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5 Problems Every Ph.D. Candidate Will Face Without a Mentor

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

"I have no idea what to do with my life."

"I can't sleep at night because I'm terrified of failing."

This is a situation that every Ph.D. student will face. For some, it's a reality that hits them at the beginning of their program and for others, it hits closer to graduation. Like many Ph.D. students, you may feel overwhelmed by the challenge. You probably have a lot of questions about how to go about completing your research, preparing for defense, and writing a dissertation. It is not easy to know what to do or where to turn for help.

The good news is that you are not alone in this journey. Every student faces similar challenges at some point during their Ph.D. program. A mentor can be a great help to you, especially during such situations. A good mentor will make sure you are on the right track, give feedback on the quality of your work, and serve as an adviser in case you need it.

But, what can happen if you don’t get a Ph.D. coach?

Here are the five problems that every Ph.D. student can face during their doctoral journey without a mentor.

Problem #1: You Don't Know How To Handle Your Dissertation

The process of writing a dissertation is not something that you can learn overnight. It may seem like a simple task, but the fact remains that there are several issues every Ph.D. candidate will face while writing a dissertation without a coach.

"I don't know where to start", "My research isn't going anywhere, and I'm running out of time", "I'm struggling with my literature review or methodology", "I can't get my thoughts down on paper", "I feel overwhelmed by everything I have to do for”. These are some common thoughts that occur to Ph.D. scholars every once in a while.

Tsai, J., Muindi, F., (March 2016) studied that graduate students and postdocs face many pressures, and these can all take a toll on their mental health. Moreover, a 2016 survey found that 41 % of PhDs and postdocs were anxious, and 39 % were depressed.

To neutralize these psychological effects of the doctoral program, scholars need to have 1-on-1 coaching and mentorship sessions with experienced mentors and clinicians that include not only dissertation writing support but mindful sessions to reduce their anxiety, and stress as well.

Problem #2: Your Dissertation Is Too Big For One Person (Or Maybe It Isn't)

If you are a doctoral student, you are probably acutely aware of the amount of information that will be thrown at you during your doctoral program. There will be papers to read on every subject as well as graduate-level textbooks that can be over 1000 pages long. This is not even taking into account the knowledge you need for your own research, which is often extremely exhaustive, specialized, and detailed.

Once you are done with the readings, then comes the writings and endless revision cycles. If you don’t have proper support or guidance from your supervisor, there are chances of you falling into a swirl of never-ending work. To avoid this situation you require a Ph.D. mentor who can help you develop a theoretical or conceptual framework for your dissertation.

Gamage, K. A. A., Perera, D. A. S., & Wijewardena, M. A. D. N. (2021) evaluated the impact of coaching and mentoring on enhancing student engagement in the higher education sector through a survey. In total, 43% of the respondents extremely agreed that they are willing to recommend their colleagues to receive the service of a mentor to help them reach their optimum potential.

Problem #3: You May Have Low Confidence In Your Oral defense

In a doctoral program, there are times when you have to deliver or defend your dissertation in front of your committee members. This is called the oral defense. The decision of whether you pass or fail depends on how confident and knowledgeable you are about your study during the defense.

It is important to prepare well for a successful defense and make a good impression on the committee members, by being able to clearly and confidently articulate your research plan. But without a mentor, you can miss some very crucial points during your defense preparation.

To help you deliver a powerful presentation and defend your Ph.D. successfully it is essential for you to carry out a mock-up presentation several times in front of your mentor. This will help you stay focused, confident, and stress and anxiety-free during the defense.

Problem #4: You Have No Effective Strategy To Compete

The volume of scholarly work being produced by doctoral students is staggering. Not only does this increase the number of papers published yearly, but it also increases competition for academic jobs.

(Dean, 2009) Mentoring and coaching foster a professional relationship that helps individuals to acquire skills needed to remain relevant and competitive in the Higher Education academic environment.

A significant factor in obtaining a well-reputed position is your level of experience in publishing articles in well-respected journals. Due to the large volume of papers written by Ph.D. students, the competition for publication in these journals is increasing each year. A way to stand out from the crowd is to submit a paper published under the supervision of an experienced mentor with a structured literature review and interpretation of research results.

Problem #5: You Don't Know What To Do With All Those Grant Applications!

The primary purpose of a Ph.D. grant application is to secure the funding your research requires. In order to do this successfully, you need to convince the panel that you are the right candidate for the job. This means being able to show them that you have the technical skills and knowledge to conduct the research and that you have the drive, motivation, and commitment to see it through.

One of the most important factors when writing a Ph.D. grant application is knowing how much space you have to play with. Grant applications are usually restricted to a strict word limit, which means that there is no room for rambling on about irrelevant stuff.

Without a Ph.D. mentor’s guidance, you could easily mess up your grant applications which can subsequently lead them to be rejected. Therefore, find a mentor who is an expert in your field, has experience with a Ph.D., and is willing to support you in your studies. You also want to find someone who is easy to contact and reachable by phone or email for a smooth application process.

Good News for Ph.D. Students & Candidates Who Want to Finish Sooner Rather Than Later

Scholars Professional Editing Group LLC has developed a structured premium dissertation coaching program that is personalized and tailored specifically with the doctoral candidate/student in mind. Our 1-on-1 coaching is conducted by real experts that understand and crystalize the research review process and are fully equipped to support you through navigating you step-by-step through your established dissertation goals to completion. Candidates can expect the following outcomes and results enrolled in our coaching program:

1. WE Save YOU Time Through Speed: Complete up to 10 full sections of your dissertation in 8-weeks through accountability, line-by-line live editorial reviews, immediate, structured, supportive, and CLEAR feedback that propels you in excitement to write in a clear and focused manner.

2. WE Save YOU Money Spent In Tuition & the Accumulation of Student loan Debt: By speeding up the completion of your dissertation in a shorter period we save you $7.5k spent per/semester in tuition fees over an estimated 8-year period to the reduced $140k per/year in 4-years.

3. We Save YOUR Overall Well-being: Stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, dissertation completion pressures, committee ambiguous feedback and expectations, life-work balance, suicidal thoughts are common psychological effects experienced by 47% of doctoral candidates. The mindful sessions are conducted by our clinical therapist and designed to neutralize anxiety and reverse psychological effects and subconscious blocks that prevent forward and focused progress in your life. Our Clinician will equip you with transferable skills that will prepare you beyond the dissertation and can be used to combat any form of anxiety and stress that emerges in your life. We will remove subconscious blocks, so you can put your best self forward when facing stress and anxiety in completing your dissertation.


  1. Tsai, J., Muindi, F. Towards sustaining a culture of mental health and wellness for trainees in the biosciences. Nat Biotechnol 34, 353–355 (2016).

  2. Gamage, K. A. A., Perera, D. A. S., & Wijewardena, M. A. D. N. (2021). Mentoring and Coaching as a Learning Technique in Higher Education: The Impact of Learning Context on Student Engagement in Online Learning. Education Sciences, 11(10), 574. doi:10.3390/educsci11100574

  3. Dean, D (2009) Getting the most out of your mentoring relationships. Mentoring in Academia and Industry 3: 3–5.

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