Dec 15

High School: Completing Your Capstone Project

Step-by-step Guide to Completing Your High School Capstone Projects

If you’re a parent of an intelligent, ambitious high school student, you’ve definitely been considering their extracurricular activities, which are an essential part of a serious candidate’s college application. You’re probably familiar with the standard suspects when it comes to after-school activities: sports; debate; academic teams; robotics or scientific competitions; and community involvement through educational or religious institutions.

You’ve probably also heard the wise, general advice that it’s best to let your child’s natural interests determine their choice of extracurricular activities and that it’s frequently preferable for an applicant to demonstrate a deep and passionate interest in a select few things rather than to be a shallow participant in a variety of organizations.

You might take into account certain “advanced” extracurricular strategies, such as working toward a capstone project, if you believe you are prepared to assist your child in selecting the correct clubs and activities for them and have a basic understanding of the extracurricular profile conversation. In this article, we’ll define a capstone project, go over how to come up with project ideas, and then speak about how to execute and assess a capstone project.

Everything that follows aims to demystify the recurring inquiries that appear to be everywhere in college admissions: What is your passion? What do you feel strongly about?

The majority of youngsters are unable to respond to these questions. So are most grownups! However, pursuing a capstone project is a method to see if an interest is strong enough to qualify as a passion. If it does qualify, your youngster may discover something significant about their future. Even if it doesn’t, your child will have gained the ability to create, develop, and implement their own ideas.

Table of Contents

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Part 1: Introduction

Comparing Passion Projects with Capstone Projects


The distinction between these two names can occasionally be a source of confusion. Let’s start by providing a definition for the term “passion project.”

An independent, self-driven project that your child works on to delve further into a subject, interest, or endeavor is known as a passion project. It may exist outside of the confines of the classroom and outside of clubs, but it can, and probably should be carried out with the assistance of a mentor or advisor. A successful passion project, however, will generally make use of resources already available in your child’s academic and extracurricular world.

This kind of pursuit can last for four years or longer, or it might last for just one weekend. Soon, we’ll talk about capstone project schedules and explain how they differ from other projects.

In conclusion, a passion project could be:

    • Beyond the classroom, yet still with a teacher’s guidance; it could start in a classroom
    • It may start through an extracurricular activity, but not without the guidance of a coach, instructor, or another extracurricular mentor
    • Independent and motivated by your child’s individual preferences

The hardest point is possibly the third one. It might be challenging to pursue an interest beyond the norm when teens’ lives are so jam-packed with obligations.

Here is one instance. Perhaps in middle school, your child started penning science fiction books in their free time. There is no actual beginning or end to the writing. By introducing your child to mentors in and out of the classroom, enrolling them in admission counseling lessons or programs on the subject, taking them to readings and events at nearby bookstores or libraries, and encouraging them to write a few times a week, you may help your child develop that love.

What is a capstone project?

This article will concentrate on capstone projects, which you can consider to be a subset of or an element of a bigger passion project.

A passion project can be started at any time, as we previously indicated. Your child may start it as a freshman (or even earlier), and it may stick with them all the way through college. A capstone project, on the other hand, is completed over a set time period.

Some institutions refer to capstone projects as “senior projects” and require all incoming graduates to demonstrate the depth of their subject-matter expertise before entering the workforce. In other instances, students work on their capstone projects independently of any formal school requirements.

The Eagle Scout Service Project is an example of a capstone project that is managed by an extracurricular group but yet necessitates tremendous self-motivation. Becoming an Eagle Scout will take years. Your son needs to complete badge requirements, go on summer or camping vacations, develop outdoor and service skills, etc. Then, in order to earn the title of Eagle Scout, he must select and address a specific need in the community. He might start a community garden or plan a clothing drive.

This is a typical capstone project: it undoubtedly completes the Eagle Scout application process, but it also contributes to your son’s long-term commitment with service.

(Take note that the Gold Award Girl Scout is the Girl Scout equivalent of the Eagle Scout.)

In keeping with our first example, your sci-fi-savvy child may have a variety of capstone projects to choose from. They might:

    • Attempt to create a first draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
    • In their senior year, attempt to publish a short story in a journal or magazine that highlights the writing of young people (for instance, One Teen Story).
    • Writing a tale about a particular scientific subject while working with a local expert or conducting extensive research. Maybe your kid is fascinated by climate change. They may have done enough research on climate change to comprehend how your town’s environment will alter. Then they can create a tale about how the environmental catastrophe will affect your neighborhood in a century from now. The project serves as the capstone in this instance, and publishing may not be the main objective. Instead, perhaps your child will tell their tale at a nearby environmental fair.
    • Inquire about the future of science fiction from a number of authors. Your youngster can just learn more by speaking to authors if they have a passion for science fiction but don’t want to feel under pressure to publish something in a particular time frame. They could ask each author one question, such as “How do you go about world-building another reality?” by attending readings at local bookstores, colleges/universities, or libraries. Then, with the authors’ permission, they could compile the authors’ knowledge on a subject that would be very intriguing to other science fiction fans in a website or article.

