A total of 40 qualitative studies were reviewed and coded according to the college student stressors they represented. These studies utilized a variety of qualitative methods to examine stressors representing the following themes: relationships, lack of resources, academics, the environment, expectations, diversity, transitions and other stressors. Relationship stressors were the most commonly reported theme and covered areas including stress associated with family, romantic, peer and faculty relationships. Three of the themes (relationships, diversity and other) are novel categories of stressors compared with quantitative reviews on the topic, highlighting the importance of gathering both quantitative and qualitative pieces of information. This review contributes to the stress literature by synthesizing and identifying trends in the qualitative student stress research. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.