Happy Doc Student Podcast

#21 Should I Pursue a Doctoral Degree? with Dr. Chris Cappannelli

March 31, 2021 Heather Frederick, PhD Episode 21
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#21 Should I Pursue a Doctoral Degree? with Dr. Chris Cappannelli
Show Notes Transcript

Chris Cappannelli is a federal special agent who received his EDD in Leadership and Management from St. Thomas University in 2018. He has a long and successful career with the government holding diverse positions of increasing complexity and sensitivity, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, US Customs and Homeland Security Investigations. To date, he has handled over 100 criminal cases, including narcotics enforcement, financial crimes, terrorism, and human rights and war crimes.

Dr. Cappannelli has presented at numerous agency conferences and symposiums and has briefed agency executives at the highest levels. Presently he serves as founder and principal of PGE consulting, LLC, which has engaged in security consulting, education investigations analysis in commentary to public, private, and media concerns. 

Today’s episode helps people answer the question: Should I pursue a doctoral degree?

This is no small decision; we beg you to take time to ensure you will not be a statistic (an estimated 50% of those who start don’t finish). 

The first question to answer:  Will the degree truly be value-added? Do you need the skills you would learn during the program? Or, maybe not?

Consider three main areas:

1.     Physical

  • Have you had a recent physical? 
  •  Do you have a regular exercise routine?  
  •  Do you have healthy eating habits and a way to maintain them?

2.     Psychosocial 

  • This will impact your relationships because of the huge weekly time investment over a long period of time (4-7+ years)
  • Do you have 15-30 hours a week to devote to study? 
  • Does your social network and employer support this? 
  • Are you willing to miss events like weddings, birthdays, vacations, for a number of years?
  • Are you resilient?  
  • Are you even-keeled (not overly emotional)
  •  How do you take feedback (be sure to check out  episode #18 linked below)

3.     Financial 

  • Can you afford it? 
  • How much in debt are you willing to go, understanding you may not finish?
  • Will you be able to pay off the debt?

S.W.O.T.  Analysis - Assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

1. Get out a big poster board and divide it into 4 squares, one for each letter: SWOT

2. Include input from those who know and love you 

3. Take time to fill it in BEFORE you apply anywhere

Check out these episodes:

Get the article: The Doctoral Journey - 12 Things You Should Know (that they probably won't tell you!): https://www.expandyourhappy.com/HDSP121

This episode is brought to you by Frank Buck Consulting.
Sign up for Frank's email list at: https://www.FrankBuck.org
Listen to Frank on episode #87:  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/11526361

Get The Happy Doc Student Handbook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578333732
Other resources at: http://Expandyourhappy.com
Support this free content: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/expandyourhappy

Want to make my day? Rate, review, subscribe & share with someone you love.

Chris Cappannelli: [00:00:00] It's almost like a drug; people are like, yeah, I'm going to be Dr. So-and-so. And the big problem with that is, is that 50%, 50% of doctoral students end up not as PhD, not as EDD, but as ABD. And ABD is no BD.

Heather Frederick: [00:00:28] You're listening to the Happy Doc Student Podcast, a podcast dedicated to providing clarity to the often mysterious doctoral process. Do you feel like you're losing your mind? Let me and my guests show you how to put more joy in your journey and graduate with your sanity, health, and relationships intact.

I'm your host, Dr. Heather Frederick, and this is episode 21. On today's show. I'll be chatting with Chris Cappannelli about how to make a good decision regarding whether or not to pursue a doctoral degree. Chris is a federal special agent who received an EDD in leadership and management from St. Thomas University in 2018.

He has a long and successful career with the government holding diverse positions of increasing complexity and sensitivity, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, US Customs and Homeland Security Investigations. To date, he has handled over 100 criminal cases, including narcotics enforcement, financial crimes, terrorism and human rights and war crimes.

Dr. Cappannelli has presented at numerous agency conferences and symposiums and has briefed agency executives at the highest levels. Presently he serves as founder and principal of PGE consulting, LLC, which has engaged in security consulting, education investigations analysis in commentary to public private and media concerns. Particularly relevant for this show,

he serves as a dissertation chair and committee member at both St. Thomas University and the College of Certified Psychophysiologists.. Chris, welcome to the show. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:02:17] Good morning. Happy to be here. 

