Full Plate of Pressure for University Students

By Nandipha Maliti


When you are not studying, everyone talks about you and make you feel like a loser. If you are studying most people wait impatiently to see what you will become, and cannot wait for you to complete your studies.” Said Nosipho Ntombela, a fine arts student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). This is an issue even I can relate to and I believe almost every university student.

If you thought high school was difficult, think again. It’s nothing compared to university.It’s a whole different playing field out here.  Coming into University, one would thinkthe most pressure lies within trying tokeep up with the work load, but that is not at all the case, academic pressure comes out at the bottom of people’s worriesand most of the students I have had the chance to speak to agree 100 percent.

Apart from all the pressure you’re already piling on from your school work, the load gets heavier as it’s not only your books and grades that you have to worry about but society, family and finances come into play as well.  You haven’t even reached the end of your schooling career and already you’re dealing with so much pressure coming at you from every aspect of life, from family and society. The sad part is there is no way of running away fromthis kind of pressure. The only way is to stay at home and not have to deal with university at all. However, although it seems like great escape plan from the pressure of university, I can tell you that staying at home does not solve any of your problems, unless you have serious plans, or else they will follow you straight back home.

The most pressure lies from within your family, immediate and extended. They send you to university for one reason and that’s to study hard, get a degree, get a job and make something of your life. Every parent wants their child to be better than they ever were, because they want what’s best for their children. Society however also has a hold on you, there’s expectations placed on us to go straight from high school to university because that’s how we have been socialised, we’ve been indoctrinated tobelieve that university is a norm for everyone, and if you go against this norm it’s a complete taboo, according to society.


Pholile Mpofu, a first year student, studying Bcom Law at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) said that she experienced the most pressure from her mom more than anything else. She mentions that growing up with a single mother and having 3 siblings has not been the easiest, and with her going to university she’s expected to work hard and hopefully get a good enough job to help her mom out with her siblings, “I feel like I’m not just studying for me but I’m studying for everyone else too, but all the pressure is on me,” says Mpofu. She mentions that it’s hard to enjoy the experience of being at university when she has to deal with so much on her plate, but she says the pressure pushes her to work harder, because she truly does want to be successful and help her mother out because she’s sacrificed so much for her. .

Khanyisile Dlodlo, a first year student, studying Social Work at the University of Cape Town (UCT), said that she felt the most pressure was coming from her father and society as a whole. Originally she wasn’t planning on coming to university but society convinced her otherwise and her father, of course, “was having none of that nonsense”. She wanted to live her dream of owning a hotel and going to a hospitality school, but she heard all her friends speaking about their excitement for the “fresher’s experience” and she felt that she didn’t want to miss out on that, “I wanted to experience it with my friends, and I didn’t want to be judged for not going to university” said Dlodlo. As someone who came from a very expensive private school, her father thought it was ridiculous that she wasn’t going to university, “he insisted that he was not going to pay for any other ‘nonsense’ but university,” said Dlodlo.  Dlodlo says that she’s been dealing with this type of pressure from her father since Matric and it has gotten worse ever since she matriculated, because he expects so much from her, so her dream of owning a hotel was quickly crushed. Furthermore Dlodlo says the pressure often gets to her at times, because she fears becoming a disappointment to her father, however it makes her want to work harder so she can get this degree and start doing what she truly loves.

Kelly Collins, a first year student, studying Bcom Accounting at UCT said that she felt pressure from society because of the white privilege surrounding her there. “Sometimes I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around my black friends, I feel like I have to fit in but at the same time be conscience of my white privilege because I’m constantly reminded of it and I can’teven make jokes anymore because everyone is super sensitive to issues of race.”. Collins said she has to deal with so much pressure because of the colour of her skin. She says she deals with it the best way knows how, by simply doing what she went to UCT to do and that’s to study and by being around people who don’t make her feel bad for being part of the “privileged minority.”

Khethiwe Shobede, a first year student studying journalism at the University currently known as Rhodes (UCKAR) carries her fair load of pressure from the bursary she is currently holding. She says she has so much pressure to do well, in order to keep her bursary for the next four years, as her parents still pay school fees for her other siblings and as a result, “it would difficult for them to be able to pay all of our school fees as University is hectically expensive, so it would be a lot on their plate.”  So she has a lot riding on this because if she had to lose it, it would be hard on her parents. At times Shobede finds the pressure overwhelming and sometimes it leaves her depressed, but when she thinks of her parents and all they have done to get her here, she uses the pressure to light a fire under her so she works hard to keep the bursary.

Pressures form society can become easier as time comes and you grow more and learn to accept yourself for who you are without letting the outside world affect you, but it’s not easy to ignore family pressures and racial pressure. It’s hard to carry the weight of not disappointing anyone because often at times you are the first in your family to go off to university, or you have a lot of financial pressure so you have to do your best to try and ease the struggle back at home. University pressure can affect anyone, it doesn’t matter what class, race, ethnicity, or background you’re from. We may all cope with it differently but at least you know you’re not alone.


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