Programme induction activities are a central feature for supporting successful student entry into university, playing an important role in ensuring they quickly settle, feel included, are motivated to learn and able to form new friendships and networks with peers and staff. Research shows how entering university can be complex and challenging for all students regardless of background and experience. This is particularly the case for widening participation students, who often encounter excessive social exclusion and financial pressures. By using Student Involvement Theory (Astin in J Coll Stud Pers 25:297-308, 1984) as a guiding theoretical framework and peer mentors as interviewees, the primary aim of this study was to explore the effectiveness of an exclusively online programme induction in supporting the integration of newly arrived first-year widening participation sports students into a post-92 British university. The key study finding was that online induction was more successful in gaining academic than social engagement. Participants devoted time and effort into their studies but had limited social involvement with other students, both from their programme and the wider university community. Practical implications for developing future online induction programme schedules to better support the transition of diverse student populations into university are presented, as are future research avenues and limitations.