My years as a doctorate student are coming to an end, and quickly. I am currently in the process of finishing up my research and writing papers for publication. I was told that I will be defending in October of this year, which means that I need to have my thesis written by the end of September!!! WOW. I have less than 6 months before I can (hopefully) call myself Dr. Ben. That is exciting, yet oddly terrifying. I don’t really know what to expect at the end of my PhD, but I have some idea I suppose.
Today I want to talk about the end of your PhD and what to expect. There will be a ton of things that will occur in the final year of your doctorate and you’ll need to be ready. I assume that the final year is different for everyone. Grad school is much different than undergrad because you are finishing up your research instead of finishing coursework. Of course the end of a master’s might be very similar to an undergrad, so we won’t really talk about that today.
What to expect in the final Year of a PhD?
Let us start off with the final year of a PhD. If you are in a doctoral program, getting to this is a heck of an accomplishment and I applaud you. It is not an easy task being able to continue all the way to the end. You have gone through some tough times to get to this stage of your doctorate. Don’t slack off yet, though.
The final year of your doctorate will be you finishing up your research and writing your thesis. If you are the few that are able to complete their research earlier than this, congrats, it’s time to write. For the rest of us slackers (lol), we need to start considering wrapping our research up so we can start the very long process of writing. At the one year mark, start planning out when you are going to be able to finish the research and when you are able to focus on writing your chapters. Many people often write while they go along. This is the smart thing to do but it is often difficult, because you know, writing! If you are in the last year, start to at least put your introductions together. Just starting now will help you so much later.
Start finishing up your experiments or at least planning out when to finish them. There might be a chapter where you still need to do those experiments. Start those as soon as you can. If you are not able to for a bit, at least write a bit of the chapter so you can put in the results later, after you finish doing the experiments.
One year out will be the time to plan the end game for your doctorate. Start laying out a timeline of when to finish, when to write, and when to start job hunting. Stick to the plan and I promise that your final year will be a lot less hectic than your mind is telling you, or what reddit is telling you lol.
What To Expect in the Final 6 Months of a PhD
This is where I am currently at. It is April and I defend in October. That gives me 6 months to get ready for the final exam (aka my defense). There is a ton going on and it is keeping me really really busy. This is how it will be for you. You might spend countless hours in the lab, finalizing some experiments. The amount of writing that you will do will be insane. And on top of that, you will have to be considering jobs. All in the final 6 months of grad school.
You may have to give some things up to make sure you finish on time. Free time may be taken up with writing or editing your thesis. Weekends might be taken up by going to the lab or possibly creating graphs of your data so you can finish one of your chapters. The weeks are going to pass by so quickly and the amount of work is going to get a bit overwhelming at times. This is just at 6 months out. Imaging what 3 months out will be like lol.
In the last 6 months, expect to actually be finishing all of your research. By 4 months out, you should be completely done, minus a few small experiments to check your results from your larger experiments. I would say, give yourself at least 4 months to write your thesis, if you are just starting. If you have already started, 4 months is still a good time frame because you won’t be rushing too much towards the end.
What to expect the final 3 months of your PhD
When you get to about 3 months from defending, start looking for jobs. If you are like me, you’ll probably want to secure something by the time you graduate. Three months is a good time frame because companies will see that you are about to graduate so they can have you fill the more immediate positions. Of course, you can apply for companies or professorships even further out than 3 months. I just found that the closer to graduation, the more interviews you are likely going to get.
The final month to two months prior to defending will be late nights of writing and probably days of doing interviews for positions that you applied for. I haven’t gotten to this yet, so I am only speculating. I am expecting that the final two months prior to defending will be chaotic.
What to Expect after you Defend
So this is it, you’ve waiting your entire 3 to 8 years to get this point and you finally did it. You defended your research and have become a doctor! Congrats! Now what? What to expect at the end of a PhD, the very end? You will be told to do revisions on your thesis for sure. Everyone gets them and you are going to be somewhat busy doing those. The revisions are mostly to make sure the school accepts the thesis for publication and then you’re done. Celebrate, go on vacation, bake a cake, do something to celebrate your accomplishment. It is well deserved!
The final 2 months after you defend will mostly be you writing, going on trips, sleeping a ton, and finding your next career. Once all of that is settled, it is time to start the next chapter of your life, whatever that may be.
For those that have finished their PhDs, what were the last few months like? Were they similar to what I have posted in here or were they different. Let me know in the comments. I hope this blog about what to expect at the end of your PhD was enlightening or though provoking. What other posts would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would greatly appreciate either.
If you haven’t’ already, go check out my blog about travelling while in grad school. Link here. It may give you some cool ideas after you finish writing your thesis. Ok, now go write a chapter and get to sleep early. I will catch you in the next one. Peace!