This article examines some issues surrounding transition to higher education. It is based on the case study of a cohort of Year 1 students in a modern university in England. The purpose of the study was to ascertain any potential transitional issues and therefore any areas for development in our Year 1 programmes to aid student progress. Data were gathered via semi‐structured questionnaires distributed to Year 1 initial teacher training students and their lecturers and through focused conversations with a group of students. The main findings of the study indicate that independent study and assessment processes pose challenges for students in their first year at university, and it is hoped that the outcomes of this research will contribute to a more informed transition from school to university through developing a clearer understanding of prior educational experiences that inform first‐year undergraduate expectations and needs.