Dropout rates in Italy are very high, particularly in freshmen students (Anvur, 2016). University students’ academic achievement has been found to prevent dropout. The present study tested a predicting model of academic achievement in first-year university students based on self-determination theory, through a longitudinal design with two points in time. Freshmen students in a bachelor program of an Italian university (N = 313; M age = 21.34 years; SD = 4.74; 72.2% female) completed measures of perceived autonomy support from parents and teachers, autonomous motivation, perceived academic control, and intention to drop out from university at the start of their academic year. At the end of the first-semester, information about students’ academic achievement have been collected from the department office. Results from structural equation modeling analyses supported the hypothesized model. Specifically, perceived autonomy support from parents and teachers predicted perceived academic control via autonomous motives; perceived academic control predicted intention to dropout, which, in turn, predicts academic achievement. A major contribution was demonstrating the important role of perceived autonomy support and perceived academic control in freshman students’ academic achievement. These findings could provide a contribution in implementing adequate intervention supporting freshman students in order to promote academic achievement and, consequently, to prevent dropout from university.
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