Student Perspective on Preparing for Your Capstone

The following article was published in the Higher Education Program (HEP) Spring 2018 Newsletter.  While it was written by a student in the HEP, the advice is applicable to capstone projects and thesis in any MAIS concentration.  

"The HEP thesis or project is the capstone of your Master’s Degree within the MAIS degree. For those of you just beginning your program, those that are in the thick of it, and those that are nearing the end, I have a few pieces of advice that I hope will help you on your own project/thesis journey.

  • Your project or thesis will, most likely, start as an idea about something that intrigues or fascinates you in relation to Higher Education. From there, though, your journey will become your own. Don’t be discouraged or alarmed if your own journey doesn’t seem to look like everyone else’s.
  • Make sure you choose a topic that really speaks to you. With the amount of time you are going to spend on your project or thesis, it will make it that much easier if the topic is one you like.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks and push the envelope on what is possible. That said, always try to remain realistic with the goals you set for yourself. Keep in mind the scope of your project or thesis, as well as any timelines that you want to keep yourself on. Conducting those 50 interviews WILL take much longer than you think.
  • If you are doing a thesis, the IRB approval process isn’t something to take lightly. It is the golden key that unlocks your ability to move forward with your research. Make sure that you compile all of the necessary forms and documentation.
  • Carve out time, each week, to dedicate to research, writing, and planning. Turn off the cell phone and find a place where you can concentrate.

In the end, and even if you take every bit of advice from the most knowledgeable of your friends, colleagues, and faculty advisors, you will be asked to make important, and seemingly Earthshattering choices at every step of this process. Being asked to submit revisions or corrections, needing to go back to rework entire sections, and the occasional urge to scrap it all and start fresh are very real experiences you will have for yourself on your personal project/thesis journey."

Written by Andrew E. Bunting, a MAIS Alumni from the Higher Education program. Andrew works in George Mason University’s Office of Admissions, where he serves as the Director of Admissions Operations. His research interests include student choice in the admissions process, and how institutional marketing efforts affect those choices.