Before my senior year of college began, I was aware of a few things: though I had grown immensely, there was still more for me to learn. Additionally, even though working for a women’s lifestyle magazine had been a long-time dream of mine, I didn’t know anyone in the industry. Teaching has always been something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure when I would make the transition. Grad school seemed like my best option at the time. So, I took the GRE and applied to my dream school.

I’m not the only one who believes that grad school is the best next step – there are countless other students like me. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, American universities will award 821,000 master’s degrees during the 2014-2015 school year alone! If you’re undecided about whether grad school is right for you, here are five reasons why you should go to graduate school:

1. To Specialize

    If your undergraduate program was broad in scope but didn’t provide you with specific training in an area of interest, grad school can help you fill the gaps. Sydney Franklin, a grad student studying arts journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications believes that “My bachelor’s degree in communications was general. I knew that I could get a job, but it would take me years to climb my way through the industry and report on what I really care about.”

    Franklin’s childhood dream of becoming an architect and urban reporter has come true. She already has experience under her belt, having produced work for Architizer and Syracuse Urban Properties. Furthermore, she’s even had the chance to interview world-renowned architects Bjarke Ingels and Nicole Dosso. “I went to graduate school to start my career doing exactly what I want, rather than waiting years to do it,” she says.

    [Related: 8 Reasons Why You Should Consider Business School Right Now]

    2. To Explore

      Unknown which specific skills you want to learn or what field you desire to explore. Well, the best thing for you is to chat with individuals already in that industry, as stated by Kathryn Schellenberg, founder of educational and tutoring company Learning Lab LA. “Find people whose career path you want to emulate, and ask them what their educational path looked like, and what their graduate program looked like,” she says.

      If you want to make the most of your student status, sign up for similar classes and reach out to people in the industry whom you admire. After graduation, you won’t be able to rely on the “student” excuse anymore.

      3. To Get Connected

        Some of the brightest minds might be found at your graduate school. “At graduate school, you study under important thinkers and receive mentorship. All of the contacts you make can help you start your career at a higher level, rather than starting to work with just a bachelor’s degree,” Franklin says.

        With smaller class sizes, you’ll get the chance to build strong relationships with both your peers and professors. Furthermore, there are assistantships and fellowships available that will let you work alongside professionals who teach at your university.

        4. To Advance Financially

          The National Center for Education Statistics found that, in 2012, the median earnings for young adults with only a bachelor’s degree was $59,600. However, 27 percent more than that–$74,000–was the median salary for young adults who held a master’s degree or higher. Therefore, it is possible to earn a significantly higher salary and improve one’s career prospects by obtaining a graduate-level education.

          If you’re doubtful about what the customary career path or salary progression is in your field, talk to a mentor or instructor and inquire if they can provide some clarity.

          5. To Decrease Your Achievement Gap

            Attending graduate school can help you close the achievement gap and improve your chances of success. “refers to any significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between different groups of students,” as the Glossary of Education Reform states. The achievement gap is determined by more than just race, it includes gender, economic class, and sexual orientation. Furthermore, these factors don’t only determine your academic success but they play a role in your future career as well.

            Even though I worked diligently during my undergraduate studies,

            I felt that I was lagging behind my peers from a professional standpoint. One of the reasons for this gap is that I didn’t have any familial connections to reach out to when seeking employment opportunities.; If I had just moved to New York without any financial stability or job prospects, it would’ve been a disaster. So instead, I used my time in school to build up my skills and learn how to communicate and write professionally. Now I’m finally ready to take on the world (or at least, the fashion industry).

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