Heather Frederick: [00:02:19] I was so excited about today's podcast interview because lately I've had so many people asking me, how do I decide whether or not I should go for it and pursue a doctoral degree.

And today we're going to talk about, how this decision is not a small one. And Hey, if you're listening and you're either already in your program or you have no intention of going back to school, what we're going to talk about today is relevant to any major life decision. So Chris, I was reading an online interview where you were talking specifically about people going into law enforcement and some of the things that they should be thinking about.

And so I just want to start with here. We are talking to an audience of people that might be sitting on the fence about a life decision. Where do you start? 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:03:10] Well, you start by examining what skill set you already have. I'll give you a couple of examples, you know, Neil Armstrong until after he walked on the moon, he didn't have anything more than a, than a bachelor's degree.

Truth be told, but he was a Naval aviator. He was a test pilot for Apollo 15. He flew Gemini and he was the first man to walk on the moon. He was offered a teaching position at the University of Cincinnati and believe it or not, there was actually some grief about whether or not him not having the master's degree, qualified him at the university level to teach.

And what ended up happening was he got his master's I believe from the University of Southern California, but, Neil Armstrong doesn't need a doctorate. He never did, and never will. Just his  skillset alone qualified him. Similarly, when you talk about the private sector, for example, if you are a special agent with the IRS and you have, let's say a master's degree in accounting and you're a CPA and you're a certified anti-money laundering specialist and you have 20, 25 years of experience in the field, do you really need a doctorate of business administration to get a decent paying job in the private sector at a bank? Probably not.

You've already substituted the coursework and the dissertation with real life experience. So chances are, it would be almost counterproductive to spend that kind of time and money and effort in pursuing a doctoral degree at that point. 

Heather Frederick: [00:04:43] You know, I think a lot of people that I've spoken to see a doctorate, see these letters after their name, as almost a silver bullet to reaching some higher level or dream job.

And what you've just pointed out is, Hey, take a moment, decide where it is you want to be, and look at your skillset; it may be that the doctorate is not going to give you anything added. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:05:08] That's absolutely correct. And yes, people are enamored with the post nominals they're enamored with the degree, but like you say, it might not be value added at the end.

And there were a lot of prices to pay that you and I have discussed before. And I'm sure we'll discuss again today. A lot of people don't realize what it really costs, the investment. To obtain a doctoral degree. And you know, I didn't learn that until I pursued one myself. 

Heather Frederick: [00:05:38] Chris, one of the reasons I was so excited about having you on the show for this particular episode is because you just tell it like it is.

And I wanted someone who would come on and not kind of beat around the bush. Pursuing a doctorate is a huge decision. When you talk about investment, we're talking about way more than money. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:05:58] Well, correct. You're talking about an investment in time. So for example, I had a bachelor's degree until 2015, and I actually started my master's work in 2013.

And that degree took me almost two and a half years alone just to get to that level. You're going to have to take it in steps. And my steps were basically five and a half years of time. So time is a huge investment in this endeavor. Absolutely. 

Heather Frederick: [00:06:28] And in addition to time, what are some of the other things that you weren't really, maybe you weren't totally aware of when you took this step to pursue your doctorate in terms of how it impacted other aspects of your life?

Chris Cappannelli: [00:06:42] Well, doctorates impact your life in a number of ways. They impact your life physically. They impact your life psychosocially and also financially. So there are kind of like three big spheres in the Venn diagram, which intersect and kind of create the reality of what you will face in a doctoral program.

Much like a lot of professions. You have a personal life. You have a professional life within your personal life. You have your family, your health, your finances, and there's just a lot of things that you need to consider before you pursue this degree. Five and a half years is not a short period of time.

Heather Frederick: [00:07:26] And I was just talking to someone yesterday who is going through some challenges with academics and balancing it with her professional life and her family life. And the statement that she made was something that I've heard, but it really hit home. And that is: you can only have one most important thing at any given time.

And so while you're going through the doctorate, you're having to make decisions, sometimes on a daily basis, about what is, and isn't going to give and where you're going to put your time. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:07:54] Well, yes. Generally speaking, if you are a doctoral student, you should expect to put in at least 25 hours a week above your quote unquote day job.

