How are students selected for higher education excellence programmes in the Netherlands, and which preferences do selectors have in the selection process? This article answers this question by using a questionnaire including vignettes among fifty selectors of excellence programmes from eighteen institutions, supplemented with in-depth interviews with selectors of nine excellence programmes. In the questionnaire, we asked the selectors to select hypothetical candidates for a selection interview, based on vignettes with characteristics derived from students’ CVs such as study results and extracurricular activities. Using vignette data allows us to clearly illustrate the choices made by the selectors in a hypothetical setting that mimics the first stage in the actual selection process. Additionally, we asked the selectors to indicate which other qualities they find most important for students in their excellence programmes. The results of the vignette data indicate that higher grades and more extracurricular activities such as experience studying or travelling abroad, study-related side jobs, and volunteering contribute positively to the chance of being invited for an interview for participation in excellence programmes. Moreover, selectors see motivation, thinking ability, and perseverance as the most important qualities for students in excellence programmes.