For third year lacrosse player Rachel Vander Kolk, being a student-athlete at Virginia is all about finding balance. A standout goalkeeper from Severna Park, Maryland, Rachel decided to come to UVA due to the high caliber combination of academics and athletics. And, of course, the Lawn and the layout of the Grounds were big selling points. With a demanding schedule on the field and in the classroom, Rachel says, “My favorite part as a student-athlete is being part of a team that enjoys the time it spends together, as well as being able to take some time out of my day to focus on something other than school. Having practice everyday gives you that guaranteed study break that helps me stay fresh for my schoolwork and gives me something to look forward to each day.”

An ACC Honor Roll and 2016 All-ACC Academic team member, Rachel is majoring in Aerospace Engineering. She says she enjoys all of her courses in the Aerospace program, particularly Flight Vehicle Dynamics and her Computer Science electives. As a student-athlete in the Engineering School, Rachel has learned time management skills and how to prioritize. She explained the challenge all student-athletes face, “Some days, if practice runs late or it was a particularly hard day, it is difficult to get home and motivate yourself to do homework or even have the time to get everything done that you have planned. We have to choose what needs to be done first and use our time as effectively as we can in order to stay up to date in school.”

On a typical day during spring lacrosse season, Rachel wakes up early to get in an extra workout and study before classes begin. After class, Rachel and her team have a session in the weight room followed by practice until around 6 p.m. Rachel then heads across the street to John Paul Jones Arena for dinner with her team followed by more schoolwork at home. After a full day, Rachel says, “I try to give myself some down time before bed, relaxing with a good book or a movie.”

When she is not in the goal or in the classroom, Rachel helps with lacrosse clinics led by her coaches for young local athletes. Rachel feels strongly that, “Being able to pass on the knowledge we have accumulated over the years to the next generation of female lacrosse players is an invaluable experience and one that I feel is very important for collegiate athletes. After all, we were all once that age hoping to be where we are now.”

An IWLCA All-South Region Second Team and VaSID All-State First Team member, Rachel was honored at the 2016 All-Sports Banquet as the recipient of the All In for Excellence Endowed Scholarship. When given the opportunity to thank the VAF and its donors Rachel said, “I can say that your support has had a personal impact on me, allowing my teammates and me to participate at the highest level of competition while still receiving a great education. We know that without your support, none of this would be possible.”

Donor contributions to the VAF Annual Fund support student-athletes such as Rachel in many ways including scholarships, the Athletics Academic Affairs program and sport-specific operational budgets.