Man, oh man.
I’ve been in an 18-month accelerated degree program for the last 15 months. I’m down to the last stretch. The beautiful finish line and glorified piece of thicker than normal paper is in sight! I can proudly say I’m in the capstone class finally!
This six week, self-led class of horror has one goal: produce a piece of academic gold that represents 15 months worth of learning in the form of an absurdly long paper or practical project!
I’m fortunate to be a business student. Ok, actually fortune has nothing to do with it. I was a chemistry major first but that didn’t go as planned (story for another day?!) so here I am in a business program. Chemist capstone projects have to be like 50-60 pages in length AND include an actual practical experience so I should be saying my graces that my paper only needs to be 30ish pages long.
In any case, over the next 6 weeks I have to produce this masterpiece of academic thought and somehow capture all the shiny granules of knowledge I’ve accumulated.
Insert panic here. My sandbox feels empty!! WHERE ARE ALL MY GRANULES?!? How have I even come so far?!
I was asked the simple question “what topic will you be focusing on?” Crickets and bumblebees filled the room. The bees are there to intimidate me with their knowing buzzes.
I’m sure I’ll figure it out tonight when I sit down, turn off my phone and YouTube and WordPress and Facebook and generally lock myself away in undying solitude.
In the meantime this got me thinking how common it is for students, college particularly, to struggle finding value in their knowledge and how rarely they feel ready for projects like this or finals. Even the smartest, most avid students seem to lack self confidence and assume they haven’t learned anything or panic when it’s time to apply it all.
This includes me. It’s not like these are pop quizzes either. It’s common knowledge that to get a bachelor’s degree you have to do a capstone and finals happen with every class.
I’ve been inspired by this thought! I’ve decided to document all the things I wish I had done in the last 15 months to help me feel prepared in the face of this monster project!
Summarize themes and main ideas on note cards – keep them all together. Each week or chapter or section (however your program is divided) write down the most important parts on notecards so you can quickly review the main ideas even months later. This can also help visually construct the flow of ideas.
Keep every syllabus or course outline together. Having a quick summary of all the classes can help jog your memory on what all you went over and inspire connections between the classes!
Create a folder in your email account for journals or key assignments. The easiest way to review the program is to look at your digital footprint. For added organization add dates or chapter titles to the subject lines! If you’re like me, you rented text books so going back may be challenging so having a summary will be useful to determine what additional reading you may need to do.
Create a weekly journal. Use this tool to document not only what you learned but it’s applications in your field. How can the subjects be used in your profession? Most capstones require not just reciting information but application so having small reminders throughout your program will make this thinking pattern second nature.
Make a shitty first draft. Excuse my language but it’s absolutely necessary. Anne Lamott, an American author and teacher, highlights this concept in Bird by Bird. Write everything you can and don’t stop. Don’t edit, don’t organize, don’t do anything except write for your main idea whatever that may be. If you don’t get it on paper initially you may lose valuable ideas while you try to edit!
I will be able to do my last tip and I wish so badly I had written this before I started so I could do my first three! Hopefully they can help you or someone you know though!!
Fair warning, my presence here at Wit and Whimsy will be sporadic and unpredictable over the next six weeks as I face this enormous challenge! Wish me luck!! ❤️❤️ I will be back with regularity come graduation!
How do you handle big projects? Do you have trouble feeling confident applying your learning? I’d love to hear your experiences!!