So for example, if you work at a bank and you put in 40, 45 hours a week, In the end, you're going to be working 70 hours a week with your studies and your boss isn't necessarily going to be appreciative of the fact that you're pursuing a doctoral degree. If for example, they have a big project coming up and they say to you, well, you know, we need all hands on deck every night, this week for the next eight weeks.

And you tell your boss, well, I've got papers and I've got research, I've got discussion questions. They're going to be eh-eh. Doesn't fly. You either are here, or you can look for another job. And I've experienced that in the law enforcement profession, surveillances special projects, and things of that nature.

Especially during times of national emergency, they didn't want to hear that you weren't available. You need to be available. And like you said, only one thing will prevail. There's only so many hours in a week, so many hours in a day, what takes precedent 

Heather Frederick: [00:09:12] And just like the employer may be expecting you to be available, your family, your partner, your kids may as well.

Chris Cappannelli: [00:09:20] Absolutely. And I was involved in double jeopardy for the years that I was pursuing my degree. Not only did my job take me away a lot, in terms of hours that I had to put into it, for example, in the federal service you're required to put in 50 hours a week to justify the advanced overtime that they give you.

So I was already 10 hours above and beyond the 40 hour week that most people would be expected to work. And now here I am at really 75 hours a week of either doing my day job or pursuing the degree. I can't tell you how many times I would tell my wife and my kids. You know, you go on ahead. I'm sorry. I can't make that movie tonight.

You know, we're going to have to hold off on seeing your family until a couple of weeks when the class ends or, you know, I'm not under so much pressure. Well, that kind of wears thin after a while. And it particularly wears thin after two, three, four, five years. And I can't tell you, I cannot tell you how many of my colleagues

I ended up seeing with fractured relationships with their wives, their children, friends, because they were just not available. Until you go through the journey you really don't understand it. 

Heather Frederick: [00:10:39] Chris, you said so many important things. There's this issue of time that I think sometimes gets underplayed. And I think one of the reasons that is, is because you may start a program where your first few classes may not be as intensive as they

later become. And so you kind of build up this, well: I can do it. And your partner or your spouse has maybe being a little more flexible because, Oh, this is so exciting! You're pursuing your degree! And your kids are maybe excited for you too, and looking up to you, but it's a chronic situation. So now here we are two years, in three years in, and now the courses are getting more intense and then you start your doctoral research and it's.

Listen. I know some of you out there might be thinking, are they talking me out of doing this? And it's not that we want to talk anyone out of anything. What we want is for you to be an educated consumer of this degree, just go in with your eyes wide open. You talked about fractured relationships. My marriage did dissolve during my doctoral research and the divorce rate in the lab I was working in was about 70%.

So this isn't a small thing. When we talk about you are not going to be available. It's something you really have to have a candid, candid conversation with yourself, with your family, with your employer before you sign up thinking, this sounds great. I'm going to be Dr. So-and-so in a few years, Chris, when people are asking you, how do I decide to pursue or not to pursue what are some of the steps you bring them?

Chris Cappannelli: [00:12:12] I ask them to look at three areas. I ask them to look at their physical state of being. I ask them to look at their psychosocial state of being, and I ask them to look at their financial state of being. And I'll explain. One of the things I think that people should do before they pursue a doctoral degree is geta complete physical. The last thing  that you want

to discover is that you have an untreated heart condition, untreated high blood pressure and untreated metabolic disorder. I almost died in February of last year from systemic organ failure from untreated high blood pressure, simply because I had not seen a doctor in over three years, I was so involved in the program.

So involved in the work, it just got away from me. It wasn't important. I was running on adrenaline. I was running on overdrive and I neglected my body. I neglected myself. And another part of neglect is your eating habits change. It becomes easier to grab McDonald's or pizza or Chinese food than it does to take the energy to cook because you don't have the time to cook,

have the time to clean. What about exercise? Are you taking at least 30 minutes in the morning before the day really kicks in to walk around your neighborhood, go to the gym, get on the treadmill or an elliptical? Before you know it, I mean, for myself, I gained an ungodly amount of weight because all I could do was sit.

