I have always been a good student.  If you gave me a syllabus and a rubric, off I went to complete the task at hand. I always worked ahead and, in the end, garnished the coveted A on every assignment. But then, I decided to pursue my doctorate.  Wow! I never imagined how challenging the process would turn out to be.

I sailed through the core classes. All A’s and one B (that darn statistics). As I finished the last course needed prior to becoming a doctoral candidate and writing my dissertation, I hit a roadblock….the feedback from my dissertation chair. I was confused, lost, and in way over my head.  I literally had decided, in that course, that I was going to quit the program.  Who did I think I was, after all?  I started questioning my abilities, labeling myself as an impostor (see Impostor Syndrome), and had concluded that obtaining my doctorate just wasn’t worth it.

I had fallen into the double trap that many doctoral scholars face: believing that I was solely responsible for my own success AND feeling that my committee was not there to help me. This article from The Chronicle directly addresses the question of who is responsible for a doctoral student’s success.

I remembered seeing an ad on Facebook regarding a dissertation coach. I thought to myself, what could it hurt just to reach out to the advertised coaching service to see what they were about. Having that phone call changed my life as a doctoral scholar and confirmed that I needed to hire a dissertation coach.

Eliminated confusion

As an online student, I felt alone. A lot. The program was structured in a way that required a student to self-teach.  My professors were amazing, but there were a lot of times when I would be confused with the terminology associated with the dissertation process. I also struggled to understand the feedback given to me by my committee. I struggled with gaining clarity on theoretical frameworks, methodologies and alignment, to name a few. After hiring a dissertation coach, I gained unlimited access to someone who was not only qualified to assist me with the dissertation process, but who could also help me decipher through the requirements associated with writing a dissertation. The dissertation coach helped to eliminate the confusion that I felt when I reviewed the feedback and made it clear what my committee was asking me for. I hired a Dissertation Coach so I could eliminate all of the confusion. 

Increased Accountability

One of the best things about the dissertation writing process is that you can write at your own pace. One of the worst things about the dissertation writing process is that you can write at your own pace. Accountability has always been a strength for me. But I found that as an adult learner, with many competing activities at work and at home, I needed an even higher level of accountability. In collaboration with my school’s timelines, rubrics, and checklists, my coach gave me tasks each week in advance of our next meeting.  I did not want to get on the phone with my coach without reaching the milestone that we had set for that week.  Knowing that I would have this type of frequent contact made me more accountable and allowed me to meet the commitments that I had made with my coach and with myself.  I hired a dissertation coach to increase my accountability.

Worked Proactively

My chair told me in our first phone conversation that most students had to take an 8-week supplemental class because they were not able to meet the deliverables set in the 12-weeks allowed per dissertation course. I knew that was not an option for me. Aside from wanting to be done, financially it was not feasible for me to pay for additional courses beyond what the program required. My dissertation coach had sat on committees, so she was very familiar with what the committees looked for and what the next part of the process required.  On my own, I would have sat and waited for feedback. I would have also paused until my chair told me what to do next.  Having a coach allowed me to not only work ahead, but it also allowed me to finish ahead. I completed and defended my dissertation 5 weeks prior to my last course ending. I hired a dissertation coach so that I could work proactively.

Unlimited Support

I was not my chair’s only student.  She had many students in many disciplines and was conducting her own research.  On a personal note, she went on two 30-day vacations, out of the country, while I was writing my dissertation.  She was not always available when I had questions or needed additional support.  Having a dissertation coach allowed me to be constantly supported.  My coach promised me unlimited support, via email and scheduled calls, and that is exactly what I got. The school had a pretty liberal timeline for my committee to get back to me.  But that would not help me when I was working on the weekend or through the holidays. I hired a dissertation coach for the unlimited help and support they could provide me. 

I hired a dissertation coach to help me get through the dissertation process with guidance, support, and accountability. I hired a dissertation coach to reduce my stress and to minimize the confusion I felt.  I hired a dissertation coach so that I would finish. Because I hired a dissertation coach, I earned my doctorate! Sure – dissertation coaching is an investment. Yet I know for certain that this is one of the best investments that I have ever made. 


This article was written by Dr. Maja from our team.