The academic success of students is a priority for all universities. This study identifies factors associated with first year academic success (performance and retention) that can be used to improve the quality of the student learning experience. A retrospective cohort study was conducted with a census of all 381 full time students enrolled in the Bachelor of Health Science at The University of Western Australia since the inception of the course in the year 2000. Factors found to be associated with successful academic performance were high matriculation score, female sex, non-Indigenous status, attendance at a government secondary school, upfront payment of university fees and completion of secondary school English Literature. The most influential factor on first year academic performance was a high matriculation score. Retention into second year was found to be influenced by participation in the university mentor scheme, non-Indigenous status and first year university marks. The factor of most influence on student retention was first year university marks. Valuable information about the performance and retention of first year Bachelor of Health Science students is provided in this study which is relevant to the operational priorities of any university.