The academic research experience is extremely rewarding but is also froth with many challenges, setbacks, and frustrations. The publish-or-perish mentality of a research-intensive academic environment demands a certain skill set in its trainees. This selection criterion begins with the undergraduate research selection process, but what is the ideal skill set of an incoming student entering the research experience? The current landscape on this topic is bleak, with little examination of how students are chosen for these positions. We therefore conducted an analysis examining student selection methods, non-cognitive traits, emphasis on grades and medical school future ambitions. Our findings suggest that the top five student traits valued by principal investigators are: motivation, resilience, hard work, inquisitiveness and honesty. Surprisingly, emphasis on grades as a screening tool decreased as age of laboratory and frequency of publication increased. Additionally, we identified an inverse correlation between student interest in medical school and research supervisor interest in selecting the student for an undergraduate research experience. Taken together, our study culminates in a defined set of skills beneficial for an incoming student at the beginning of their research experience. We feel our findings will greatly facilitate the overall undergraduate student selection process in any academic environment.