The Road from Utica College to Yale
With so many attractive options, it’s hard to make up your mind.
This is one dilemma Mik Bushinski ’17 knows very well. He has seen it in the faces of countless young patrons as they scan the tempting inventory of frozen confections advertised on the sides of his growing fleet of ice cream trucks.
That’s right – ice cream trucks. Since he was sixteen years old, Mik has been running his own mobile food vending business in Minnesota’s Twin Cities region, where he and his family live. His company – MikMart – is now comprised of more than a dozen employees selling ice cream out of five trucks, two pushcarts, and a couple of vending machines.
A dual major in government and politics and economics, class of 2017 salutatorian, and a captain of UC’s men’s hockey team, Mik is no stranger to hard choices. But even his remarkable experience as a teen entrepreneur didn’t prepare him for the daunting and wholly-unexpected challenge of having to choose between six top-tier ivy league law schools, all vying to include him in their incoming first-year cohorts. Though as problems go, he freely admits, this was a good one to have.
Last year Mik received acceptance letters from Harvard, Yale, Duke, University of Chicago, New York University, and Colombia. (He also applied to Stanford, which placed him on a wait list.) This impressive result was the culmination of an intensive program of undergraduate study at UC as well as a grueling year of assembling application materials and prepping for the LSAT. “It was a really great admissions cycle,” he says somewhat modestly.
After careful consideration, he chose Yale Law School, a decision he attributes in part to his time at Utica College.
“Yale is one of the smallest law schools in the country. At Utica I’ve seen how valuable a lower faculty/student ratio can be, whether you’re working on research or just have a question to ask. Obviously the job prospects for graduates are great, so I liked that about Yale, as well as all the resources they provide and the culture of the school. But I think that ability to stay small and receive that individualized attention – something I was able to get at UC – is a huge reason why I wanted to go there,” says Mik.
The acceptance call came while he was out shopping with his sister Alexa. Mik was home for the holidays, searching for some last-minute gifts for his family, when his phone rang, the caller I.D. flashing New Haven, CT – the home of Yale Law School.
“When I saw that, I was carrying all this stuff. I just put it all down and said, ‘Alexa – I’ve got to go,’” he says.
He ran out of the store and answered the call. The voice on the other end told him that he was the first person to be accepted into Yale’s Class of 2020. Mik was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he said finally, “thank you so much. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now.”
That evening he shared the news with his family. “We were just sitting around the table at dinner, and I say, ‘Yeah, so listen to this. I was at the mall today and I get this call. And it was actually just Yale, telling me I’m in the law school.’ The tears started coming, and my dad got up and was really happy. I was just jumping around – it was a really cool experience,” Mik says.
When he went to Yale’s admitted students program in May, Mik attended a mock law school class and came away feeling both excited and relieved.
“Much of what was going on in the class I understood just from my time at UC. I think some students probably wouldn’t have felt the same if they didn’t have such a good foundation in government and in law. So that was something that made me really happy. I get this, I think I’ll be able to really excel at this,” he says.
* * *
Mikknew there was much he would miss about his time at Utica College, particularly as his senior year hockey season was coming to a close.
Ice hockey had been a kind of obsession for him since his early youth back in Minnesota. He had even taken two years off between high school and college to play for a national youth hockey league, a rollicking, unpaid sojourn that had taken him as far afield as teams in Michigan, California, and Alaska. Recruited to UC by coach Gary Heenan, his experience with the Pioneers had been everything he could have asked for – great teammates, a large and enthusiastic fan base, lots of community support, and leadership opportunities.
Because an injury had kept him off the ice as a sophomore, Mik had another year of eligibility to play for the Pioneers. It was a pity he couldn’t take advantage of it. Or could he?
“Yale has a deferral option that allows you to keep your place in the following year’s class. You don’t have to reapply, you just go in the next fall. So I knew that was an option that I could apply for,” Mik says.
Yet another hard choice between very attractive options. But as the year progressed, his path forward became clearer. This was what he wanted to do.
He applied for the deferral and it was granted. Now he could spend another year at UC earning his MBA and finishing out his hockey career, then join the next cohort at Yale with an additional credential and a stronger focus in his area of interest, business law.
Mik felt good about the decision. He had spent a large portion of his life working and training to play hockey at the level he had reached as a Pioneer. He had also put a great deal of energy into building his family business from scratch. Completing both the MBA and another successful season with the Pioneers seemed the perfect capstone for the two compelling interests of his youth and an ideal starting point for the next phase of his life.
Professor of Economics and Dean of Business and Justice Studies Rick Fenner – one of Mik’s mentors at UC – wholeheartedly endorses the deferral decision. “Mik thinks things through without acting rashly. That is just the right way to do it,” he says.
It was a remarkable outcome for someone who, just a few years earlier, never could have imagined himself embarking on a legal career, let alone one by way of Yale Law School.
“I’m extremely excited about Yale law school – still am, and still excited to go in a year from now. But I think my experience at UC, both as part of the student body and being on the hockey team, being part of the community, that’s really drawn me back to UC for one more year,” says Mik.
Fenner counts Mik among the top five students he has known over his 29-year career at the College.
“I don’t see much limit on what he can do when he puts his mind to it,” he says.
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