The first-year student experience is attracting attention within Australian higher education, where heightened concerns exist in relation to the successful transition of students to university life. This paper presents a critical reflection of the process involved in an action research project in a collaboration between academics and first-year students, coinciding with the students’ arrival to the university. On a small satellite campus, nine academics and 10 first year students from nursing, paramedicine, and health sciences partnered to explore students’ transition to university and to develop actions to support this process. Establishing partnerships with students, we elicited and listened to their stories, made sense of what we were learning together through dialogue and inquiry, participated in egalitarian decision-making regarding the direction of the project, and collaborated in meaningful action. The aim of this paper is to explore how the first-year student experience was impacted by engagement with the project and through the construct of co-operative inquiry, where all participants were co-researchers in iterative practices of action and reflection. Findings are captured in the ‘last loop’ of analysis, where learning and collaboration expanded within these cycles of action and reflection. ‘Four ways of knowing’: experiential; presentational; propositional and practical knowing are used as an analytical framework for conceptualising the findings. Of key interest is how this project became a vehicle for creating new understandings, shifting the nature of power relations among and between academics and students, resisting efficiency and outcome-oriented pressures of the university, and fostering a sense of inclusion for participants.