The Dissertation Coin Flip

Dr. Russell Strickland is the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, a company that helps adult doctoral students create actionable plans in order to complete their dissertations in a timely and effective manner.

Before becoming a renowned teacher, coach, and mentor, Dr. Strickland received his master’s degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago and his doctoral in Organization and Management from Capella University. Over the past 20 years, he has mentored thousands of students, and his process has been proven to vastly reduce times to graduation and significantly improve graduation rates.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dr. Russell Strickland shares the statistical odds of a student actually completing his or her dissertation
  • What are the costs involved during the dissertation process?
  • The significant advantages of seeking out external help while working on your dissertation
  • When is the best time to invest in support to guide you through the dissertation process?

In this episode…

There are significant costs, financial and otherwise, that students have to take into consideration when they commit to earning their doctoral degrees. From tuition fees to years of investment, these costs have a direct impact on a student’s odds of graduating.

Statistics show that doctoral students only have a 50/50 chance of completing their dissertations, which Dr. Russell Strickland refers to as the “dissertation coin flip.” Fortunately, Dr. Strickland has some expert advice on how to reduce the costs hindering your success so that you can achieve what you set out to accomplish. In other words, he’s here to ensure that your dissertation coin flip comes up heads.

Join Dr. Russell Strickland of Dissertation Done in this episode of An Unconventional Life as he talks with Dr. Jeremy Weisz of Rise25 Media about overcoming the low statistical odds of completing your dissertation.  Dr. Strickland discusses how to create an insurance policy to boost your chances, when to invest in external support and guidance, and how you know you’ve reached the “magical tipping point” that ensures your success. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done!
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.

Intro  0:03

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percenters out there, who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique, and unconventional ways. Here’s your host astrophysicist turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.

Dr. Russell Strickland  0:28

Hi, this is Dr. Russell Strickland here host of An Unconventional Life podcast where I can live where I feature the stories of the unconventional 1% who not only pursued and earned their doctoral degrees, but went on to use them in unusual and unconventional ways. We’re going to follow the winding journey of their lives and their careers. Now today I have Dr. Jeremy Weisz with me. He actually conducted literally thousands of interviews of successful entrepreneurs and investors and CEOs. And today we’re kind of flipping the script and he’s going to interview me so Dr. Weisz, thank you so much for being here.

Jeremy Weisz  1:02

Dr. Strickland appreciate it, you know, was disconcerting, though one of the metrics that you told me was about the dissertation, the stats of people actually finishing. And so we’re going to talk about that, and how you can avoid that so and what the actual odds are that you’ve seen with the metrics before we talk about that and get into how do you avoid the not so great metrics of completion? This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done if you know you could check out and if you don’t know Dr. Strickland this point. He’s kind of like rocket scientist, he’s management consultant. He’s been through this journey himself and taken, you know, so many people through the same process over the past 20 years, but he was studying Astronomy and Astrophysics years of Chicago so he feels your pain of this and so if you have questions, go You can call them And he helps people through this frustration process of getting it done and helps people save thousands of hours in tuition over the years for people doing this. So, Dr. Strickland, what are the odds of someone actually finishing?

Dr. Russell Strickland  2:17

Oh goodness. So if you’ll remember when, way back when you’re an undergrad, I think everyone’s had this experience that they the dean or Chancellor, someone at the university had all the freshmen sitting in the assembly at the beginning or during orientation or something, and they tell you look to the left, look to the right. Two of the three of you won’t be here at graduation. And you’re like, great, welcome to college. Right? Well, when you get the good news is when you go to get your doctoral degree, the odds improved dramatically to 50%. You only have to look to your left and one of the two of you won’t be there. Now. I say that kind of tongue in cheek is that is terrifying. You’ve gone through grade school, high school, college, you’ve gotten a master’s degree And then you’re going into a doctoral degree program, you would think you would be pretty good at this stuff. And in fact you are. But the problem is this dissertation is a big curveball. And, and there’s just a number, statistically speaking, is a 50/50 chance.

Jeremy Weisz  3:14

The other scary part about it is, um, you know, people are spending a lot of money on this what what is the some of the costs involved in getting a dissertation?

