[Article] What Does Your Dissertation Cost?

A common facet of working with Doctoral Candidates is the apology email. It sounds something like this: “Dr. Guy, I know I have not emailed in a while. I just wanted to let you know that I’m working on my dissertation and will have something to you by the end of the month.”

The draft never comes.

There are two big things I know as someone who has worked, in one way or another, with more than a thousand doctoral candidates:

First, rarely does anything in life happen as we expect: ESPECIALLY regarding the dissertation.

Second, not writing this thing is FAR MORE costly than most candidates can truly calculate.

Money Is Only Part of It

Candidates often reflect upon the financial cost of writing the dissertation. They look at what’s in front of them right now. They see the cost of continuation units. They see their student loan bills. They see the cost of buying books, etc.

That’s really only a small part of the story — and, frankly, it’s only a small part of the money story.

If you looked at all the things you are NOT DOING right now because you are not done with your doctorate, the cost is staggering. That promotion (and the accompanying raise) you could get, if you were done, is huge.

This dissertation is an expensive roommate. Don’t let it sleep in your apartment too long.

It Costs You Paradise

The common “wake up” portion of my public talks include this:

One definition of “Hell” is “living any other life than the one we want to live — to be forced to survive in a life less desirable than our dreams.”

Imagine waking up one day to realize that your dream is dead: It’s never going to happen. How does that feel?

Not finishing the dissertation is like finding a spouse, meeting his or her parents, arranging a wedding, and walking to the alter — only to sit down on the ground and play a game on your iPhone.

Whose life are you going to live? The one that you know you are destined to live? Or, the easy one?

The easiest thing to do would be to not do anything: To never write this thing.

Is what you want?

If you want the life of your dreams (where part of that is writing this dissertation), you’re going to need to work harder than you ever have in your life. You’re going to have to make sacrifices most people will not have to EVER make.

Calculate the True Cost

After reading this, I want you to go to the nearest mirror and look at yourself in the eyes. Imagine looking at this face for the rest of your life, knowing that you did NOT finish this dissertation. Ten years from now, you could be looking at yourself in these eyes, knowing that it’s too late to do anything about this disapointment.

The true cost of not finishing your dissertation is that the life you are envisioning now becomes closed off for you. The door is shut.

My advice: Write as if your life depended on it.


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