The preparation, stress, and anxiety surrounding finals are enough to challenge any student. But what if you added giving birth in between finals on top of it? Rachael Andrews is a 2L student with a remarkable journey to New England Law. A journey that took her from Arizona to Massachusetts with her husband, son, two dogs, and two cats. We spoke with her about her story, the challenges of balancing family life while being a full-time student, and the advice she has for current/future students who juggle a lot of responsibilities while also going to school.
Where does your journey to New England Law begin?
I started undergrad right out of high school, and I decided I was not mentally at a place where I could excel. I left and met my husband, We got married, and he convinced me that I should go back and get my undergraduate degree. It was always in the back of my mind to go back and finish, I just had not taken the steps to do it.
Three weeks into going back to school, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I did the entirety of my undergrad online and worked full-time. During the last semester of undergrad, I took the LSAT, and I was looking at going to law school in Washington D.C. Then, New England Law reached out to me in December of 2021 and offered me the Sandra Day O’Connor Scholarship. I had not applied yet, but I sent the news to my husband. He responded with: “I guess we’re moving to Boston!”
After taking more time, I discovered that my sister-in-law was a New England Law alum. She practices law in New Jersey. I reached out to her and learned that she loved it. So, 120 days later, we packed up our belongings in a trailer and drove 2,600 miles to Boston from Arizona—sleeping in the car along the way with my husband, a three-year-old, two dogs, and two cats. I was pregnant all through my first semester and had my daughter right in between finals of my 1L year.
What motivated you to join New England Law over other schools?
The scholarship and speaking to my sister-in-law about her experience. She enjoyed going to school here and encouraged me to apply. At all the incoming student events, like the Zoom meetings and such, I found that I really liked the school a lot. At the end of the day, I wanted to go to the East Coast, so the stars aligned for New England Law to be the best choice. So far, it has definitely been the right one.
It sounds like you have a big family. How do you balance being a mom and attending law school full-time?
A lot of it is setting up expectations. I understand that it is going to be challenging, and there are going to be times when I want to hang out with my family, but I can’t. Also, I accepted that caffeine is my friend. I do a lot of my studying after my kids go to sleep by staying up late; it’s how I make it work. Also, I rely on my support system whenever I have the opportunity. My husband is supportive, I will just let him know, “Hey, I need X amount of time to study.” And we figure it out from there. During that study time I must be dedicated; only being able to give half of my attention to studying is a waste of my time. The balance is communicating with my family and planning my days ahead.
What are the ways you maintain your mental health while taking on all these responsibilities?
I am an active person. Every Saturday, if the weather is nice, my family and I will go on hikes. We load up the car, put my daughter in a harness on my back, she’s still only 9 months old, and go to state parks and get outside to enjoy the weather.
Also, taking breaks is important. Going together with a dedicated schedule, I know when and how much I am going to study, so I can make sure to plan for breaks. It is important that I have time to disconnect from being a law student and transition into being a mom or simply a person.
The hard part of it is, most of the time you are a mom—a working mom—but being a student is a whole identity too. It is all about segmenting my time. I have this time that I study, I have this time I am with my family, and then I have this time that is only for me. Beyond being a student and a mom, I am a person too. So I make sure that I don’t forget to remember my needs too.
What would be your main advice to someone who has family obligations and is not sure about going to school?
You can do more than you think you can. It is all in your mental state. If you go into it thinking you are not going to be able to do this and succeed then, yes, you are not going to be able to do it. Part of it is accepting that there will be times at the end of the week when you are thinking, "I didn’t play with my son at all” or “I didn’t have a conversation with my husband outside of what I'm studying.” There are going to be days like that, but you can do it.
A lot of the time, I hear comments like “Oh, I don’t know how you’re doing it” or “I wouldn’t be able to do that.” My response usually is, “You can, because once you’re here, there is no excuse.” There are no excuses for failure, you just do it. And two years from now, I can look back and think “I can’t believe I accomplished this.” But for now, I do what I need to so that I can succeed. We, myself included, face worse things than the work of being a full-time law student, you know?
What are you looking forward to in the future? What are your career goals?
I want to work in the federal government, ideally in national security or counter-terrorism work. In the future, I would love to work for the DOJ’s National Security Division. Honestly, though I would love to work in any capacity for the federal government.
Last question: How did you end up doing on that final?
Well, pretty good. I got a B on the final I took 10 days after I had my daughter, but the rest were A’s.