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Are you considering going back to school for a graduate degree? Your  mid-20s and 30s are a great time to do so. You have enough professional experience to make an informed choice of program (and you know what you want), yet not so much experience that you’re locked into a career path. Here are a few thoughts from graduate advisers at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, about how to make your goal of an advanced degree a reality.

There’s no time like the present

For a lot of people, their 20s are more flexible than their 30s, their 30s are more flexible than their 40s, and so on. As our lives become filled with a partner, children, home ownership and career responsibilities, the more difficult it is to find resources for school. Plus, the sooner you go back to school, the less removed you’ll be from your undergraduate days, and the easier it will be to return to the rhythm of academic life.

You’ll get the most out of your degree

The cost of a graduate education can seem daunting. But it will likely only increase if you wait to return to school. The sooner you earn your degree, the more you can leverage it to advance in your profession or switch careers and earn a higher salary. And remember, some employers will help pay for tuition.

Defining your priorities will help you choose a program

Prospective graduate students can choose from full-time, part-time, online and hybrid programs. Your greatest struggle may be narrowing down your options. “There isn’t a clear answer for everyone,” says Jane Hamann, a graduate admission counselor at St. Edward’s. “Identifying what you’re looking for in a graduate program is essential because two programs in the same field could offer completely different services, like career planning or a writing center. It also helps to know if you’re looking for a program that caters to working adults, one that uses a cohort model, or one that would let you switch between part-time and full-time study. Research is key.”

Graduate school offers benefits you can’t get anywhere else

Graduate school requires an investment — of time, money and energy — and students early in their careers often wonder if that investment is worth it. After all, information is readily available through Coursera, TED talks and YouTube lectures. And social media and LinkedIn offer free virtual networking. But a graduate education offers something different: access to faculty who are experts in their field, a community of learners from diverse backgrounds, a clear structure to make progress on your learning goals, and ultimately, diploma.

“Although it is possible to gain knowledge and connections without a graduate degree, having one distinguishes an individual from his or her peers,” says Mike Leveriza, a graduate recruiter at St. Edward’s. “It conveys to employers that not only has this person acquired skills, but he or she has also gone through a certain rigor in order to be considered for positions of leadership.”

Designed for working adults who need to balance school and life, graduate programs at St. Edward’s University offer flexible class schedules, small class sizes and real-world curriculum taught by experienced professionals.