© 2015 Puddey et al.; licensee BioMed Central. Background: We have previously demonstrated that both coming from a rural background and spending a year-long clinical rotation in our Rural Clinical School (RCS) have independent and additive effects to increase the likelihood of medical students practicing rurally following graduation. The current study assesses the extent to which medical school selection criteria and/or the socio-demographic profile of medical students may further facilitate or hamper the selection of students ultimately destined for the rural medical workforce. Methods: The study comprised 729 students, admitted from secondary school since 1999 and having graduated by 2011, whose actual workplace location in 2014 was classified as either urban or rural using the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency database. Selection factors on entry (score from a standardised interview, percentile scores for the 3 components of the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and prior academic performance as assessed by the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) together with socio-demographic factors (age, gender, decile for the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD)), were examined in relation to ultimate rural destination of practice. Results: In logistic regression, those practicing in a rural location in 2014 were more likely to have come from the lower 6 IRSAD deciles (OR 2.75, 95% CI 1.44, 5.23, P = 0.002), to be older (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.09, 3.18, p = 0.023) and to have a lower UMAT-3 (Non-verbal communication) score (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.97, 0.99, P = 0.005). After further controlling for either rural background or RCS participation, only age and UMAT-3 remained as independent predictors of current rural practice. Conclusions: In terms of the socio-demographic profiles of those selected for medical school entry from secondary school, only older age weakly augmented the selection of graduates likely to ultimately work in a rural destination. Among the selection factors, having achieved higher scores in UMAT-3 tended to mitigate this outcome. The major focus in attempts to grow the rural medical workforce should therefore remain on recruiting medical students from a rural background together with providing maximal opportunity for prolonged immersion in rural clinical environments during their training.