I mean, if you're sitting at your day job and you're sitting at home, that's really half the week, you're spending sitting. Nevermind the time that you're in bed, that your body's not moving. And that's a bad thing with respect to psychosocial issues. Again, we talked about family. We've talked about friends. We talked about your employer.

You better get the support of your family onboard. Even though I did not end up divorcing, my relationship with my wife and my children did suffer. And in some respects, we're still repairing the damage from that too. I'll never forget it, okay, the first time I went on vacation after my doctorate was completed and it was just to release, I didn't realize the amount of pressure that I had been living under for the previous five, five and a half years.

And the impact that that had on my family. I think I did apologize to them for putting them through what they went through, standing on the sidelines, watching me, isolate myself in my office for that period of time. Because when I came home from work, I effectively went into my office spending three, four hours a night, plus at least one day on the weekend.

And with respect to financial issues. People have to realize that at a minimum, a doctrine, it's probably going to cost you $50,000 and nobody has $50,000 usually sitting around gathering dust. You're probably going to have to take out loans for that. And then you talk about some of the better colleges and universities you're talking upwards of a hundred, 125, $150,000.

Wait, are you going to be able to recoup that money? Right now we're on a moratorium for student loans. There's no guarantee that moratorium it's going to last forever. And the bill always comes due. And there's significant pushback from taxpayers right now saying, Hey, you took out the loan. You paid for it.

It's your degree. You earned it. That's not on me. That's on you. So that's the triumvirate of what people need to look at when they consider whether or not to pursue a doctoral degree. 

Heather Frederick: [00:16:07] And Chris, I love that you started with the physical because I would venture to guess there's not one program out there recruiting students who asks:

hey, do you think you're physically ready for this adventure that we want you to come on with us? And getting a physical, making sure that you already have a routine in place. In fact, as you were talking, I was thinking a great thing for someone to do would be look at your calendar, find 20 to 25, maybe even 30 hours a week and do a trial run.

Maybe two weeks. Spend that time actually investigating different schools, different programs, reaching out to people to ask them was the degree worth it for them, and see what impact that has on your daily life. With your employer, with your family before you even sign up. Actually sit in a chair for 25 hours a week researching program so that you can see, would you want to do this for four, five, six, seven years? And get that physical!

Chris Cappannelli: [00:17:14] Well, you know, it's funny. It's kind of like the, the old adage. Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. I have banged my head into walls, telling people, talk to me, come see me. I'll meet you at a coffee shop. We'll sit, we'll talk. You can pick my brain no matter how much you want about my experience and people are laser focused on that honorific doctor and those post nominals PhD, EDD, DBA.

It's almost like a drug; people get blinded by it. People are like, yeah, I'm going to be Dr. So-and-so. And the big problem with that is, is that 50%, 50% of doctoral students end up not as PhD, not as EDD, but it's ABD and ABD is no BD. You can't put those post nominals after your name. It doesn't matter what course work you did.

It doesn't matter that you started your dissertation until you finish and you defend. Your last degree is what your degree is, period. And I cannot tell you, I have experienced even amongst friends of mine who did not complete their doctorate, the jealousy, the envy, their own anger, at not having completed the program.

And sometimes it's not even their fault. The money runs out, their Chair has died and the work ends up dying on the vine. They got sick. They ended up getting diabetes or cancer or had a heart attack or a stroke and they couldn't complete the program. And if they took out loans, it doesn't matter. You're on the hook for those loans, no matter what.

So there are a lot of frustrated people out there who went into doctoral programs saying I'm going to be Dr. So-and-so and they end up being Dr. No. And it's sad, but that's reality.

Heather Frederick: [00:19:29] It is reality. And for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, ABD stands for: All But Dissertation. You've finished all your coursework, and then it comes down to your doctoral research

and it is the part of the program where the researchers who study this, see the highest dropout rate. Overall is about 50%, we talk about that number a lot. And Chris, like you said, you may have the best intentions. You may be completely capable of finishing the degree, but there are so many

uncontrollable factors that can come in, from where you're getting your participants, to a school closing, to getting sick, having a baby, needing to care for a family member. And when you have to take a break, sometimes the time runs out. People don't realize there's actually a clock ticking and you have to finish in a certain amount of time.

