A successful first year is of vital importance to academic achievement in higher education. How can we identify those students at risk at a very early stage, i.e. even before they have entered university? This study focuses on three pre-university factors, namely academic self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, in terms of autonomous motivation and time-management, and beyond classroom engagement. 2355 Dutch prospective first-year students in the fields of science, humanities and social sciences filled in our survey. Data on first year academic achievement in terms of grade point average (GPA) was obtained at the end of the first year. Prospective first-year students scored high on all of the variables; we found gender-related differences, favouring female students, as well as discipline-related differences. Time management and autonomous motivation were found to be positive predictors of achievement; beyond classroom engagement was a negative predictor of achievement. This paper contributes to the research on first-year academic achievement and emphasises the importance of providing students with personalised trajectories from the moment they enter university.