OBJECTIVE: A campus-based website was set up by medical students following their study that showed a low awareness and utilsation of support systems at the University of Pretoria. The aim of the website was to improve the utilisation of the existing support systems. This study evaluated the students’ perception of the support systems and whether the website would resolve barriers hindering utilisation of support. METHOD: Focus groups were selected by theoretical sampling in the first and final quarter of the academic year. The sample group consisted of 120 medical students from all years of study. The transcribed tape recordings, field notes, e-mail responses and observations of the focus groups were analysed for themes by open, axial and selective coding. RESULTS: The medical students varied in their awareness of the available support systems. The majority were unaware of procedures to access the support systems and what services were offered by each. There were numerous barriers to utilising the support systems effectively. The barriers included the students’ perception of failure in admitting that they require assistance and the remainder were mostly of an administrative nature. Most students were aware of the website but utilisation was minimal. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of students were aware of but underutilised the support systems for various reasons. The website failed to improve utilisation of the extensive existing support systems. The barriers suggest other ways of improving support that include addressing social support, socialisation and life skills training as well as streamlining the marketing of existing support systems.