In view of recent changes in the higher education sector, such as increased tuition fees, a greater focus has been placed on widening participation initiatives and monitoring student satisfaction. The aims of the current study were twofold: (1) to explore whether pre-entry programmes foster successful transition to higher education, and (2) to examine longitudinally the factors associated with course satisfaction. Eighty-eight first-year psychology students completed a questionnaire measuring academic self-efficacy, social identity and student satisfaction at the start (Time 1, November 2015) and end (Time 2, March 2016) of the academic year. Findings indicated that students who participated in a pre-entry programme reported higher academic self-efficacy and satisfaction compared to typical route students. Moreover, academic self-efficacy predicted student satisfaction at the start of the academic year, whereas in-group affect (a facet of social identity) predicted this at the end of the academic year. The current findings indicate that pre-entry programmes may have a positive impact on students’ sense of academic self-efficacy. On a more general level, the findings also suggest that academic self-efficacy and social identity may be key indicators of student satisfaction. This highlights the complexities of the concept of ‘student satisfaction’, and demonstrates the utility of examining multiple factors relating to student satisfaction across different time points.