I've read the How to Get into Harvard blog post and although it's super helpful, as a very non-traditional student, I still have some questions.
I was homeschooled throughout high school and had great grades and test scores, but limited access to extracurricular academic activities. In fact, there were almost no competitive or prestigious academic extras that I or anyone I knew were involved in. In his blog post, Allen gives so much emphasis to making "a big spike" that, with all of the highly academic examples I've seen, I'm not sure I have any chance at all at a top university.
I graduated high school four years ago; since then I've been traveling the world, studying sustainable development and ecological design. But once again, my actual activities and experiences have not been very academic; more humanitarian in nature. I am academically inclined - I regularly study college-level textbooks that interest me, take online classes, and I have an excellent SAT score - but severely lack official extracurricular academic achievement (e.g., national math competitions, NASA summer camps, academic clubs).
Does this basically squash my chances at any of the top schools (Ivy League and others)?
How does my non-traditional situation affect my chances and the admissions process?