Capstone Program

Capstone

Engineering & Excellence

Capstone block icon

Duration: 3 - 6 months

~ 700 - 1000 hours

Instructor-led

The Capstone Program is an optional, admissions-based, and final phase for students who have completed the Core Curriculum, which is our Mastery-Based Learning courses. The goal of the Capstone Program is to give students an intense finishing experience that results in a career-launching job. Because the end goal of Capstone is very ambitious, it requires in total 4 to 6 months of full-time focus, and possibly even longer. The first 3 months will be classroom instruction Monday-Friday all day; after that, there will be a 1-3 month Career Search process. All participants are selected among our top students from the Mastery-Based courses. It's not uncommon for Capstone participants to call it the hardest thing they've ever done. The projects, graduates, and salaries coming out of Capstone are outstanding and rival those at top-tier universities. See the Results & Outcomes page.

The Capstone Program is a transition away from Mastery-Based Learning with the goal of applying already-mastered fundamentals to higher level concepts. Participants will be exposed to rigorous algorithmic thinking and problem solving that top employers demand. This is the next step in your learning journey after mastering fundamentals. As a part of the process, we will also guide you through a significant capstone project that will highlight your engineering competency and help you stand out. Previous participants have given talks at major conferences about their projects. You may or may not give a talk about your capstone project, but it won't be another Rails/Angular/React application -- it'll be far more sophisticated and will showcase your ability as an engineer. Keep reading to see a listing of previous Capstone projects.

No Upfront Cost

At this point, most of you have been with us for a very long time, and we've spent enough time with you to be confident in your ability. We will invest in you first, and pour all our resources into you and align ourselves to your success. We collect a percentage of your first year's salary as a fee when you accept your job offer. You don't pay us anything until then. We can even issue no-interest loans up to $10,000 to participants who need it while going through Capstone. Previous Capstone participants have used loans to purchase new laptops for Capstone, help them relocate, pay rent, eat meals, take people out for coffee, etc.

To participate in this program, you should understand that:

  • We're incentivized to help you compete for a top job at the best company possible, and your goal should be the same.
  • You must be able to learn full-time, often during evenings and weekends. Time commitment will be a minimum of 40 to 60+ hours/week.
  • You must be prepared to work really, really hard.

Requirements

  • You must be legally able to work in the United States (US citizen or Permanent Resident).
  • You must reside in the United States.
  • You must be able to conduct the Career Search process in either New York City or San Francisco/Bay Area.
  • You must have completed and mastered all the fundamental materials in the Launch School Core Curriculum.
  • You must be available full-time for the entire duration of Capstone, including the Career Search phase.
  • You must have passed all assessments within the last 12 months. If completion of an assessment has been over 12 months, then you have to retake that assessment.

Logistics

Capstone cohorts start a handful of times throughout the year, and the application deadline is typically about 1 month prior to the cohort start date. The current start dates for Capstone occurs 3 times a year: 1) beginning of the year, 2) summer, 3) fall, with each cohort having no more than 9 spots. This means we graduate about 27 Capstone students a year.

If you're seriously considering Capstone, it's imperative that you speak with an instructor when you're at approximately course 210-225 range (if you are beyond course 225 and are interested in Capstone but haven't spoken to an instructor, please do so now). Most applicants to Capstone are known to the admissions team many months in advance, and the cohort starts to form about 2 months prior to the cohort start date. You should be nearing the finish of the Core Curriculum about 1 to 2 months prior to the cohort start date to have a chance to participate in that cohort. This includes retaking any expired assessments.

The Capstone application is at the end of the Core Curriculum. For further inquiries regarding Capstone, please email hello@launchschool.com (but please read the FAQ below first).

Admissions

In general, we're looking for the following attributes:

  • You have completed all of the Core Curriculum.
  • You have excelled on all the assessments.
  • You're actively looking for an engineering job.
  • You can make finding a job your top priority.
  • You must have significant time available to study.
  • You must be legally able to work and reside in the US.

Along with the above, we're also looking for people who:

  • ... have demonstrated extremely high work ethic.
  • ... are a pleasure to work with and be around.
  • ... have high character and integrity.
  • ... are professional and courteous.
  • ... know how to study and learn things deeply.
  • ... are well spoken and can communicate professionally.
  • ... have superior writing ability.

To increase your chances of being admitted, produce artifacts that can convince us of the above attributes. We can determine a lot of this from your assessments since most people have been at Launch School for years by the time they apply. But if you have great writing samples or recordings of you speaking in public, we want to see them. We also look at well-received blog posts or threads/comments that you've contributed over the years in the Launch School community and in the courses.

Capstone Testimonials

These are students who have completed the entire Launch School curriculum, from the Core Curriculum through Capstone. The entire process typically lasts for 1-2+ years. Read their stories to get a feel for their journey and transformation.

  • The whole experience was worth every minute and every penny I put into it.

    READ MORE
    Sienna Wood
    Denver
  • It's the best decision of my life and I wholeheartedly recommend Launch School for the serious-minded and motivated student

    READ MORE
    Tannr Allard
  • I've been working as a Software Engineer / DevOps Engineer for about 3 months now and I just love every day of my work

    READ MORE
    Konstantin Minevskiy
  • Was it all worth it in the end? Without a doubt, my answer is a resounding yes!