And this loops back into that third pillar that you were talking about regarding finances. I will ask people how much money are you willing to go into debt knowing you may not have the degree? So if you're saying I'm okay, going $60,000 in debt and not being able to call myself doctor, then you've checked that box.

But it is a question I think people should ask themselves. And even if you're being offered a training grant or a teaching assistantship, The degree costs money in terms of taking time away from work or other things that you may need to pay for out of pocket, like editors, statistical consultants, tutors, travel to residencies, things of that nature.

It can really add up. So the finances is something people really need to look at with their eyes wide open. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:21:11] Absolutely. I hesitate to say this, but part of obtaining a doctoral degree is resilience and character. I don't know how many of your listeners are familiar with the hell week that Navy seals go through when they are in BUDS training and BUDS is

basic underwater demolition school. Hell week is something that everybody who has ever worn the trident has to go through. And it is a solid week of 10 mile runs, six miles swims, firearms training by maybe all of five, seven, 10 hours of sleep throughout an entire week until they tell you that they're secure

and that hell week is over. I had a cohort member of mine, she went through literally kind of her own hell week over the course of our doctoral program. She got divorced, had a baby, and her father died and she never missed a beat throughout the entire thing. I was, abjectly amazed that she made it. Some people, they had one little hiccup.

I don't know, you know, they caught the flu and, and then that was it. That was the end of their program. They couldn't handle bouncing back. They couldn't bounce back. And that is a defining characteristic of whether or not you're going to be able to complete the doctorate. Are you going to be able to be resilient?

I'll tell you a story. And I think every doctoral student goes through this and Heather, you might have gone through it too. When I completed chapter one of my dissertation and it went to my committee my Chair andone of my committee members liked my chapter one very much. The other one was a real

curmudgeon, for lack of a better term. And I'll bite my tongue here as to what I really thought of him at the time. He basically tore up my chapter one. He basically said, this doesn't pass it. This doesn't cut muster. You're going to have to rewrite this. Right. I was absolutely frazzled, absolutely knocked off balance.

I said: I spent the last two months writing this and how could it not be good considering that I had been writing throughout the entire program? You're going to have to learn to take the lumps as a doctoral student. And you're going to have to put up with the quirks and the idiosyncrasies of your chair and your committee members and of the process.

And if you think you're going to fight back and fight the process, people have been earning doctorates for over 150 years. You are not going to change it. So you either better get with the program or again, it might not be for you. 

Heather Frederick: [00:23:45] And you know, this idea of, or the reality of, needing to please three different academics and then often a Dean or an outside reader is something that we're not used to.

We usually work with one professor, one instructor, we kind of get into a flow. We know what they're looking for. We pass onto the next class and now suddenly your here needing to please multiple masters. And we all know how difficult that is in any arena of life. And you bring up this concept of resilience.

And so I would love to go back to that second pillar, psychosocial, where your family and your friends are involved and maybe having a candid conversation saying, Hey, can we talk about how you view my resiliency? Am I one of the bouncy balls? Or am I one to kind of say, ah, you know, maybe not, because again, you will have

sacrificed a lot sometimes before you hit that first big barrier. And now here you are 30,000, $40,000 in debt. It would have been way, way better guys to just take a couple of weeks before you decide you're going to go into this program. And have these conversations with people who know you, who love you.

If I have to miss weddings, if I have to miss birthdays, if I have to miss anniversaries, if we don't take vacations, and this is something that goes on for a couple of years, how willing are you to be part of this journey with me? 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:25:12] Well, I hope you keep this in the final edits, but I own my wife, Marietta, a big apology.

I owe my children, Andrew and Gregory a big apology. My wife was not a fan of me pursuing this doctorate. She said, Chris, you're, you're a federal law enforcement officer working 50 hours a week. You're already coming off a master's program that was very demanding. You know, I, I'm not sure it's going to work, but again, had that tunnel vision.

Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead. And I learned some very, very, very difficult and bitter lessons as a result of that. And I almost lost what's truly important. And I think one of the conversations that needs to be had not so much with the family, even if you have the support is much like a doctor discussing a terminal illness with a patient.

