Six Capstone Project Myths Dispelled
Hi Honors Capstone Students!
Since the Capstone proposal/update deadlines are upon us, we thought it might be helpful if we share with you some of the more common questions we get from anxious Honors students (and prospective Honors students) about the Capstone project in general. So when you encounter that scared sophomore or freshman who fears for their social life or wonders “what’s the point in doing a Capstone?” you might have some answers for them! So here they are.
Myth #1: If I have a double major, I have to complete two Capstones. I will never sleep again, and I will collapse from exhaustion on convocation day.
Fact: Students who have more than one major or who are dually enrolled in more than one school do not have to complete more than one Capstone. You can choose the major within which you would like to complete your project. If both of your majors require a senior thesis, your Honors Capstone Coordinator and your faculty advisors may be able to help you integrate these individual projects into one Honors Capstone. In some cases, students combine their majors to really make their first mark on the world.
One great example is Honors alum Colin Shea. Colin was a dual TRF/Biology major who traveled to Ecuador and made an amazing documentary featuring a public health program designed to tackle Dengue Fever in the region. As far as we know, Colin got plenty of sleep and was awake enough to be really proud of himself on Honors Convocation day. Of course you can see his film here!
Myth #2: I’m a professional student, or just planning on entering the workforce after college. Capstones are only for people applying to graduate school. I’ve had enough for now, thanks.
Fact: Your prospective employer is going to look for evidence that you have what it takes to design and execute an independent project. The real world demands (and it doesn’t ask politely) that you have judgment, discipline, commitment, and all kinds of things that are hard to just throw down on your resume. Your ability to talk about your Capstone as a professional endeavor two years in the making is going to differentiate you from the non-Honors student who just did a one semester project. Guess who’ll get the job?
If you are in a professional school, the school of education, or in the fine arts, you will develop an impressive portfolio with your Capstone. When it’s time to apply to that agency, school, or even freelance, you will have a substantial piece of work to show off . YOU are going to stand out as someone who has already demonstrated that they have what it takes.
You might not even be aware of how a Capstone project can benefit you in the professional world, but here’s a real life example for you to mull over: I (Blythe here) was hired by a Seattle dot com software start-up right out of college, even though I had a degree in … marine zoology! My senior Honors project was an analysis of historical shorebird populations on the Pacific coast (really). My most marketable skill, I thought, was my ability to wrestle a porpoise into a tracking device. So why did I get the second look among the clamoring hoard of business graduates salivating for a coveted position at a Seattle waterfront start-up? Well, it was 1999 and html was all the rage, and I had previously tricked out my results into a web site so my advisor could view and approve my project from Alaska. They really liked that, and before I knew it I was making internet surveys with software that, 14 years later, is SurveyMonkey. My point is, you might not know where your Capstone will lead you, but it can, and WILL, lead you somewhere!
Myth #3: Capstones have to be 500 pages, and are for novelists, or masochists, only.
Fact: There is no page minimum (or maximum) for any Capstone project, so please spare the innocent trees. You will work out the form and length of your project with your Capstone Advisor. Advisors help you make decisions regarding the depth to which your project must go in order to meet the standards of your field, and this depth then determines the length of the written portion of your Capstone.
Myth #4: You don’t receive any credit for your Capstone, so why bother?
Fact: No, it’s not true! Seniors fill out a 499 form each fall to enroll for 1-3 credits as an independent study. The 499 course is in your major. You get to choose how many credits you want (1,2, or 3). In the spring, your faculty advisor will submit a grade for your Capstone (it must be a B or higher to graduate with Honors) and you will receive the number of credits for which you enrolled.
Myth #5: In the spring of my senior year, I have to present my Capstone in front of a committee, whose job is to grill me mercilessly about my thesis. It will be the stuff of nightmares.
Fact: Capstone Presentation Day is actually a lot of fun. Yes, you will present your Capstone to a small group of people. Often this will include your advisor, reader, a couple other Honors students, and a member of Honors staff. No one is at all interested in making you defend your thesis! As a group, we’re curious, and we might ask you how you got started on your topic or if any part of your project was a surprise to you. As a bonus, we have a very nice celebratory lunch for all the attendees, and we instagram all your smiling faces for your proud families. So, to sum up, it’s actually all really nice. Unicorns and rainbows nice.
Myth #6: I’m a Newhouse major, and I have a capstone course for my major in Newhouse. That counts as my Capstone, right?
Fact: Not necessarily. The Newhouse capstone courses are only one semester and the product is often a group project. Your Honors Capstone will be a multi-semester, independent project. There may be some overlap with your Newhouse capstone course, but it will not be the entirety of the project. One fine example is Honors alum Caitlin Dewey. Caitlin’s project went way above and beyond a typical one-semester project. She put her Crown award to good use, and partnered with developer Brian Dawson, and designer Kuan Luo, to produce SALT, an HTML5 iPad magazine that went on to win numerous awards and coverage throughout the world of journalism. In short, it takes time to really make your project count. If you want to read more about Caitlin’s project, some of the media coverage is here, and you can always contact her through LinkedIn. Of course, her Capstone project listed right on her profile.
So there you have it Capstone students. No reason to fear the Capstone! As always, any time you are worried about the project and whether or not you can make it work, DO come talk to one of our Capstone Coordinators. Because Honors is a campus wide program with students from all colleges and schools, we often have insights on how to make things work!