In February 2020 the University of Pretoria will welcome first-year students from diverse backgrounds. With them, they carry their hopes, dreams and academic aspirations that they hope to achieve at the university, but the academic journey is not without its difficulties. It can be a psychologically tasking journey, and adjustment in the early stages can be very hard for some. One of the principal reasons that students find it hard to adjust has been the inability of new students to adapt to the new academic environment, meet the academic demands of higher education and put up the work ethic required. Students find themselves having to adapt to an environment drastically different from high school. It is because of this that many tend to succumb to academic pressures.

The University of Pretoria is well equipped with assistance centres established for maintaining the wellbeing of students while they manoeuvre academic challenges. One of the centres established to deal with the psychological pressures of the academic life of students is the Student Counselling Unit. According to the Student Counselling Unit the centre “is a professional psychological support service, with branches on all the campuses of the University of Pretoria”. According to the Student Counselling Unit’s website “The University puts a high priority on the mental health and wellness of our students and therefore provides the student population with access to a counselling unit”.

The Student Counselling Unit offers academic, therapeutic and emotional support consisting of counselling, educational, ethical and clinical psychologists. The centre states that “if a student needs any form of emotional, psychological or mental support, Student Counselling is the correct unit to visit.” The centre provides therapeutic services, psychoeducation, counselling, as well as assessments relating to career choice. The counselling unit is in collaboration with the Disability Unit to assess students with special learning needs, who may qualify for a concession when writing examinations.

“The University of Pretoria is well equipped with assistance centres established for maintaining the wellbeing of students while they manoeuvre academic challenges.”

The Students Counselling Unit notes that many first-year students may think that they may not need student counselling because they think that they could easily cope in the higher education system. UP’s Student Counselling notes why students may need psycho-social or mental health support, establishing that “at Tuks Student Counselling we know that the transition from school to university can be very demanding and may sometimes be overwhelming. We also realise that even though it is said that these are the best years of your life, it can be difficult to cope with the academic workload, emotional changes and social demands”.

According to the Centre, physical or mental illness can take a toll on a student, or family problems can impact the effectiveness of a student at university. The Student Counselling Unit boasts a motivated staff to assist students to realise their full potential and optimise their chances of success by addressing potential problems early on and restoring excellent functioning.

The Student Counselling Unit is registered at the Health Professions Council of South Africa and therefore adheres to high ethical standard and professional practice guidelines. The unit states that they are also an “accredited training facility for interns and master’s students in the counselling Psychology Programme”. Usually, such professional health services would come at a cost, but they are free of charge at UP for registered students, with only the student card needed.

“…even though it is said that these are the best years of your life, it can be difficult to cope…”

The Student Counselling Unit also notes that “if a student needs medical care, there are good relationships with doctors and medical services on campus as well as in the immediate vicinity of the university”. This, according to the Centre, is to refer the patient to medication or a physical evaluation to the campus doctor, one’s own general practitioner or even specialists such as a physician, a psychiatrist or a neurologist and this is discussed with the patient.”

All the sessions in the Centre are confidential and you are treated as an independent and autonomous major and in the event that you are referred by another doctor, feedback may be provided to that health care professional with your consent. Any reports or feedback given to the university or parents/guardians will have to be with the written consent of the student and this remains at the student’s discretion. “We would like students to have a confidential and private space to address their problems”, the Centre emphasised.

For more information about the University of Pretoria Student Counselling Centre, they can be contacted at:

Telephone: 012 420 3111

Email: ss@up.ac.za

By: MOSES MAILE