I'm a Year 11 student studying in the UK (that's 10th grade for you guys) and I want to apply to the US for college. I'm hoping to study Computational Linguistics, with Physics or German. There's a few problems, though, and I was hoping you guys could help me out.
First: I'm pretty poor, and I won't be able to afford college without financial aid. As far as I know, there's only 6 colleges in the US who would be need blind for internationals (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Darmouth, Amherst) and they're very selective, moreso than Oxbridge in the UK.
Therein is the second problem: selective admissions. Due to long term illness, I find it really difficult to do extracurriculars. I've helped out with my school's Drama department for a couple of years, but that's pretty much it. I'll be moving schools at the end of the year for Sixth Form, so hopefully I'll have more access to extracurriculars there, but I still doubt I'll be able to do many. ECs are also different in the UK than in the US: you can't be president or anything like that for school clubs. I know I could volunteer, but I live in a very rural area where there are next to no opportunities, and the volunteering that is generally expected (in a hospital, old people's home, etc) is taken up by people who are applying to medicine.
I do a lot of self study at home though; I read a lot of textbooks - currently, two college level linguistics textbooks. Would colleges consider self study to be an extracurricular, or put any weight on it? I also do some coding, and I've recently been spending a lot of time on it, but I struggle with having no one to help me out, so I'll be doing a lot more of it once I start computing next year.
Third, my grades. Academically, for GCSE's, I'm currently at the top of the year, with the best grades possible (12A*). There's only around 100 people in my year, though, so not much competition. Next year, I'll be taking 5 A-Levels (Double Math, Physics, Computing, German), which is above what is expected (3 A-Levels is the average for schools in my area, with grades of B/C). I don't know if my A-Levels will give me extra credit, but as far as I know they're considered to be more difficult than AP exams.
I also don't have any experience with SAT exams, so I don't know when to start studying, what to study, etc, and I'm completely unfamiliar with their format - I've never taken multiple choice exams.
So, in summary, my questions to you guys:
Which colleges should I apply to, and which ones would even accept me? Are there any others I should consider?
What ECs could I do?
How can I improve my applications?
How will colleges view my academic record?