November 4, 2020

How to Design A Pre-Med Virtual Capstone Project

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

One of our favorite pre-med capstone projects was the “Dementia Friendly Swimming Program.” For this project, one of our past students combined his interest in neurodegenerative diseases with his background as a competitive swimmer to create a program that used aquatic aerobics to thwart and slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Sounds cool, right? Absolutely. These types of capstone projects are a great way for pre-meds to stand out from the pack and be memorable to admissions committees.

However, as much as we love to prescribe the capstone project to hopeful pre-meds, we recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated this type of endeavor. 

So, we wanted to give some examples of pre-med virtual capstone projects to show you that it’s still possible to accomplish this kind of initiative, even amid the restrictions and limitations of the virus.

But first, a quick refresher on what we mean by a pre-med capstone project:

What is a capstone project?

A ‘capstone’ originally referred to the final stone or brick that a mason or architect would lay on a building. Over time, people started using it to define the crowning achievement in the workplace, whether for engineers, inventors, or entrepreneurs.

Many high schools, colleges, and graduate programs have emulated this idea through final projects that students must complete before earning their degree. Capstone projects encourage students to think critically, solve problems, and develop skills that will prepare them for a career and adulthood.

How do I create a capstone project as a pre-med?

Your project will probably fall somewhere in the intersection of three areas:

  • Your strengths and resources
  • A problem to solve
  • Innovation 

Start by asking yourself:

  • What am I especially good at? What is my “superpower?”
  • Do I have access to a large group of friends? Access to funds?
  • What resources are available at my college or in my community that I could use to make an impact on my community?

These questions will help you determine what’s within the scope of possibility.

Then ask yourself:

  • What do I or my friends constantly complain about?
  • In what ways am I already making someone’s life better? How do I turn this into a more structured program and get others involved?
  • What’s a hot topic right now in the news that needs addressing in my community?

Lastly, you have to innovate and solve the problem. This is the trickiest part of the capstone project. Ideally, you will develop a unique spin on problem-solving, which utilizes your strengths and best qualities. That way, the project will hinge on your efforts and let you serve as the catalyst. This will hone your abilities and allow you to highlight your distinct traits to the admissions committees.

Sounds like a lot of work. Is a capstone project really worth it?

Definitely! We’ve seen it work out time and time again for our past students, who have conducted a variety of different capstone projects.

It’s definitely a lot of work, and it might mean that you have to sacrifice some of your smaller activities or involvements to prioritize the capstone, but it’s the most guaranteed way for otherwise “average” pre-med candidates to stand out. 

OK - but how do you possibly pull this off during the pandemic, when even normal volunteering experiences are hard to come by?

How to Design A Pre-Med Virtual Capstone Project

Essentially, you can use the same intersection of strengths and resources, a problem to solve, and innovation, but you’ll have to navigate these without as much in-person contact (or perhaps no in-person contact at all).

In terms of figuring out your own virtual capstone project, you will have to wrestle with your own logistics, resources, and communities, but here are some ideas to inspire you and get you started! 

Pre-Med Virtual Capstone Project Example #1 - “Elder Tech”

Strengths and Resources: strong interpersonal skills with the elderly based on past experience working in hospice

Problem to Solve: the elderly struggle with using technology

Innovate: partner with hospice facility, recruit pre-med volunteers, pair volunteers with a set of hospice patients, have pre-meds provide personalized phone tutorials on technology like Zoom, electronic bill paying, etc.  

Why It Stands Out: helping a particularly vulnerable population and enhancing their savviness with an increasingly relevant form of telehealth technology

Pre-Med Virtual Capstone Project Example #2 - “Face Shield Factory”

Strengths and Resources: knowledge of 3D printing and access to otherwise closed lab with a large quantity of 3D printers

Problem to Solve: lack of PPE for local healthcare personnel, especially beyond N95 masks

Innovate: raise funds for supplies, partner with lab and gain permission to use its printers (with proper social distancing), design 3D model for medical face shields, recruit and train volunteers, print and distribute hundreds of face shields for local clinics/hospitals

Why It Stands Out: exhibiting a unique technical skill set while filling a vital need for clinicians on the frontlines of pandemic relief

Pre-Med Virtual Capstone Project Example #3 - “Digital Art Therapy”

Strengths and Resources: knowledge of artforms based on art history minor and connections to patients through previous hospital volunteering

Problem to Solve: patients who need comfort, distraction, and emotional recovery during hospital stays, both COVID and non-COVID related

Innovate: research art therapeutics, gather supplies, partner with hospital to deliver supplies to patients and conduct Zoom/Facetime tutorials on different art activities that bedridden patients can complete

Why It Stands Out: drawing upon unusual academic background, utilizing creativity, and delivering a distinct service to patients in need

These are just three possibilities, but we’re sure that with enough brainstorming and effort, you can come up with something that fits your own resources, community needs, and skill set. Best of luck!

Have any questions about pre-med virtual capstone projects? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

Learn to be Savvy! Get creative pre-med strategies delivered right to your inbox.
FREE Medical School Application Timeline when you subscribe.

We follow the email Golden Rule: we will never send you anything without your permission.