Let's Talk About Safe Sex

most common std in college students

By: Karen Terry

October 5, 2022

The Most Common STD in College Students

College should be one of the best times in a young person's life. However, dating apps, hookup culture, and the carefree lifestyle of youth have all contributed to higher college and university STD rates. So, what is the most common STD in college students? In this post, the experts from Rapid STD Testing discuss the prevalence of STDs in college, including the common STDs, risk factors, and prevention tips for college students.

What Are the Most Common STDs in College Students?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people aged 15 to 24 account for half of all new STD infections. 2018 saw 26 million new sexually transmitted infections, which means 13 million of those cases were young, college-aged people. You can learn more about the most common STD for teens here on the Rapid STD Testing blog, including statistics and important prevention information.


According to recent data, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD among university students worldwide. HPV has more than 40 unique strains that can infect both men and women. Furthermore, approximately 75% of the young population has been exposed to HPV by sexual partners. Untreated infections can lead to genital warts or even cancer.


Chlamydia is another one of the most common STDs in college students. The same Microbiology and Infectious Diseases data found chlamydia as the second most common college STD, and these bacterial infections are increasing yearly. A screening on ten college campuses found a chlamydia prevalence rate of 9.7% and also discovered that freshmen and sophomores were 66% more at risk of becoming infected than juniors and seniors. Plus, chlamydia often doesn't present noticeable symptoms, making it even more dangerous.


Herpes can cause both oral sores (HSV-1) and genital sores (HSV-2). It's easy for the spread of STDs like herpes to occur at universities because it transfers by close physical contact, like kissing or oral sex. Plus, herpes is often asymptomatic, making it easy for students to spread it to their partners unknowingly.

If you believe you may have herpes, order a rapid STD test from one of our 2,500 nationwide locations and stay current regarding your status.  


Another of the most common STDs in college and university, gonorrhea spreads from having sexual contact with the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus of an infected person. While it's easy to cure gonorrhea with a round of medication, it spreads quickly because it often doesn't present symptoms. From 2014 to 2018, the number of gonorrhea cases spiked dramatically by 27.5%, from 59,329 to 75,683.

Risk Factors That Increase the Likelihood of Getting STDs in College

Particular high-risk sexual behavior and other factors for college students can increase the chances of getting an STD. About one in four college students has an STD, and most don't show any noticeable symptoms, contributing further to the spread of STDs across campuses nationwide. Below are the most common risk factors that can increase the transmission and infection rate for college students:

  • Lack of Education: According to a 2017 study of 256 males and 94 females at a college, 90% of students knew about STIs, but only 64% had heard of STIs besides HIV. Less than 50% were aware of STI symptoms and complications.
  • Substance Use: Did you know that 45% of college students in 2018 used an illicit substance? Substance use lowers inhibitions and can cause a person to make poor decisions they might not have made if they were sober. Students under the influence of drugs or alcohol are often more likely to have unprotected sex, forget protection in the heat of the moment, or use it incorrectly.
  • Having Unprotected Sex: All it takes is once to get an STD: you can get a one-night stand STD from close sexual contact or having unprotected anal, oral, or vaginal sex with an infected person.
  • Failing to Get Tested: If you're sexually active, you need to get regular STD tests. Visit one of our 2,500 locations for same-day STD testing right now, and you'll have confidential results within 72 hours. It's important for college students to get STD testing regularly (every few months) and every time they have a new sexual partner.

STD Prevention Tips for College Students

We didn't mean to scare you if you're heading to a university next semester or already enrolled. But here's the hard truth: College students are at a higher risk for STIs. Here are prevention tips to protect yourself against becoming infected with an STD in college:

  • Practice Abstinence: The only way to 100% protect yourself against STDs is by practicing abstinence. If you are sexually active, engage in safe sexual practices to lower your risk factors.
  • Get Tested Regularly: Many STDs – like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis – often don't show noticeable symptoms. So lower your risk and take control of your sexual health by getting regular STD tests. You can order a 10-panel STD test right now from our website. Then, visit one of our 2,500 nationwide locations to provide a non-invasive specimen, and you'll have accurate, confidential results within 72 hours.
  • Use Protection: When having sex, use protection, such as the barrier method (condoms, dental dams, etc.), correctly and consistently. What's more awkward: asking a partner to use protection or telling them you have an STD?
  • Get Re-Tested: Remember, certain STDs are asymptomatic and can take a few days or even weeks to take hold in your body after exposure. So even if you take an STD test and it's negative, you should get re-tested in a few weeks to be completely sure.
  • Limit Your Sexual Partners: One-night stands and hookup culture go hand-in-hand with the carefree college lifestyle. However, limiting your sexual partners or practicing monogamy with one person can lower your chances of getting an STD.
  • Know Your Body: Pay attention to your body. Get tested immediately if you notice genital rashes or redness, pain while urinating, abnormal discharge, blisters or sores, etc., and then seek treatment from a medical professional or the sexual health services department at your university.

Protect Your Sexual Health with Rapid STD Testing

The most common STD in college students is HPV, followed by chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. However, you can protect yourself: practice abstinence, use protection, get regular STD tests, and know your risk factors. Visit the Rapid STD Testing website to order your same-day STD test and protect your sexual health and well-being.


Get Tested for STDs and HIV Privately and Conveniently

No embarrassing exams, long waiting lines, or multiple visits. Just a quick lab visit for fast results.



By: Karen Terry
October 5, 2022

With a profound passion for making intricate medical information accessible to all, John possesses a unique ability to simplify complex concepts without sacrificing accuracy or depth. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of various healthcare fields, John is well-versed in the latest research and advancements. However, what truly sets him apart is his remarkable talent for distilling this wealth of knowledge into engaging, reader-friendly content.