Capstone Program

Capstone

Engineering & Excellence

Capstone block icon

Duration: 4 - 7+ months

~ 800 - 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 7+ months of full-time focus, and possibly even longer. The first 16 weeks will be classroom instruction Monday-Friday all day; after that, there will be a 1-3+ month Career Search process. Capstone 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. 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. The current Capstone fee is 18% of your first year salary or $18k, whichever is higher (we are targeting jobs that pay at least $100k). Please note that while we do not foresee any upcoming changes, we reserve the right to change this number at any point (until you sign an Income Share Agreement contract). We collect a small downpayment, and you pay us the majority of the Capstone fee after you start your job and start making money. We can even issue no-interest loans up to $15,000 to participants who need it while going through Capstone. Previous Capstone participants have used loans to purchase new laptops, help them relocate, pay rent, eat meals, take people out for coffee, etc.

To participate in the Capstone 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 or an approved city. Besides NYC and SFBA, we are also optimistic about Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Toronto. If your city isn't listed above and you've done well on the assessments, please reach out and we can talk about it. Remember that when we consider admissions, we look at both your performance as well as the location, so it's not possible for us to answer "will you consider city X?" type of questions without also seeing your performance in our assessments.
  • You must have completed and mastered all the fundamental materials in the Launch School Core Curriculum, and you must have done well on all or vast majority of the assessments.
  • You must be available full-time for the entire duration of Capstone, including the Career Search phase which could last 3 months or longer.
  • You must have passed all assessments within the last 18 months. If completion of an assessment has been over 18 months, then you have to retake that assessment.

Logistics

There are two Capstone cohorts throughout the year, and the application deadline is typically about 1 month prior to the cohort start date. The current start dates for Capstone occur in Spring and Fall, with each cohort having no more than 12 spots. This means we graduate about 18-24 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.

I can't speak highly enough of the support of both the staff and student community fostered at Launch School. Those who commit to the Launch School path will find themselves surrounded by dedicated and encouraging fellow students and staff who will then comprise a strong network of top-notch Software Engineers.

READ MORE
Melissa Manousos

Even after accepting a lead instructor position with a notable bootcamp, I was unsatisfied with my career trajectory. It was only once I joined Capstone that I saw the true power of "just-in-time" learning. I refined my understanding of higher level concepts, designed and built an amazing project with a distributed team, and landed an engineering role with a world-class organization led by a legendary tech entrepreneur.

READ MORE
Derick Gross

I had a mountain of student loan debt that I’d taken on to get an undergraduate and then graduate degree, and knew I’d never be able to pay off. I completed the core curriculum and joined Capstone which then got me a six-figure salary as a Software Engineer within 4 weeks of starting the job hunt.

READ MORE
Wendy Kuhn

I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a rewarding career where I could meaningfully contribute and grow for years to come. With the baseline knowledge and habits established in the core curriculum and the intensity of the Capstone program, I feel well prepared to stay relevant across an ever-changing industry.

READ MORE
William Mills

I had been working for ten years in a different industry and was ready for a career change. I was at the point where I needed something beyond self-study to prepare me for a career as a developer. Luckily, I found Launch School.

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Jason Overby

It’s hard to overestimate the role Launch School’s Capstone and the Core Curriculum programs played in me getting my first full time tech job. My first full time tech job far exceeded my expectations in terms of salary and seniority level.

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Daniel Rote

I believe that the Capstone program gave me the rare opportunity to get serious mentorship and team experience that would have taken years to receive on the job.

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Jacob Coker-Dukowitz

Experts always return to fundamentals because they are the foundation on which everything else is built. Launch School’s core program embodies this principle by emphasizing mastery of fundamentals through purposeful individual study.

READ MORE
Sienna Wood
Denver

I would not hesitate to say that Launch School was the most well-structured and effective learning experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of participating in.

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Nick Miller

I eventually landed an offer with DigitialOcean - which is beyond my imagination!

READ MORE
Ying Chyi Gooi
Denver

Anyone who aspires to push themselves to be the best that they can be should consider Capstone. Capstone really is a fantastic career-launching step.

READ MORE
Josh Nelson

The core curriculum provides a solid platform and jumping off point to go learn almost anything you could want to in programming

READ MORE
Max Appleton

Within two weeks of sending out my first application, I was getting contacted so often that I had to start turning away opportunities for interviews. I had the freedom to choose where I would work and I ended up accepting an incredible offer for a Software Engineer II position from a tech startup in Manhattan.

READ MORE
Tannr Allard

I never thought I’d be making 6 figures in my twenties but I just landed my number 1 choice company and in a mid-level Software Engineering role just two weeks after completing Capstone.

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Steven Shen

And the end result? I’ve landed my dream job at DigitalOcean as a Software Engineer II for the Network Services team, skipping an entry level role and working on projects & technologies that I thought out of my reach just 2 years ago. And more than doubling my salary from my previous job!

READ MORE
Julius Zerwick

Your ultimate goal should be to get one of the top jobs out there. And trust me, the Launch School team and their curriculum are more than capable of helping you to achieve that.

READ MORE
Konstantin Minevskiy

Was it all worth it in the end? Without a doubt, my answer is a resounding yes! After 10 weeks on the job hunt, I accepted an offer for a position where I’ll be making more than $100k/year.

READ MORE
Tiffany Han
San Francisco Bay Area

Within 10 weeks of my first application, I had accepted a large salary and a small bonus at a company whose mission I was genuinely excited about.