Dr. Russell Strickland  3:24

Well, so there are lots of different types of costs, right? tuition is the easy one. That’s one that everybody sees. And they point to, they’ve got either, you know, the writing checks every couple of few months, or they see that student loan balance going up. For a lot of schools, that is at the time of recording this right around 30 grand a year. And for a lot of schools, you’re paying to play so as long as you’re there, it’s 30 grand a year. Occasionally, you’re going to get a school that that drops the tuition down significantly when you hit the dissertation phase. But still, most of our students by the time they talk to us, they’re about 66 figures into their their dissertation. They’re around 100,000. I’ve taught someplace around 200,000 into their doctoral degree tuition rather. So that’s a big cost. What’s another cost? You know, opportunity costs. What else could you be doing? I mean, I don’t know how many people have told me that the best part of graduating was getting their life back, that they could go out with their husband or their wife and, you know, go to a football game or any of those sorts of things, and not have to worry about not have to stress about it. So what else could you be doing instead of earning a doctoral degree, so that’s another cost. When we talk about opportunity cost, there’s another one, which is the nice thing. The reason why a lot of folks are getting into this process in the first place is they want to earn more money, right? There’s a lot of ways that you can do that. In fact, our students tell us after their their first year after graduation, their earning potential goes up by about 30 to 40 grand, that’s our students. Overall, I don’t know if the numbers are quite that good, but still, it’s a significant bump when you have your doctoral degree What you’re able to earn. So while you’re in school, you’re not earning that money, get out of school sooner you’re earning that money sooner. So there’s a lot of different ways we can look at cost. But the bottom line is, while you’re going through this experience, yes, you’re you’re learning more, you’re growing, you’re becoming a doctor. So those are all great things. But if you can get it done sooner, you’re going to save yourself a lot in several different ways.

Jeremy Weisz  5:24

Yeah, I know, when you’re working with people, you help cut the time down that it takes to finish typically.

Dr. Russell Strickland  5:30

Yeah, right. Well, so again, so first of all, you have to remember there’s this 50/50 proposition of actually graduating. So I call it the dissertation coin flip, because it’s kind of like what it is when you go into the dissertation age. Phase is kind of like fate stands behind your back flips a coin and, you know, puts a little mark on you as to whether you’re gonna graduate or not. It’s not quite how it happens, but you can think of it that way. So, um, we’re really talking about right now that Finishing faster the 50% that are going to finish, right? So we want to first of all move you from getting tails on the dissertation, coin flip beginning heads, so we know you’re going to graduate. But then when we look at time to graduation, so many students come to me and they’ve already invested 2, 3, 4 years into their dissertation process. Again, we talked about the tuition fingers associated with that. Our students, when we start off, our stretch goal is to finish in 12 months. I call it a stretch goal, because it’s a realistic goal. But it’s tough to finish in 12 months, you don’t have control over this entire process. So it’s not like we can tell you exactly what to do. And you can do everything we tell you, and it’s going to happen. There are other factors. But that being said, we have students that finish in eight, 9, 10 months, and we have students that finish in you know, 14,  15, 18 months. That’s kind of the range that we’re typically seeing. And when those students do finish, we asked them, Do you think you saved any time working with us? And the answer is always Yes. And it’s usually like a year or two. by various students when they get done, they think it would have taken them another year or two at least, to finish on their own.

Jeremy Weisz  7:05

And that’s a serious like, you know, I always say if you think you’re paying another year or two of tuition, that’s significant

Dr. Russell Strickland  7:13

dollars, significant dollars, but it’s also a year or two of your life. And, you know, folks know when you get to a certain age, money is not worth nearly as much as time because you can always go out and make more money. But good luck figuring out how to make more time to figure out how to do that call me up, if

Jeremy Weisz  7:31

that’s what your astrophysics

Dr. Russell Strickland  7:33

is about work on that together.

Jeremy Weisz  7:36

Um, you know, people often ask like, so part of the cost is that and then, you know, if someone actually wants coaching and actually wants someone to help walk them through this process and navigate it, you know, it’s a huge opportunity saver, right? But people probably ask about the cost and I guess You were talking before we hit record about, like having an insurance policy. So you want to talk about kind of how that relates to what you do?

Dr. Russell Strickland  8:09

Well, yeah, I mean, so even if you are sure sure sure that you’re not one of those people who is going to end up you know, dropping out of the program, getting kicked out of the program, flunking out, whatever you want to call it, even if you’re 100% sure that that’s the case, I will tell you that 95% of those students who do end up getting that dissertation coin flip coming up tails. Also, were 100% sure that they weren’t going to be in that bucket. So the first thing you got to realize is this is a real problem that faces everybody. No one got into a doctoral degree program by accident. It’s not something you do flippantly. Everybody went into this saying, I never quit. I always finish what I start, I’m good at what I’m doing. I’m going to get this done. And still, those are the odds. So the first thing is you want to make sure that you have All of the advantages in your corner that you can possibly have. And when you have someone that has, you know, a process that’s proven to get you to graduation as quickly as possible, over and over and over again, that’s really a great resource to have in your corner, it really does turn the odds from 5050 to like 99 to 1% or something. I mean, we, we just don’t lose students, we very occasionally have students change their mind and say they don’t want to do it anymore. But it’s not because they’re forced out. It’s because of life changes. And we’re really, really careful about looking into that, before we get started. We only want students who are absolutely committed to finishing because it’s a big deal. It’s a lot of work. It’s a big investment, and we want to make sure that your investment is going to pay off. So if we’re if you are interested in working with us understand the very first thing we’re going to do is really make sure that it’s a good fit before we would agree to work with you. That’s the first thing. Once we’ve agreed to work with you, you already know that you’ve got some insurance that you’re going to We’ll finish this thing.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.