Student Disclosures of Non-Academic Challenges

Common Challenges Experienced by College Students

  • 78% of college students have felt overwhelmed, 50% have experienced overwhelming anxiety, and 37% have felt so depressed it was difficult to function (American College Health Association, 2019)
  • 53% of college students have been diagnosed or treated for a physical health problem within the past 12 months (American College Health Association, 2019)
  • Nearly 40% of college students meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one type of substance use disorder (Brooke et al., 2020)
  • 25% of undergraduates have children or other dependents (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017; Noll et al., 2017)
  • Over 30% of students have experienced the death of a friend of loved one while in college (Balk et al., 2010)
  • 35-42% of college students have experienced food insecurity (Bruening et al., 2017; Crutchfield & Maguire, 2018)
  • 14% of community college students and 10.9% of CSU students experienced homelessness in the past 12 months (Crutchfield & Maguire, 2018; Goldrick-Rab et al., 2017)
  • 1 in 10 college students have a disability (US Government Accountability Office, 2009)


Faculty May Learn About Student Challenges in a Number of Ways

Faculty may learn about student challenges in a variety of different ways, some more direct and purposeful than others.  Common ways of learning about student adversity include:

  • During office hours or advising meetings
  • In emails or phone calls
  • During class discussions or presentations
  • In reflection papers or discussion board posts
  • Through observations or overheard conversations
  • Via social media
  • Through a concerned 3rd party


Students May Disclose to Faculty for a Number of Reasons

Students reveal personal information to faculty or in class for a variety of different reasons.  Common reasons for revealing personal information to faculty include:

  • Seeking academic accommodations or explaining academic difficulties
  • Seeking information and referrals
  • Seeking emotional support
  • Self-reflection and emotional processing
  • To educate or help others


American College Health Association (2019). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2019. Silver Spring, MD: American College Health Association.  Retrieved from NCHA-II_SPRING_2019_US_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf (

Balk, D., Walker, A., & Baker, A. (2010).  Prevalence and severity of college student bereavement examined in a randomly selected sample.  Death Studies, 34, 459-468.  DOI: 10.1080/07481180903251810

Brooke J. Arterberry, Carol J. Boyd, Brady T. West, Ty S. Schepis & Sean Esteban McCabe (2020). DSM-5 substance use disorders among college-age young adults in the United States: Prevalence, remission and treatment.  Journal of American College Health, 68(6), 650-657. DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2019.1590368

Bruening, M., Argo, K., Payne-Sturges, D., & Laska, M. (2017).  The struggle is real:  A systematic review of food insecurity on postsecondary education campuses.  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(11), 1767-1791.

Crutchfield, R. & Maguire, J. (2018).  Study of basic needs.  Retrieved from

Goldrick-Rab, S., Richardson, J., & Hernandez, A. (2017).  Hungry and homeless in college:  Results from a National Study of Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education.  Retrieved from

Noll, E., Reichlin, L., & Gault, B. (2017). College students with children: National and regional profiles. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2009). Higher education and disability: Education needs a coordinated approach to improve its assistance to schools in supporting students (Report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, GAO-10-33). Retrieved from