Regardless of which of these capstone assignments your child selects, it will come from their larger passion project, writing science fiction.

What is a capstone project for?

Some students participate in extracurricular activities that naturally have a conclusion or turning point. A talented varsity athlete may wish to win the state championship. In her senior play, an actress may wish to take the lead.

What happens, however, if your child’s interests don’t neatly fit into an established club?

A capstone project can help a high school student transition from a maker to an expert in a particular field or area in this situation. Your child will develop significantly and be better equipped to handle more grownup problems in college, such as internships, big papers, and lab research, if they learn how to channel their particular interests into a practical project with measurable results.

Keep in mind the following:

    • Not everyone can do/can benefit from a capstone project.
    • A capstone project gives the opportunity to explore and test interests… It’s acceptable if your youngster discovers midway through their endeavor that they are not passionate about what they are doing. You might be able to help them taper things off early so they still meet one milestone but don’t have to devote a whole year to the project. They might benefit from keeping devoted to what they’ve started, simply to see it through.

Do you want to improve your chances of getting into a top-tier university? Schedule your consultation with Tokyo Academics today!

Part 2: Generating Ideas For Capstone Projects

Encourage your youngster to start thinking about their three main areas of interest:

    • Academics
    • Extracurriculars
    • Everything else

For instance, here is what Joey, a hypothetical student, wrote down:

    1. Academics: Loves civics and history, particularly the history of war and geopolitics.
    2. Extracurricular activities: Model UN, American foreign policy summer classes at Duke, and international relations summer courses at Yale.
    3. Other than that: Newshound

Joey plays the flute and is a member of the soccer squad in addition to his main areas of interest.

Joey doesn’t contribute to the school newspaper because he has never been very interested in writing about the happenings at his high school, but he does routinely read The Economist and a few other excellent news sources. He has plans to eventually combine the aforementioned pursuits in some way. He would ideally pursue some multidisciplinary studies that would enable him to gain a variety of viewpoints on international issues in addition to his favorite subjects of history or international relations in college. He might work as a foreign correspondent, a think tank contributor, a diplomat, or an international lawyer in the future.

In order to brainstorm, we might start in any of the areas. In which of these areas might Joey try to push himself?

  • Academics: Civics and history
    • Write a paper or an essay on a subject of interest. Inquire with teachers about entering it for recognition or rewards.
    • Organize a discussion amongst honors and AP students regarding a current incident in the classroom.
  • Extracurricular activities: Summer Classes, Model UN
    • Win a prestigious Model UN competition.
    • Put together a seminar for students from his high school and/or surrounding high schools using the content from the two summer courses.
  • Everything else: News
    • Write well-researched letters to the editor and op-eds about topics that excite him.
    • Start a podcast or a YouTube channel about a topic he is passionate about.
    • Create a magazine or newsletter for students to publish articles concerning local, national, and international political concerns at their school or in collaboration with a few other neighboring schools.

Assessing Possible Capstone Projects

Now Joey may consider his options—which, as you may recall, arose from his question about how he can push himself in areas about which he is passionate—and choose. He should evaluate his brainstorming by asking himself these questions.

    • Do I need to stray from my classes’ and clubs’ established boundaries? Do I want to lead or create anything for its own sake, or might I accomplish my goals through current obligations?
    • Are any of the possibilities I’ve listed something I’d actually be thrilled to devote a significant portion of my junior or senior year too?
    • Do I have the backing I’d need to implement one of these concepts? Do I, for instance, have other students or a faculty advisor in mind to join the project?
    • Do you think I could spend more time in any of these areas during and after college?

In the end, Joey has to decide whether or not he actually needs a new endeavor to focus on. When he is in season, he spends most of his time playing soccer, and when he is not, he enjoys working out with friends to stay in condition.

But in the end, he feels that his current intellectual pursuits haven’t fully pushed him to the limit, and he longs for the intensity of the summer courses he took at Duke and Yale. He chooses to implement a variation of the last brainstorming idea in order to revive that feeling: he starts a web magazine to which his classmates from the Duke and Yale programs agree to contribute, and he invites the AP Civics teacher at his school to act as an advisor.

Alexia, a different example student, sustained an injury while playing basketball for the squad her sophomore year. She wants to continue participating in athletics but is depressed and cannot see completing her high school career without a state or national championship to strive for. She decides she wants to learn more about photography and technology after speaking with her school counselor and coach. Initially covering basketball games with images for the school newspaper, she then expands to recording and editing highlight reels of her former teammates, launching a modest but successful business.

Younmee, a third student in the example, has long been interested in medicine. She doesn’t have a natural club to devote her time to, and she isn’t interested in doing lab work because she prefers to be around people. In order to set up the Buddy Project, which pairs youngsters with elderly patients whose families are unable to visit as frequently as they would like, she collaborates with her church and a nearby nursing facility.

Part 3: Carrying Out The Capstone Project Alongside a Timeline

It may be challenging to picture the transition from the brainstorming stage to the actual execution of a capstone project. After all, this is likely the first time your youngster has been required to take on anything this significant and on their own.

