A new study has found that what helps Māori students at university also hinders them.
Māori students identified whānau support as the main reason for their success but also said it was their family commitments that made studying more difficult.
Higher education success for Māori has become a priority for the government, especially success in higher levels of tertiary education.
Authors of the latest research from Otago University's National Centre for Lifecourse Research hope their findings will help increase Māori tertiary student success.
Lead author and cente co-director Dr Moana Theodore said the research was based on a 2011 online survey of about 600 final-year Māori students.
"Māori graduates are crucial for the social and economic wellbeing of Māori whānau and communities," she said.
"Describing their experiences can provide a blueprint for future success by building an evidence base around factors that promote higher educational achievement for Māori."
Ms Theodore said about one-third of the students were parents and the study found that balancing multiple obligations, including caregiving, study and work, placed Māori students and their families under considerable pressure.
Student Aroaro Tamati agreed.
She had just started her psychology doctorate as a distance student at Otago University, but had been studying on and off for 15 years.
She began working straight after leaving school and it was only after she got married and had children that she decided she wanted to study, she said.
Her children were always the first priority but with whānau support she was also able to study.
"My timetable was around doing my study at night when my children had gone to sleep - I'd get them to sleep around 8pm and then study until midnight," Mrs Tamati said.
"That was just part of the picture - or needs musts as I called it - that's what needed to happen, so the understanding of family and my whānau were important, particularly my husband."
Her biggest hurdle was fatigue, Mrs Tamati said. As well as her children and studying, she had many other community commitments which her whānau helped her keep.
The study also identified good relationships between Māori students and staff as key, along with good support services.
The findings are from the Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand (GLSNZ), an ongoing project that, over a 10-year period, will investigate the employment, health and social outcomes of more than 8700 graduates from all eight New Zealand universities.