So you submitted your thesis… What’s next?

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

On December 7, I submitted my master’s thesis. All of my blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project – the entire reason I’m in Montreal and at McGill – all finished with the simple click of the “send” button on an email.

The lead up to this moment was quite substantial. Up late the night before (and many nights before that) I was completing revision after revision, formatting change after formatting change, and figure sizing after figure sizing. The day of submission, I had compiled feedback from all of the necessary parties, read it over a few more times, and then all of a sudden – it was a PDF document. It was official, I was ready to submit my thesis.

Creating the email, I had to make sure all of the necessary forms were attached (“are you SURE this is the right version?!”), and ensure I included everyone on the email that needed to receive the submission. I stared at my computer screen for a while. Then, I clicked send.

For a few moments, I didn’t even move. I received the “auto-reply” email from the graduate thesis unit, I looked around my lab, and I didn’t move. Just like that, I had nothing to do. I went home and sat on my couch for a few hours after that. I didn’t turn on Netflix, I didn’t go shopping for Christmas gifts (as I probably should have). I just sat in my apartment, thinking about the entire process.

Once I let the reality sink in a little bit more (I submitted my thesis!!), I started to get over this weird and lost feeling, and I started telling people. Many times, I was met with the response of “congratulations,” or “great work,” followed quickly by, “so, what’s next?”

That was a great question. Now that my thesis is submitted, what comes next? Continue on to a PhD? Start looking for jobs? Stay in Montreal, or move somewhere else? These are all questions that I had thought about before, but they had suddenly become a reality with the click of a button. I don’t know what the right answer is, or if the “right” answer even exists.

Moving forward, I am planning on continuing with my normal routine in Montreal. Luckily, I have a new project starting in the lab, and I have a very fun and dynamic part time job to keep me busy. All of my friends and lab mates are still working away on their theses, so I can be the one to encourage them and help them along the way, should they need it.

All of this to say: it’s okay to feel lost or to not have a secure plan in place after you submit your thesis. After talking to numerous students who have been in my position before, many of them felt the same way when they submitted their theses. It’s completely acceptable to not have an answer to the question, “what’s next,” immediately after you finish your project. Everybody finds their niche eventually, and there are many options out there when you’re done, whether you stay in academia, enter the industry, or do something else! Opportunities sometimes present themselves when you least expect it, so stay positive, and best of luck with your work through the end of the term!

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