This study is part of an exploratory research project on first-year university students' metacognition. Using data from structured interviews, the investigation examines the way university students describe, judge and justify their cognitive strategies. This paper explores in particular the relationship between students' metacognition and their academic performance. In a sample of 35 economics students, a relationship was found between performance and some students' metacognitive knowledge characteristics. In particular, it was found that high achieving students seem to be aware of more cognitive rules and to evoke metacognitive knowledge about cognitive processes and cognitive results more frequently (for instance, justification of a cognitive rule by an anticipated cognitive result). Their metacognitive knowledge also seemed more structured and hierarchically organised; for instance, high achieving students describe more frequently their cognitive strategy as a complex sequence including several relationships (temporal, alternative, etc.). A cluster analysis also unfolded five metacognitive profiles: these profiles associate different performance levels with students' metacognitive knowledge characteristics, their learning conception and their attribution modes. This paper concludes with a discussion on the implications of the results for ‘learning to learn’ programmes. It is suggested that the main objective of these programmes should be to foster students' reflection on their own learning.