The study experiences of the high achievers in a competitive academic environment: A cost of success?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Department of Education 
The present paper is a case study that explores the study experiences and possible costs of success for the students accepted into the professional program in psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway. In this highly competitive environment, between 500 and 1000 students compete for 36 places during the introduction year. The study is based on 31 students' written narratives about their studying experiences during the introductory year in psychology. The data were analysed from a qualitative phenomenological perspective, and resulted in four basic themes that describe the students' experiences. The main findings indicate sacrificing a normal social student life in order to deal with an excessive workload, a shift in motivation from intrinsic to extrinsic, and a declined interest in the subject and joy of studying. The students experienced considerable stress during the studies, partly caused by lack of informational feedback on their level of competence during the semesters prior to the final exams. The findings are discussed in relation to the learning environment, drawing on Self- Determination Theory and the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness.