Nearing 70, USC student proves it’s never too late to get your master’s degree

virginia polley

“Learning is so much better when you’re older,” says online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) student Virginia Polley, who graduated from USC Gould School of Law this past May.

Like many people during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Polley was trying hard to fill her time at home in Tennessee amid lockdowns and social distancing orders.

“Doing nothing,” however, has never been Polley’s style, she told USC Online. So when her husband suggested she pursue an online graduate degree, perhaps to study law, she was game for the challenge. And it wasn’t just because she loves learning — although, that was certainly part of it.

Polley, who completed her undergraduate years at Sweet Briar College, a liberal arts school for women in Virginia, returned to school for her MBA at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga when she was 50 years old, simply to experience being a student again.

But her decision to obtain a second master’s degree was also deeply practical, as her husband, who just turned 88, recently started a business importing vinyl flooring from Asia. Earning a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) online from USC Gould School of Law would better prep Polley, who is graduating from the program this May, to support his new career venture and eventually take charge of the company herself.

“A Master of Studies in Law appealed to me on many levels. The LSAT was not required … and I knew I was not going to practice law. I briefly considered going through a JD program, but by the time I finished that, I would be 70 years old. I wouldn’t want to work that hard!” she laughed.

Throughout the online MSL program, Polley developed a firm grasp on contract drafting, global regulatory compliance, and mergers and acquisitions, all of which gave her the “skills and tools in order to take over the business and run it well.”

“It’s given me such a foundation,” Polley added.

When it came to choosing the right MSL program for her career goals, Polley researched several options, but she immediately identified USC Gould as her “very first choice.” Practical as ever, Polley applied to multiple programs and was accepted to all of them, but USC Gould’s online MSL remained her top contender.

Read Virginia’s Story