationships, abuse or sexual assault 

Exploring your sexuality and relationships is a normal part of college life and young adulthood. When hooking up, dating or forming long-term relationships, it’s important to practice healthy relationship behaviors like setting boundaries, communicating desires, building trust and finding support outside of a relationship when you need it. 

The Office of Victim Assistance has a number of great resources to help students recognize and seek support for: 

  • Healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationship behaviors 
  • Stalking 
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Intimate partner abuse, dating and domestic violence, and familial abuse 
  • Rights, reporting options and advocacy 
  • Short-term trauma counseling services 
  • Community referral options 
  • Ways to support friends or family members who have been through a traumatic experience 

The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) also offers free sexual health workshops to help students explore boundary-setting, consent, sexual decision-making, sexual assault and the impact of alcohol on sex.  

9. Physical injuries 

Accidents happen, especially in college. That’s why it’s important to take precautions to avoid serious injuries on and off campus. Here are some tips you can use to stay safe. 

Biking, skateboarding, walking and scootering 

  • Always wear a helmet when biking, skateboarding or riding a scooter. 
  • Stay in designated bike lanes or walking lanes. 
  • Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when biking in the road, using crosswalks or going through intersections. 
  • Be mindful of dismount zones on campus, and follow the rules, especially during high traffic times. 
  • Never bike, skateboard or use scooters when under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other substances. 

Outdoor recreation 

  • Always wear a helmet when rock climbing, bouldering, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking or tubing. 
  • Stay on designated trails and be mindful of avalanche or flood conditions in the backcountry. 
  • Always pack adequate water and food, wear sunscreen and bring first aid supplies when adventuring outside. 
  • Let someone know where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. Be sure they can call for help if they don’t hear from you. 


  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other substances. If you’re intoxicated, designate a sober person to drive or leave your car behind and use CU NightRide, public transit or a rideshare service instead. 
  • Minimize distractions by putting your cell phone on drive mode and not texting while driving. 
  • Leave adequate space between yourself and other cars, especially during rush hour or in congested areas. 
  • Use your hazard lights if you need to come to a stop quickly. This will alert the person behind you that they need to brake sooner than they might expect to avoid a collision. 
  • If you are involved in an accident, move your vehicle to the shoulder or out of traffic. 
  • Watch for pedestrians and bikes, even if they are not in a designated crosswalk or bike lane. 

If you get injured or are involved in an accident, there are a variety of support services you can use on campus. 

Medical Services

Medical Services provides injury care services, including x-rays. They can also help refer you to community services if you need more intense rehabilitation. 

Physical Therapy and Integrative Care (PTIC)

The PTIC office provides a variety of services to students, including physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage to help address injuries, pain and other concerns.

Recreation Injury Care Center (RICC)

RICC provides free services to patrons and guests of the Rec Center including first aid, baseline concussion testing, injury prevention services and athletic training services. 


If you need after-hours support for medical or urgent care needs, AcademicLiveCare offers free, on-demand virtual appointments for all students.