Here is a helpful procedure to follow along with a proposed timetable for a project that could start in the junior year of high school and last until the senior year of college. Naturally, your child has the option to start this procedure sooner.

Junior Fall:
  • To decide if a capstone project is the best option (refer to the procedure described above).
  • After a preliminary idea, consult with dependable faculty advisors and mentors to gain their opinion.
  • Make a decision before the end of junior fall about whether or not to complete a capstone project and be able to describe it in approximately a paragraph (similar to how we described Joey’s above).
  • Set a number of objectives with a consultant’s assistance:
    • What do you want the long-term effects of your actions to be?
    • What must occur over the course of one year in order to achieve that short-term impact?
    • What must occur in the first six months in order to achieve your long-term objective?
    • What must occur in the first three months in order to achieve your six-month goal?
    • What must occur in the first month in order to achieve your three-month goal?

and so forth

Junior Spring:

The following may be necessary for your child to complete, though not all of them.

  • Find new teammates, contributors, or students. Start having meetings, if required.
  • Obtain funding if necessary. Ask parents and team members to assist you to make connections with sponsors, or work with an advisor to create a business strategy. Will you hold a tangible goods sale at school to raise money? by looking for regional marketers? Organizing events?
  • Attain first-stage objectives (three months; six months).
Summer for rising seniors:
  • Spend a few hours a week working on your capstone project while also attending camps, summer institutes, writing college essays, etc. Your youngster must maintain momentum throughout the summer. Re-do the goal-setting exercise from junior autumn so that you have weekly or even monthly objectives.
  • Keep in touch with the adviser by phone or email, and if they are accessible, make a plan to speak once a month for check-ins and advice.
Senior year fall:
  • Increase the oomph! Plan new objectives for the upcoming year.
  • Plan to complete any major events that arise from your capstone by the middle of your senior year’s fall semester, whether it be a conference, a fundraiser, or something else.
Senior year spring:
  • Create a legacy strategy. Is it necessary for someone to take over the project or business you established? Pick them. Or perhaps you need to check in after an event to see whether your objectives were reached. Sending out surveys to senior class members in the spring is a fantastic idea.
  • Think about how you’ll apply this in college. Have you created or started something that you can continue working on as a college student, such as a nonprofit, a book, or a lengthy research project? If not, check into the extracurricular activities available at your new school and consider how your background in starting something from scratch will help you succeed in a new environment of clubs and jobs for students. A club on campus might need you just the way you are! In your first year, you might have acquired skills that would make you a fantastic treasurer or you might be prepared to look for a research lab.

Do you want to improve your chances of getting into a top-tier university? Schedule your consultation with Tokyo Academics today!

Part 4: Capstone Project Suggestions

You can find a general list of ideas to help your child start thinking of ideas for their capstone project below. Although it’s essentially structured by discipline, your child should test the boundaries! Great capstone projects do not necessarily have to stay strictly within the confines of one field (although that is also fine).

    • Creating a portfolio in a creative discipline, such as music, visual arts or photography, film, dance, or literature, and perhaps figuring out how to show it online. Keep in mind that encouraging your child to publish unfinished creative work for its own sake could make them feel bad in the long run. The act of doing the work itself could be fulfilling enough.
    • Putting up a play production or movie screening.
    • Establishing an open mic night, reading series, or community art space in a nearby coffee shop, independent bookshop, or library.
Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Hosting a reading group, salon, or seminar series on subjects outside the scope of the regular curriculum.
    • Organizing a meeting to talk about subjects not included in the required curriculum.
    • Creating a publication, podcast, or other platforms to discuss intriguing academic and intellectual matters, or writing op-eds.
    • Carrying out basic science research in a university lab with the intention of authoring a paper.
    • Building a piece of technology—hardware or software—that meets a particular need, and maybe starting the distribution process by either releasing it on the market or giving it away. Tokyo Coding Club will help you get started!
    • Identifying a local need and starting one for-profit project (not necessarily an entire business!) to address it
    • Organizing events for young people with entrepreneurial ambitions in collaboration with local business leaders, possibly attempting to make it accessible to people from all socioeconomic or educational backgrounds.
    • Managing a single, significant service project from beginning to end, either independently or with the aid of an organization like the Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts, a local religious group, etc.
    • Establishing a nonprofit or a charitable organization to fill a need.
    • Establishing or leading a youth league in the sport of your choice, maybe in a location with restricted access to that sport.


Last thoughts

A capstone project can be a great way to translate some of your child’s interests into tangible accomplishments if they exist outside of organized extracurriculars (such as clubs and teams). These kinds of accomplishments not only look fantastic on college applications and help your child project a sense of expertise, but they also have advantages outside of the competition for admission.

Your child will learn initiative and commitment from working on a capstone project, and it may also help them identify their true interests and the topics, problems, or concerns they want to focus on in college. Furthermore, they’ll be that much closer to having a great response when the inevitable question, “What is your passion?” arises.

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