Despite well-established links between exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and skin cancer, UVR-based tanning behaviors persist among college students. Understanding tanning motivations, perceptions, barriers, and demographic characteristics of this population is critical to modifying these behaviors, but is limited by variability in study design, sample size, and outcomes measured in the current literature. To help clarify the tanning behaviors of this population and provide a concise reference for future studies, this review examines existing reports to determine the comparability of tanning behaviors across multiple U.S. college populations. A systematic review of the literature was performed in July 2016 to identify studies investigating tanning behaviors among U.S. college students. Twenty-three studies met inclusion criteria. High rates of indoor tanning (IT) and outdoor tanning (OT) were found among college students. Key motivators included appearance, emotion, health perceptions, and the influence of parents, peers, and the media. Misconceptions regarding skin protection, low rates of sun protective behaviors, and tanning dependence were barriers against safe UVR exposure. Understudied demographic factors may account for variance in observed tanning behaviors, emphasizing the need for standardization efforts to consistently identify trends associated with geographical region, age, year in college, and sex. The findings presented in this review reaffirm that college students are at high risk for tanning-associated skin cancer, emphasizing the critical need for effective, targeted interventions. Improved interventions will reduce the burden of skin cancer within this group, ultimately contributing to longer, healthier lives.