1. Cloud Peak strongly prefers students in the top 2% of their high school class. We accept some applicants in the top 5% of their high school class, and occasionally lower.
2. There are no minimum SAT or ACT scores, but the average SAT/ACT score in 2015 was 1350 SAT (math and critical reading only)/ 30 ACT. Students below 1100 on the SAT(math and critical reading) or 24 on the ACT are very unlikely to be accepted. Students with scores below 1200 (math and critical reading) SAT or 27 ACT are unlikely to be accepted.
There are no strict minimums for either class rank or SAT scores, although becoming a Cloud Peak Fellow is competitive and not all applicants can be selected.
3. Students with parents who did not attend college are preferred. In 2015, only one parent of one Cloud Peak Fellow had a parent who graduated from a four year college.
4. Finally, students must be free or reduced lunch eligible. In 2015, the average family income for Fellows was under $30,000 annually.
Beyond the objective criteria, Cloud Peak looks for students with a strong interest in attending a college that offers a serious academic environment. We understand that financial difficulties or parental illness or other circumstances may cause disruption in a student’s school career, and we appreciate and search for students who have overcome hardship and achieved despite hardship, because we are sure they may possess remarkable potential. We particularly appreciate the ability shown by students who have demonstrated achievement by overcoming challenges and hardship.
Note that many candidates have shown their potential to adapt to new challenging academic environments and different social environments by showing focus and sometimes leadership in their extra-curricular activities. For example, one Fellow was senior class president while working 25 to 30 hours per week. Two entered science fair competitions throughout high school; another won awards as a painter in fine art competitions while graduating as salutatorian, and working 25 hours a week throughout high school. Another started a Latin Dance club in her high school as a freshman, and the club now has 30 members. Another wrote a complex software program to teach 3-D geometry in 1oth grade, and completed the gold division in the USA Computing Olympiad as a high school senior. Another started a school newspaper in her high school.
Diamonds in the Rough: In addition to students who have shown very strong, consistent academic achievement in high school, we seriously consider students with high potential but uneven performance who might be considered “diamonds in the rough.” Quantifying the criteria for selection of “diamonds in the rough” is not easy and not well suited to standardization. Some of the possible criteria include an outstanding demonstrated talent; lopsided standardized test scores with one score near perfect; lopsided grades, demonstrated strong ability and interest in a particular academic area; an increasing arc of performance in high school; foster care or other extreme circumstances. Before accepting a “diamond in the rough” student, Cloud Peak Project needs unusually strong, detailed recommendations and support from adults who know this student well.