What the Best College Student Wellness Programs Include
Denae Friedheim
student wellness

Often what pops into peoples’ minds when they think about college life is late-night pizza, all nighters during finals week, and the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” But things are changing on college campuses as student wellness becomes a priority for students, their parents, and administrators alike. 

Core Components and Approaches to College Student Wellness 

Until recently, the focus of campus wellness programs has been primarily on treating health issues once they have already interfered with a student’s academic success. Today, many institutions have developed a preventive approach in an attempt to get out ahead of these issues, including these exemplary wellness program ideas for college students:


Institutions leading the pack on health and well-being have facilities tailored to students’ needs for getting and staying healthy.


Bowdoin College has an array of culinary options, including a wide selection of options for those with dietary restrictions. They prioritize small batch meals made from whole foods and local ingredients, including from the campus organic garden helping the college attain its sustainability goals.


University of Pittsburg has dedicated 24-hour fitness centers in two-thirds of their residence halls. So, if working out in a gym isn’t your thing, they offer an array of opportunities to keep students in shape including guided bike tours of the city, a ping-pong league, and over 15, 10-week fitness classes. 

Self-Care Stations 

Many schools are beginning to invest in such amenities as nap pods that are strategically placed around campus. The University of Michigan’s Wellness Zone takes it up a notch, offering massage chairs, a dedicated space for yoga and relaxation, seasonal affective disorder light therapy, and biofeedback software.

Social and Personal Support Programs 

Additionally, many colleges and universities are beefing up their programming to support the health and well-being of their students including such student wellness programs as:

Personal Identity Support for LGBTQ+, single parents, veterans, students from low income backgrounds, first generation students, etc. For example, University of Washington-Seattle offers options for gender-inclusive housing, gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the campus. They also have gender-accessible locker rooms in fitness facilities in addition to the Q Center, their LGBTQ+ resource center.

Accessible Mental Health Services & Peer Counseling and Education

University of Nevada-Las Vegas takes a integrative approach to health care by facilitating connection across health and counseling services. Student involvement and peer support is also encouraged through a number of student-led health and wellness advocacy groups on campus. 

Cornell University is home to EARS (Empathy Assistance and Referral Service), a robust peer counseling service.

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Programming for Faculty and Staff

Health and well-being on college campuses shouldn’t just be about the students. Institutions with the most effective programming recognize the health and well-being of faculty and staff as well. University of Iowa has an employee wellness program that boasts the following statistics:

  • 75 percent faculty and staff participation in wellness programs
  • 95 percent of wellness participants report improved workplace satisfaction
  • 2.37:1 annual return on investment

Institutional Support 

Early alert systems, safety hotlines, and emergency call services are essential components of student wellness programs on college campuses. In addition to services for critical situations, other institution-wide policies and features take safety and well-being to the next level. 

Brown University has implemented Restorative Justice practices related to student conduct. These practices identify who has been harmed by certain actions, what those people need in order to heal, and who is responsible for meeting those needs.

Several campuses are offering campus-based farmers’ markets, making local and sustainably grown healthy foods more readily available. The Michigan State University Student Organic Farm has held a farm stand on campus for over 20 years featuring student-grown produce from the farm.

Academics That Focus on Health and Well-being

Institutions that prioritize college student wellness provide avenues to a healthy lifestyle through academics in addition to facilities and programming.

For instance, University of Vermont’s Wellness Environment (WE) is perhaps that nation’s most gleaming example. WE program participants not only commit to substance-free housing. In addition, they participate in a 3-credit called Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies, taught by leading experts in the field.

Like this article? Check out another of ours about university wellness programs here.

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