Higher Education

, Volume 73, Issue 3, pp 441–457 | Cite as

The complex relationship between emotions, approaches to learning, study success and study progress during the transition to university

  • Liisa Postareff
  • Markus Mattsson
  • Sari Lindblom-Ylänne
  • Telle Hailikari


The demands and pressures during the first study year at university are likely to arouse a variety of emotions among students. Nevertheless, there are very few studies on the role of emotions in successful studying during the transition phase. The present study adopts a person-oriented and mixed-method approach to explore, first, the emotions individual students experience during the first year at university. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to group students (n = 43) on the basis of the emotions they described in an interview. Second, the study investigates how the students in the different clusters scored on approaches to learning (as measured on the Learn questionnaire) and how they succeeded (GPA) and progressed (earned credits per year) in their studies. Three emotion clusters were identified, which differed in terms of the deep and surface approaches to learning, study success and study progress: (1) quickly progressing successful students experiencing positive emotions, (2) quickly progressing successful students experiencing negative emotions and (3) slowly progressing students experiencing negative emotions. The results indicate that it is not enough to focus on supporting successful learning, but that attention should also be paid to promoting students’ positive emotions and well-being at this time.


Academic emotions University students First-year students Transition to university 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liisa Postareff
    • 1
  • Markus Mattsson
    • 1
  • Sari Lindblom-Ylänne
    • 1
  • Telle Hailikari
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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