Non-traditional Homeschooled Student and Ivy League Admissions?

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?

Thanks, Sualretav

For students who have been out of school for a while, schools tend to care less about academic performance and more about life experience. It sounds like you've done a lot of work in the years since high school that will boost your application, which is great, especially if it's part of your "spike." If you're able to show a spike in something that's not strictly academic, that can still have a positive effect on your application - after all, students who show spikes in things like the clarinet or figure skating don't necessarily apply those talents in school.

I'd recommend reading our article on what students with low GPAs but high SAT scores can do, even though it doesn't strictly apply to your situation. There are some useful tips in the article about how to compensate for a lack of academic prowess in your application (although in your case, it sounds as if the issue is more lack of academic extracurriculars, rather than lack of good mainstream academics).

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