Great Free Resources

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By Rajkamal Rao 

We have stressed that many things in the online world - including our own website - continue to be excellent and free!  As you prepare to apply to US colleges and universities, consider this list of world class resources, tools and links - all free.
  1. Google Docs -  Place all of your thoughts and content in the "cloud".  Google Docs is a great way to store and retrieve your assets in a secure manner from anywhere. You don't have to worry about saving files or backing them up.  And you can have others review your work and provide comments. [This requires a Google account].

  2. - School selection strategies based on state economic and industry/ trends, branding, re-branding, schools list finalization, differentiating your application and following US trends.  Also follow Rao Advisors on Facebook.

  3. - A website sponsored by the US Department of State to help you Complete Your Application; Finance Your Studies; Apply for Your Student Visa; and Prepare for Your Departure. 

  4. US News school rankings - although we are not big fans of school rankings, this is information a student should have.  US News requires you to pay for full access which includes expanded profiles for schools, entering class stats, average GRE scores, research expenditures and  college data, but all of this information is available through College Navigator, and the school's own website for free! 

    The only proprietary value US News brings is its rankings and luckily, basic information about these rankings is free.  It is easy to copy and paste this information into a Word document for analysis. 

  5. Occupational Handbook page of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find occupations and industries in demand.  Check out our Step 4 for details.  For STEM fields, check out the Career Cornerstone Center which is an initiative of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Another good tool is the Council of Graduate Schools' online platform, GradSense, which combines federal data on both education debt and median salaries for various occupations, allowing students to calculate what various degrees may be worth.

  6. College Navigator  - There are many ways to search for schools and obtain information but we believe the best database of schools is maintained by the US Department of Education and is a superb way to initially identify schools.  Within a few clicks you can set up your own custom searches and look for schools (both undergraduate and graduate) based on whether they are private or public; estimated tuition costs; and the campus location/setting.  You can pinpoint school locations with an interactive map, export search results into a spreadsheet and save your session including search options and favorites.

  7. If you simply want a listing of colleges, universities, community colleges and vocational schools at the local, city and state level, including a Google Maps interactive feature, go to

  8. College Atlas - This is an excellent non-commercial site which relies on contribution time from volunteers; and content/information from educators. 

  9. Step 6 of Rao Advisors - to finalize a list of schools.

  10. Rao Advisors - for information about MOOC courses.  For the best MOOC platforms, go to

  11. Rao Advisors - for information about MOOC2 courses.

  12. If you are an undergrad and feel uncomfortable taking the ACT or SAT, check out this list of over 800 schools that make taking these tests optional. To interpret your SAT scores, check out this excellent reference from the College Board. If you want to know which exam to take, TOEFL or IELTS, click here.

  13. GRE Test Preparation tools - from Educational Testing Service, including POWERPREP® II, Version 2.0 Software to prepare for the Computer-based GRE revised General Test; Practice Book for the Paper-based GRE® revised General Test, Second Edition (PDF); Math Review (PDF);  Math Conventions (PDF); An Introduction to the Analytical Writing Section of the GRE revised General Test (PDF); ETS® Personal Potential Index.

    ETS has now teamed up with the Khan Academy for free GRE coaching material. Guru99 lists the top-10 online fee-based prep courses including our favorite, Magoosh.

  14. A free GRE preparation guide written by Prof. Dennis Masino and Jackie Giuliano, Ph.D, titled “How to Study for the GRE: Example Questions, Resources, and Study Hacks"  Also visit - a site that over 2 million students have used to prep for the SAT and GRE for free.  The company was founded by professors and graduate students who wanted to make high quality test preparation universally accessible. In 1999 Eric Loken and Josh Millet were graduate students studying for their PhDs at Harvard University when they began teaching free SAT prep classes in the Boston area.  The web site now receives over 50 million hits per month. 

    ETS allows you to send your GRE scores to four schools free of charge, as part of your test.  For details on how to send additional score reports, click here.  For information on the different modes of payment that ETS accepts, click here

  15. TOEFL.  For TOEFL registration, click here.   For a list of exam centers in India and test dates, click here.  For free TOEFL iBT® Quick Prep including practice tests, click here

    You can improve your English-language reading skills by matching your TOEFL iBT® Reading Section score with a Lexile® measure from MetaMetrics®, creator of The Lexile Framework® for Reading. Lexile measures put the reading ability of people and the text difficulty of reading materials on the same scale.

    Once you know your Lexile measure, you can use it to find books at your reading level. Knowing your Lexile measure takes the guesswork out of selecting reading materials that can help build your reading skills.

    More than 115,000 fiction and nonfiction books have Lexile measures, and the list is growing all the time. The Lexile site has a searchable database of books with Lexile measures.

    Click here for more information.

  16. It is always a good idea to write a cover letter to the school and attach a resume with your application packet.  Excellent free tools to develop your cover letter and resume are at JobHero.   Samples are provided too.

  17. General information you need to apply for a student/exchange visa, from the US Department of State.  

  18. All the step-by-step details for US visas in India, including getting an appointment.  Click here and choose Non-immigrant visa.  If you want general information about US visas in India, click here.

  19. Excellent video about the new Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee ($200 for F1 students on an I-20 or $160 for J1 exchange visitors) and how to pay it.  This fee is in addition to the $160 visa application fee on your DS-160.

  20. I-901 SEVIS Fee Process

  21. Required documents to obtain a student visa from the US Consulate in Chennai.

  22. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about visas from the US Consulate in Chennai.

As always, we are glad you are here.

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