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 often thought about making a career change into software development, but it wasn’t until I found Launch School that I felt confident that I could make that ambition a reality.

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. Now that I am on the hiring side, I would not hesitate to hire Capstone graduates from Launch School, especially from personal experience that Capstone is the real deal.

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Timmy Lee

Capstone - If I could sum it up in one phrase it’d be this: you will blow yourself away. Your foundational investment will payoff as you build something truly awesome.

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Lukas Nimmo

I was able to join a company in a new domain with a new tech stack because Launch School doesn't focus on the hot topic of the day but the more important underlying ideas and concepts

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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

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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

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Antoine LeClercq

I have not once regretted my decision to join Launch School and its Capstone program

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Vincent DeVendra
Boston, MA, USA

The fact of the matter is that I simply would not have been provided the top quality job opportunity that I ultimately accepted if it wasn’t for the process that we followed and the mentoring that we were given.

READ MORE
Perry Carbone
New York, NY, USA

Capstone Projects

As part of the Capstone Program, students organize into teams to work on a Capstone Project. Below are some of the engineering projects that have come out of Capstone.

Bento
A blazing fast serverless video transcoding pipeline that can be easily deployed to Amazon Web Services (AWS)
READ MORE
Apex
API proxy for logging and controlling traffic between microservices.
READ MORE
Backpack
An open-source Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) that exposes an API for common backend functionality like database persistence and user authentication.
READ MORE
Venice
An open-source framework for deploying and managing stream processing pipelines using Kafka for users who want to set up a streaming pipeline with minimal hassle.
READ MORE
Mothership
An open source, Heroku-like, and self-hosted platform as a service built with a multi-tenant architecture using Docker and Docker Swarm.
READ MORE
RedPoint
A web-native computational notebook designed for sharing executable code alongside stylized notes. Supports multiple-languages, webhooks and API calls.
READ MORE
Crato
A centralized logging management framework that allows for easy setup, configuration, and deployment using Kafka and InfluxDB
READ MORE
CushionDB
A progressive web application (PWA) compliant offline-first database for web-based mobile-first applications
READ MORE
Mashr
An open source easy-to-use data pipeline orchestration and monitoring framework for small applications that deploys to the GCP (Google Cloud Platform)
READ MORE
Nami
A serverless framework for consuming webhooks at scale that deploys on AWS (Amazon Web Services)
READ MORE
SpaceCraft
An open-source, browser-based REPL for Ruby, JavaScript and Python that enables real-time collaboration between users.
READ MORE
Prefixy
A highly scalable, query optimized, hosted prefix search service for building autocomplete suggestions
READ MORE
Chronos
An easy-to-deploy event capturing framework built with NodeJS, Apache Kafka, TimescaleDB, and PipelineDB
READ MORE
BAM!
A serverless framework that makes it quick and easy to get small applications up and running using Node.js and AWS
READ MORE
Conclave
An open-source, real-time, collaborative text editor for the browser built from scratch in JavaScript
READ MORE
Layr
A decentralized (p2p) cloud storage system built atop Kademlia DHT that enforces data integrity, privacy, and availability through proofs of retrievability, redundancy, and encryption, with cryptocurrency-based incentive scheme
READ MORE
turtleDB
A JavaScript framework and in-browser database adapter for building offline-first, collaborative web apps
READ MORE
Ouroboros
A real-time peer-to-peer multiplayer snake game that was created to take on some of the challenges of P2P gaming
READ MORE
Plinko.js
Plinko.js is a real-time, multiplayer, physics-based game played in the browser and built with Node, React, and WebSockets.
READ MORE
Xorro P2P
A BitTorrent-like peer-to-peer file sharing network
READ MORE
Workerholic
A lightweight and performant ruby background job processor
READ MORE
Tracebin
Tracebin is a simple, lightweight Application Performance Monitoring service.
READ MORE
CorvoStore
An in-memory, key-value store inspired by Redis and implemented in NodeJS
READ MORE
Allograph
A dev tool to rapidly develop a GraphQL server from an existing database
READ MORE
AcornCache
A lightweight and configurable Ruby HTTP proxy caching library
READ MORE
Open Source Watch
Open Source Watch gauges the activity of open-source projects on Github and finds out who the heroes of open-source are.
READ MORE

Capstone FAQ

We're open to other cities as well, but we know the market very well in NYC and San Francisco area. We want to encourage people to seriously consider relocating to NYC or San Francisco area because companies in those areas are great places to kick off careers. The types of people you'll meet and the types of projects you'll work on will set a strong foundation for a rewarding career no matter where you move to years in the future.

That said, we realize not everyone can relocate. In general, admissions to Capstone considers the student and the location in conjunction. This means that no city is automatically disqualified, but the more remote the location, the more excellent the student must be. It's not possible for us to say whether a city can be considered for Capstone without also talking about which student it is that we're considering. Again, the location and the student are considered together.

As a general guidance, we want to encourage people to relocate to NYC and San Francisco area and will give preference to those who can, but please reach out even if you can't and maybe we can still work with you.

Besides NYC and SFBA, we are also optimistic about Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Toronto.

Please note that if you're new to Launch School, it will not be possible for us to answer any questions about the city because we do not have any information about you. We only have information about you after you complete our assessments in the Core Curriculum.

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 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 16 weeks. We also would like for people to expect a 1-3+ month career search process after the coursework. The total Capstone duration is 5 to 7+ 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 are 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 long-lasting careers 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 allow repayment schedules up to 2 years and we don't charge interest.

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.