Little research is available that describes how tertiary agricultural students cope with their first year university studies. The paper suggests that personal and environmental factors are predictors of student persistence and satisfaction. Drawing on data collected from 500 students attending Australian rural-based and urban-based universities, structural equation modelling was employed to test the validity of a model of student persistence and satisfaction. The results of this work show constructs in the model, including 'knowledge of agriculture', 'future orientation', 'fit with the ideology' and 'fit with the course' were key predictors of student persistence and satisfaction. Some implications for current educational practice, industry and professional engagement in tertiary education are suggested by the authors.