There might come a time when you're going to have to, even if you're a year, year and a half into the program, am I paying too much for this? And is it time to put this thing to rest? And much like the beloved pet that we have to euthanize, and I had to do that in December of last year and my wife and I kept looking at each other is it time? Is it time?  Kidneys are failing,

she's not looking good. It's part of your dream. It might be part of what you feel defines you, but you might end up imploding before you even reach the end of that journey. Is life more important to you? Is your sanity more important to you? Is your family more important to you? Or is putting a piece of paper on a wall and having those initials after your name important to you?

And I know it's kind of, it's kind of disingenuous because I'm there, and you're there, Heather. So it's almost like we made it to the other side and we can look back now and almost laugh at it. It's not so easy when you're the one sulking around because you spent two and a half years of your life doing this and your tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and you have nothing to show for it.

So I, I get that. 

Heather Frederick: [00:27:24] Yeah, Chris, I'm glad you brought that up. Because I was thinking there's probably people out there going: Well easy for you to, to say, you know, you get to go around calling yourself doctor. But a couple things I wanted to comment on a couple of weeks ago, I released a podcast with Dr. Ato.

She has a book called The Good Goodbye. And it was a podcast specifically for people who have decided they want to leave their program, and how do you work through these emotions of letting the dream go? Not unlike letting your dog go. And people were commenting, Hey, I made decisions in the middle of my program or even towards the end of my program to stop

and it was the best decision ever for me. So I just want to encourage people out there. Yes, Chris and I are sitting here as doctors. But when people ask me if it was worth it, I have to make it worth it because of what I sacrificed. Would I be doing something as equally enjoyable, as equally in line with what I believe my life purpose is

if I didn't have a doctorate? I think I would be because that's my nature. So again, I think the bigger questions here for you to ask if you're  thinking  about thisiss where do I want to be? And do I need this degree to get there? If you want to lead a joyful life full of grace and ease where you're living your purpose and contributing to society, ask yourself, do I really need this degree?

Maybe the answer is yes. In which case. Full speed ahead. Right? Right. Chirs?

 Yes. Yeah. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:28:50] And again, what is it that you need and what is the value added? I was facing something entirely different. I'm not management. It don't have a heck of a lot of experience in a specialized area. So for me, the degree was a natural choice because I needed to increase my skillset that I didn't already have.

See, that's the difference. The difference is that I actually built up my skillset and I want to tell people also to not to be disillusioned with what they think they're going to do with the degree afterwards. I have a lot of people tell me, Oh yeah, I'm going to be a professor and I'm going to be a college administrator and I'm going to be the president and chancellor of a university.

I was like, good luck. Right now in the era of COVID and post COVID colleges and universities are severely trimming back staff and budget. You're lucky to be able to get a job as an adjunct, much less a full professorship or a college administrator. And I tell people pursuing the degree, if you're going to get the degree, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

I teach, I consult, I speak publicly. Academics is just one part of what I do. And if you think that the EDD or PhD is going to be the, be all to end all, because you're going to become some great researcher and whatever it is. I know somebody who has a PhD in biology, he's working at Walmart. Can not get a job as a researcher anywhere.

Heather Frederick: [00:30:29] Yeah. It really doesn't guarantee you anything. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:30:34] No it does not. 

Heather Frederick: [00:30:36] So Chris, before we wrap up, we were talking before we started recording that you're a big fan of SWOT analysis for any life decision. And I would love to leave the listeners with you walking them through how they go about doing that. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:30:55] Well, for those of you who don't have a management background, S.W.O.T. SWOT.

Stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And it's a box. And basically you create a four square box and you start writing down: well, what are my best qualities? What makes me the best at who I am or what I am? That's one. You look at your weaknesses. Okay. Are you lazy? Are you emotional, overly emotional.

I mean, we all have emotions, but are you overly emotional? Do you cry at the drop of a pen? And then you have to take those attributes and compare them at opportunities versus threats. So in my case, the doctorate opened up opportunities because I did not have an existing skillset. But if your strength is, is that you have the existing skillset, that opportunity box might not be so full.

