Student Culture, Trends & Issues

Top 10 Issues College Students Face

There’s so much that makes up the college experience… so many opportunities, so many potential pitfalls.

How well do we assist students in navigating the waters of the college years?

Maybe before we can accurately answer this question we must first ask:

“What are the big issues that our students are dealing with?”

If we’ve not taken the time to answer this question than we must ask ourselves, “how relevant is our ministry?”

I’ve been working with college students for the last 15 years of my life.  I know there are plenty of you out there who have been working with college students longer than I have (so I hope you’ll chime in down in the comments section), or have experienced ministry with college students in different contexts than I have (so your insight will be crucial as well), but here are the top 10 issues I see college students facing today issues that MUST influence how we “do ministry.”

Top 10 Issues:

1. Jesus  What have they done with Him?  Everything hinges on this.  Helping students to understand what it means to “commit” their lives to Christ in a “noncommittal” culture is  paramount to our work.  Setting a framework of worship, discipleship and service for their life on campus will help.
2. Worldview What lens do they view life through?  Helping a biblically illiterate generation to learn and understand the Bible such that it shapes how they live their lives, and view the world, is so important to their development and ability to fully live out their faith.
3. Entitled OR Responsible Most college students come to campus with an air of entitlement.  Helping them to understand this, and the significance of making the shift from entitlement to (healthy) responsibility and then assisting them with that transition is key.
4. College Why are they here?  Increasingly, students are coming to campus without much of a clue as to why they are here  all they know is that it’s what is expected of them after they graduate from high school.  The sooner we can get them thinking about the “why” of their decision, the sooner we can them help them with the “how” in terms of how they will go about their collegiate experience.  This ties directly into the next issue…
5. From Career to Call Recasting the collegiate experience such that students begin to understand how God might want to use these formative years to prepare and equip them to meet major needs in the world instead of simply earning a degree, in order to get a job, so that they can make enough money to afford the kind of lifestyle they desire.
6. Identifying and Addressing Barriers Whether it’s addictive and/or destructive behaviors, baggage from their past, a lack of support and encouragement from home or something else; identifying and addressing the barriers students face will make a huge difference in how students are formed during these critical years.
7. Community  Who are they doing life with?  Community is so important!  But many students seem to be willing to “compromise” the quality of their community in order to find acceptance quickly.  Students need mentors, students need strong, intentional, Christ-centered community.  Students need to recognize that the company they keep will shape them in powerful ways.
8. Love and Intimacy  Students are so excited to find it, but they may not have any idea of what “healthy” love and intimacy are meant to look like.
9. Stewardship Whether its money, relationships, or other resources… recognizing how God wants us to hold the things that He has placed in our lives is very important and not something they’ll likely learn in the classroom.
10. Acceptance Students must learn how to be open to, interested in, and even accepting of people who are not like them.  NO, they don’t all have to believe the same things, but they do need to learn to create space for people not like them to believe what they believe, while holding strong to what they know to be true.

** Bonus (11) Technology – All of the advances in technology were intended to make life easier… but the reality is that in many ways they’ve become more complex.  Students are increasingly distracted and struggle to know how to manage all of the information they have at the tip of their fingers. Helping students to find healthy ways to understand and utilize technology will be significant going forward.

These are some of the BIGgest issues that I see our students facing today.

What about you?  What do you think?

  • Is there something missing from this list?
  • What are the biggest issues you have seen in your work with college students?
  • What are you doing to address these issues with your students?

I’d love hear your thoughts!

  • This is spot on! Can I repost it at HOCM? Have you read Generation iY by Dr. Tim Elmore? I’m in the process of reading it…it speaks to several of these things.

  • de


    This is a good list and helpful to think through.

    As someone who works with ethnic minority students, I will point out that I think the post would better be titled “Top 10 Issues your White Middle-Class Students Will Face”. While many of the issues you list above apply to all people, many only apply if you come from the majority culture and you have money. If you are an ethnic minority or a poor Caucasian student then your top 10 will look different.

    For example, few of the Hispanic students i work with come to school with a sense of entitlement. Quite the opposite, they need affirmation in their identity and their ability to succeed.

    Overall the list is good and different issues definitely are transcultural. But I do think the way you title the post and introduce the topic is a bit ethno-centric.

    • Anonymous


      Thanks so much for pointing this out! You’re right — and in part it has to do with what I have seen on the campuses I have served (predominantly filled with White, privileged students) but even some of my own ethno-centrism.

      De, what would you add to this list? What would make it a more accurate? More ethnically and socio-economically inclusive?

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

      • de

        Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good list.

        I think most of the changes or additions I would make would be more subtle. I don’t think I’d make any changes to #1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10.

        For #3, I might change it to “Healthy Responsibility”. For privileged students it needs to look exactly like you have written it. For poorer students or even for students from more communal ethnic backgrounds, it could focus on what it means to be responsible in a healthy sense for your family. Some of our Hispanic students are over-burdened to provide and pull their families out of poverty. That’s a lot of pressure.

        On #4, I might include some type of “Succeeding in College”. Our students know why they are in college, but they aren’t doing well academically to stay. Having a healthy view of why they are in college as well as the tools to succeed are vital.

        For #5 I would talk about expanding their view of college from being able to provide for their (extended) families to something even broader: making an impact in the world.

        For the record, I love #6. We’ve begun talking about this a lot in our ministry using the language of “healing”. Students need to be freed from the barriers and baggage of their past to be truly sent to make an impact for the kingdom.

        Those are some changes I would make, though I’m definitely not an expert. I’ve only been doing Latino ministry for 3 years now and am increasingly realizing that most of what I’ve tried hasn’t worked.

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  • I think one issue that was missed is their struggle with adulthood. In my opinion, the question “when will I be an adult?” is what plagues college students, and I believe it drives many of their positive and negative actions. As churches, we need to learn how to recognize college students as adults, who are capable to serve in all capacities of the church. In the end, this is still a very good list.

    • Hey Joshua, thanks for your comment!

      I would say that the list as a whole implicitly points towards “maturing” towards adulthood. Maybe more specifically the shift from entitled to responsible encapsulates a transition that needs to happen — in which students increasingly see themselves as young adults who need to be increasingly responsible for their lives, and willing to “contribute” to the world they live in.

      What do you think?

      • When I read the list, I did get the feeling adulthood was the overarching theme that connected everything together. But I do agree your list highlights more on specific shifts that need to take place in a college students life to move from entitlement to contributor. Because in the end, I think its safe to say, even if a college student has come to terms with everything on this list, it still doesn’t mean they believe they’re adults yet. However, I’m really glad I found this site. I haven’t found many sites that specifically cater to college ministry.

  • Great post Guy! You nail it with these 10 issues.
    I just found your site through a link on Twitter. The power of social media at work!  🙂

    • Hey Trevor! Glad you found it! Where are you serving?

      • TBD…right now my platform is my website ( I’ve got a book proposal that received some solid endorsements in with a publisher, so we’ll see if anything materializes from that. Should know something in the next few weeks.

  • these are some good points

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  • JOHN

    Nice thought!

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  • courtney

    this is great! i was looking into things to talk about with with fellow students, to stir each other up and also to talk about for topics on the churches college radio station! thanks

    • courtney

      hey check us out we are one of the ministries on the UW-Stout campus: