Illustration by Taman Temirgaliyeva.

All’s Well That Ends Well: Reflecting on Capstone

From one graduating senior to future seniors, Capstone projects can be an exciting experience. It is after all, what you make of it.

May 9, 2022

This coming week, many NYUAD seniors will defend their Capstone projects. Most of us have either already submitted, or are about to finish our final Capstone papers — anticipation for the end of the semester is palpable. However, the moment of completing this year-long project is not always accompanied solely by immense relief. Personally, sending off my paper felt liberating, but simultaneously felt as though I was letting go of a project I am so used to, so familiar with, that I was almost sad. For the final issue of the academic year, I decided to give some Capstone-related advice to the university’s future seniors, all from personal experience and my perspective. Of course, this is just one view on the process and one side of the story, but I hope it can be of help to some.
Do Not Panic
As with every large project, there is always a chance that something might go wrong along the way, and this will look different depending on your major and field of interest. Sometimes, data collection does not work out, an experiment fails, supplies don’t arrive on time, or you just fall a bit behind schedule. You won’t be the first — or the last — to have something like this happen during the Capstone process. Yes, having a set timeline is a great idea, but having some buffer space or a bit of flexibility with scheduling is also a good idea. Sometimes, even when things do not look the way they were initially supposed to, things do work out in the end. Everything tends to fall into place, even if it doesn’t seem like it will, until the last moment.
Make Use of Resources
You only go through the Capstone year once, so there are many things you are bound to not know when going into the process. This is where it becomes important to take advantage of the resources available on campus and beyond. If you are wondering how to write your paper, beyond any resources your advisor or the department may provide you with, you can also access the university library’s archives and view past capstone papers from the previous eight years. In addition to this, reaching out to alumni can be a source of insight both into how it was to work with certain professors, what in particular you should look out for in your defense, or what your paper, poster, or project might be missing. Of course not everyone will be available, but I have had overall good experiences with talking to alumni.
Take Your Time and Enjoy
Finally, one year is a long time to be working on a project, especially since most assignments many of us have had in the past only spanned several weeks or a month or two. The beginning of the Capstone process can be overwhelming, with meeting your mentor, deciding on a topic and writing a proposal or outline. This may sound counterintuitive, but trying to enjoy this part is really helpful in the long run. Every step you complete brings you closer to being done with the final product, but enjoying each aspect of the year-long process is so important. Doing a Capstone is not something that every university student gets the chance to experience, so on the hardest days, try to see it as a privilege. Even though it may not seem that way at first, twelve months do fly by, and all of a sudden, before you know it, you are practicing for your defense.
Nobody can deny that doing your Capstone is extremely challenging, time-consuming, and occasionally also stressful. However, it is meant to be a genuine learning experience, something you can walk away from content and proud of yourself. Having said that, even if you don’t think your project is “groundbreaking” or innovative in a way you might think is the standard, remember that Capstones come in all kinds — personal projects, very specific scientific research, or more experimental works. At the end of the day, once the paper is submitted and the Capstone is defended, you have to be the one who is happy with it. If not with the result itself, then at least with the work you’ve put into it and finally completing it. I hope this is of some help to the Capstone students of the coming years and to my fellow classmates congratulations and best of luck for your defenses this upcoming week.
Morgane Motlik is Senior Columns Editor. Email her at
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