Poor well-being in university students is a serious concern. Using self-kindness – an attitude of understanding and benevolence in times of adversity or failure – may be key to enabling students to maintain well-being despite the pressures inherent to their student role. This study aimed to test a theoretically guided model of how self-kindness, along with the ability to be in the present moment and the experience of receiving social support, contribute to well-being in university students. Participants were 6195 university students who completed a web-based survey. Structural equation modelling analyses confirmed our hypotheses, showing that: (a) receiving social support is important to the capacity for self-kindness both directly and indirectly through the ability to ‘be present’; and (b) the relationship between social support and well-being is partially mediated by the practices of self-kindness and being present. Overall, the model explained 39% of the variance in student well-being. These findings have implications for our understanding of well-being in university students, as well as the importance of considering self-kindness, on its own, as a target for intervention.