    READ MORE
    Tiffany Han
    San Francisco Bay Area
  • I wouldn't have gotten here without Launch School and Capstone

    READ MORE
    Elise Olivares
    San Francisco
  • From the first glance, it was apparent that Launch School had been founded by industry veterans. I have never encountered a curriculum more in-depth and rigorous

    READ MORE
    Sunny Beatteay
    New York City
  • I can say without reservation that doing the Launch School curriculum and Capstone program was transformational for me

    READ MORE
    Walid Wahed
    New York City
  • Had it not been for Launch School and Capstone, I would still be working a dead-end job with no real ambitions

    READ MORE
    Timmy Lee
  • I can easily say Launch School has prepared me for a future I am confident in

    READ MORE
    Lukas Nimmo
  • I was able to join a company in a new domain with a new tech stack because Launchschool doesn't focus on the hot topic of the day but the more important underlying ideas and concepts

    READ MORE
    Michael Mentele
    San Francisco
  • I can say with confidence that there is simply no better way to launch a career in software engineering than with Launch School

    READ MORE
    Tyler Guillen
  • Thanks to Launch School's guidance, philosophy, curriculum and Capstone Program, I am now a Software Engineer working a job in NYC and earning well over $100k/year

    READ MORE
    Antoine LeClercq
  • I have not once regretted my decision to join Launch School and its Capstone program

    READ MORE
    Vincent DeVendra
    Boston, MA, USA
  • I cannot recommend this process any more highly. What happens is nothing short of amazing

    READ MORE
    Perry Carbone
    New York, NY, USA

Capstone FAQ

You probably don't need Capstone to get just any programming job, but it depends on a lot of factors, such as your locale, your prior work history, your charisma level, your compensation demands, etc. However, the goal of the Capstone program is to leverage our instructors to maximize your time and energy, so that you'll get the best job possible, and land not just any job. The goal is to get a great position for the start of your software engineering career. See the Capstone testimonials for the types of jobs our Capstone graduates are getting.

The scheduled Capstone coursework is 13 weeks. We also would like for people to expect a 1-3 month career search process after the coursework. The total Capstone duration is 4 to 6+ months. It could also take longer, so you do have to prepare for that.

The Capstone Program is drastically different from even the best coding bootcamps in several dramatic ways.

First, most coding bootcamps spend instructor and lecture time covering fundamental topics that we cover in our Mastery-based courses; that is, coding bootcamps teach topics we treat as pre-requisites to Capstone. That means Capstone is able to cover much more advanced concepts and are able to have much more engineering-centric discussions. Capstone projects are far and beyond any projects that even the top bootcamps are producing. We get these results because we force people to learn the fundamentals first before entering Capstone. In fact, it's not uncommon to see projects that we cover in the courses before Capstone to be on par with some final projects from other bootcamps. That is, projects that Launch School students do before entering Capstone is about the same level of complexity as the final projects of some bootcamps. Now imagine how the final Capstone project compares.

Second, Capstone is modeled after a university-level Master's program, with intense discussions and research-oriented projects. This also means the cohorts are very small and intimate. On the other hand, coding bootcamps are modeled after traditional factory-style education and are built to mass produce high quantities of graduates. For example, a typical coding bootcamp will have 30+ students per cohort and graduate hundreds of students per year. The Launch School Capstone cohorts number from 9-12 participants and we graduate a few dozen students per year.

Last, the goals are very different. Coding bootcamps aim to get people into their first programming job. Capstone's goal is to launch careers at the top companies. We do this by only admitting students who have mastered fundamentals and we then put them into an intense, intimate, and focused environment that pushes the boundaries of their capability. This type of program only makes sense for the most studious of students who have long-term ambitions of building a long-lasting career as Software Engineers.

Because of the dramatic difference in the students and in the topics covered and program goals, the salaries coming out of Capstone are significantly higher than the top bootcamps, and rival that of top universities. That's the Capstone difference.

We will cover a lot of topics and skills, but the major ones are:

  • Refresh and strengthen the fundamentals
  • Advanced algorithmic problem solving
  • Software architecture and system design
  • Classic software and engineering literature
  • Technical communication
  • Intermediate and advanced algorithms
  • Design, research and build your capstone project
  • Job research, interview preparation, and practice

We may do open source projects, work on real production apps, ask you to read books and research papers, or take other courses, attend conferences and community events, etc.

In most other one-on-one mentoring programs, you're assigned a mentor who will work with you one on one through fundamentals. This is great, but we believe that walking you through the fundamentals is not the best use of a mentor's time - this is what we call "the plateau", which is a lengthy, circular and oftentimes repetitive phase that's best spread out in months or years. If money is no object, then hiring a mentor may be a valid choice, but for most people, there's a much better way. While learning fundamentals, effort and practice are more important than high-level guidance. Most other programs tend to either skip the fundamentals and have mentors work with you on projects too early, in which case your knowledge will stay on the surface and tied to a language / framework. Or, they don't go deep enough and don't quite take you far enough, because an experienced developer's time is very expensive. Our courses are staffed and supported by TAs, who help you get unstuck when you need it. We save instructor time until Capstone because that's where we believe the most impact can be made.

No. It's really really important to have solid fundamentals before you start the Capstone program. We've been teaching beginners for a while now, and the number one mistake that beginners make is attempting to learn more advanced topics without a solid understanding of the basics. Our curriculum is designed so that you'll have well-rounded skills when you finish, then if you want to take the Capstone program, you'll really fly. If you've been self-learning and feel you are ready, you may be able to go through our courses fast, and all you have to do to qualify for Capstone is excel in the assessments.

Yes, we're happy to work with you on a payment plan once you get your job.

We'll ask you to do your own job search before entering this program. Once you start, we want to be able to fully invest in you to help you succeed, knowing that our goals are the same. Otherwise, it'll be difficult to say precisely how much we have contributed in the process. Please only enter the program if you agree to the terms.

To participate in Capstone, you'll sign an Income Sharing Agreement (ISA) that is legally binding. But besides the legal consequences, it's our hope that after spending so much time with us and seeing the investment that we make in you, you'll treat us fairly. If you're accepted into Capstone, that means we believe in you and put our trust in you.