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I currently hold a master's degree in human services, yet I'm interested in earning a graduate degree in English to improve both my writing and my English skills. I have not taken an English course in a number of years and am fearful that upon entering the graduate program I will be expected to be a pro. Would you recommend I take an undergraduate English course as a refresher?

Graduate programs in English do have higher expectations than their undergraduate counterparts, but don't panic. This doesn't mean that schools are obsessing over how many semicolons you overlook. Master's programs are usually interested in students who can think critically, which is just a fancy way of saying that you can question what you read and what you hear.

Your desire to earn an advanced degree in English is a wonderful idea. Advancing your English skills keeps you competitive in the job market and fulfills your personal interests. Your next step is to decide on a program of study. Creative writing, English literature, or composition and rhetoric are just a few possible choices. When you enter any area of advanced study, your skills can be a little shaky if you haven't been reading and writing much. Refresh your skills by reading and writing on your own, so you don't feel unprepared when you enter your graduate program.

Another way to prepare for your graduate program is to read challenging books. While you read, write down any questions you would ask the author if you had the chance. When you finish reading, compose any possible answers to these questions in a journal or a notepad. You also may want to find syllabi and reading lists from courses within your program to help you get acquainted with graduate-level material.