By John DeCoste '77
Ever wonder what varsity student-athletes do after they graduate?
A handful will go on to compete professionally in their sports of choice. A greater number will choose to continue post-graduate academic studies with the goal of earning one or more additional degrees.
For fifth-year rugby student-athlete Sara Baxter, her goal is to become a lawyer. By the time she graduates in May with an honours Business Administration degree specializing in accounting, she will likely have made her final decision from among no fewer than four law schools.
"I'm very, very excited," Baxter said Dec. 5. "I found out yesterday I've been accepted by the University of Toronto to study law."
She had previously been accepted by the University of Ottawa, another of the four law schools to which she had applied. As of Dec. 10, she had also been accepted at a third school, Dalhousie.
The other law school to which she has applied is Queen's – along with Toronto, her top two potential destination choices. She expected to hear from Queen's one way or the other in early January of 2019.
Whatever the outcome, "I'm definitely planning to head to law school this coming fall."
There are things about all four law schools that appeal to her. "U of T. is very close to Bay Street, and has a great reputation academically." Ottawa "is close to a lot of federal government departments."
Were she to choose Queen's, "I might have the opportunity to study in England again." The university, she pointed out, "owns a castle (in England) which was gifted to them. There are a couple of programs you can choose that include courses at the castle."
As for Dalhousie, "I love the east coast" - even more than before after almost five years at Acadia - "and I love Halifax." Moreover, all four law schools "have 'study abroad' programs. I'd like to be able to do more international study."
When she entered Acadia in the fall of 2014, Baxter, a Moncton native, expected to be able to graduate in four years. Because she chose a co-op option in her second year – and spent a semester studying in Plymouth, England – she found herself a couple of credits short at the end of four years.
She was not at all disappointed, having already made the decision to return for a fifth year of study (and rugby) in 2018-2019. The fact the Axewomen were hosting the U-Sports women's rugby nationals this fall was a big factor in her decision to spend a fifth and final year at Acadia.
It's been an exciting fall semester for Baxter. Along with applying to law schools and experiencing the women's rugby nationals, she was one of Acadia's nominees for a Rhodes Scholarship.
Although she was ultimately unsuccessful, she "made it through to the final round of interviews," and got to enjoy the process and the experience. And because she "has a late birthday" (she will turn 22 on Dec. 31), when I finish my three years of law school, I'll still be young enough to apply again."
With rugby over for this year, Baxter, who is staying for second semester, will spend her time finishing her honours thesis, examining "the complexity of tax regulations for small business in Canada.
"I'm very interested in it," she says of Canada's taxation system. "I've really enjoyed the tax courses I've taken here, and last summer, I worked for Irving Oil at their office in Saint John." As part of "their indirect tax team, I got to take part in a GST/HST audit."
Asked her impressions of the rugby nationals, Baxter termed the experience of hosting nationals on Acadia's home field "incredible. The fan support was unbelievable, and I was very happy with our performance overall."
Conference rival St. F.X. ended up winning the national title. According to Baxter, the X-Women were "incredibly deserving. We all wished it could have been us, but I was glad they were able to take home the championship."
Axewomen head coach Matt Durant "didn't make many substitutions all year, other than if one of the starters got hurt (as teammate Annie Kennedy did during the national tournament)."
Baxter and the other non-starters didn't get to play at nationals, but "led the cheering section" from pretty much the best seats in the house. "The weather wasn't always ideal, but I'd take rain any day over all the snow we had last year in Lethbridge."
Baxter was particularly impressed with the organization of the national tournament. "It was amazingly impressive. The organizing committee thought of everything. I've been to three national tournaments now, and this was by far the best-run – though I am probably a bit biased."
This is Baxter's second year writing feature stories for Acadia Athletics. "I'm loving it," she says. "I'm getting to hear people's stories, how they got here, and what they're doing outside sport. I love being able to give credit to people for all the great things they're able to do over and above being a student-athlete. It's a way to recognize their accomplishments."
As she nears the end of her time at Acadia, Baxter was asked if she had a highlight from the past four-plus years. "I don't know if I could choose one," she says. "My time here has been so incredible because of all the people I've been able to meet and all the connections I've been able to make."
She added, " I'm sure you'd get the same, or at least a similar answer from any student here, athlete or not. My younger sister is in her first year here this year, a science major, and not an athlete. This was the only school she applied to."
Baxter is really looking forward to attending law school at one or the other of the four top schools she has applied to. "It's what I've wanted to do for a while now, and getting the acceptance letters I've been getting lately has been really exciting."
She acknowledged, "sometimes I'm not the most patient person. I'm lucky to be hearing this early that I've been accepted." She is "very excited at the possibilities. It's exciting to know this early in the year that I have this many options."
Tuition for most law schools in Canada generally starts at around $20,000 a year, and goes up from there depending on the school. (The U. of T. tuition is one of the highest in the country). Baxter is fortunate that she is not burdened by a crippling student loan from her undergraduate years.
"Luckily, a lot of it was covered by scholarships and the earnings from my co-op placements," she says. As well, she was one of eight Atlantic Canada business students in 2017 to receive a Sobey's scholarship valued at $25,000, which will help a lot with the expenses of law school.