Objectives: Examine fundamental behaviors and characteristics that attending physicians in inpatient settings utilize to identify high-performing clerkship students. Methods: We employed written comment data from a cross-sectional survey of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics attending physicians at a single academic medical center in the southern USA. Free-text responses regarding factors that faculty consider when assigning honors grades were analyzed by four trained researchers (interrater agreement 0.87) using conventional content analysis to identify themes. Results: Seventy-nine of 141 (56%) attending physicians who were surveyed provided 90 comments. Four major theme areas for recognizing higher performing clerkship students were identified: Taking Ownership of Patient Care (35%), Medical Knowledge and Clinical Reasoning (20%), Team Orientation (15%), and Awareness of Opportunities for Growth and Progress (13%). Conclusion: Internal Medicine and Pediatric attending physicians identified characteristics that contributed to four themes in the determination of a high-performing medical student. These findings are particularly salient, as they highlight that commitment to patients, application of clinical knowledge and skills, teamwork, and awareness of growth and progress are valued by attending physicians for identifying top performing students in inpatient settings.