In fact, the threat box might end up being more full because again, it's the threats to family, the threats to your job, the threat to your finances, the threats to your health. Effectively it's a cost benefit analysis in the end. And you really need to sit down and you need to draw out that box and you need to write everything.

It could be a big piece of paperboard that your kids do projects on for school and draw it out and write in it and take a look at it and really examine every element that you wrote in every one of those boxes. And if you do that, I believe you'll come to the right decision. It might not be the decision you thought you'd come to much like research you'd go with the evidence takes you.

You'd be surprised how many researchers start research and they don't end up with the results that they thought that they would get. They have the null and the alternative hypothesis. Well, you might end up with the alternative here. You might turn around and say, nah, not gonna fly. 

Heather Frederick: [00:33:04] And you know what, Chris, I think that exercise would be so beneficial, not just for people sitting on the fence about the doctoral program or any big life decision, but even people who are in the middle of their program right now to maybe get out a big piece of paper.

I'm picturing those big poster boards, like you said, and take time, just don't do this in 10 minutes. Take days. Involve people who know you and love you and are going to be candid and honest with you and maybe check in every year, while you're in your doctoral program and confirm this is still working for you.

Chris Cappannelli: [00:33:40] Absolutely. And again, I think colleges and universities do a very poor job of counseling. I never once spoke to a counselor in the five and a half years I was in a graduate program period. Nobody's checking in with you, nobody's checking your mental health. Nobody's checking your physical health. As long as that financial aid keeps coming in.

And I'm sure my college and university, isn't going to be happy with me saying that, but it's true. And they think, Hey, you're an adult. You know what you signed up for? Here you go. Colleges, universities need to do a better job of checking in. Even for an hour or two hours once a year, or maybe even six months, Hey, how you doing?

Are you okay? How's your family? How's your job, things of that nature and stuff like that would probably be very beneficial and help people take the pulse at various points in their journey. And hopefully they might not get too far in before they realize it's not for them. 

Heather Frederick: [00:34:46] I absolutely love that you brought that up because on many of my podcasts, I'm kind of, Hey, shout out to any administrators out there.

We understand that education as a business, we get it. But how amazing would it be if you were the institution that said: we want to help you make a good decision. Let us help you decide whether or not this program is good for you. Then once you get in, let us take the pulse along the way so that either you finish and you finish with your sanity and your health intact, or you don't finish

and you're okay with that decision. 

Chris Cappannelli: [00:35:20] And so I was the chair for a doctoral student. And he was an older gentleman retired, but he was also a foster guy. He did not have the space. He did not have the time did not have the energy. And unfortunately I lost him, not even three months into the program. Had I been able to speak to him?

I probably would have told him: Hey, this is not a good idea. And that's unfortunate, but again, that's reality. 

Heather Frederick: [00:35:48] And what I'm hoping everyone's gaining from this episode is that this is a big decision. And the information being provided to you today is really to allow you to go in with your eyes wide open so that you make the best decision for you.

Chris Cappannelli: [00:36:06] I hope that people have taken the opportunity to take what I've said to heart. Again. Not trying to be overly harsh here, but I am trying to be realistic. You got to be honest with yourself. You got to be honest with others. If you're just going to be laser-focused on that honorific or those post nominals, you're going to miss the bigger picture and you might end up in a deeper hole than you should have from the beginning.

Heather Frederick: [00:36:30] Chris, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your insights, and in particular, just being so candid and open and honest with us today.

Chris Cappannelli: [00:36:40] It was really a pleasure. 

It was a pleasure being here with you too, Heather. Thank you. 

Heather Frederick: [00:36:45] So, whether you're sitting on the fence trying to decide whether or not you should pursue a doctoral degree or you're in your program and struggling with whether or not you should continue,

I hope that this episode gave you some insights. And if you're looking for more information, I invite you to download a short article I wrote called: The Doctoral Journey - 12 things you need to know that they probably won't tell you. This is available as a free download on my website. Expand your happy.com.

I'll be sure to pop the link in the show notes below. Thanks for listening. And I look forward to connecting with you on the next episode. Oh, Hey, one more thing, I do need to remind you that the information, opinions and recommendations presented in this podcast are for general information only.