Over 30 percent of doctoral candidates fail to earn the PhD, while the majority who successfully attain the doctorate earn it in an average of 7.7 years (Glen, 2010). These statistics speak to the commitment required to earn the degree and the importance of preparation and mentorship (Davis, 2008) as one embarks upon the doctoral journey. Is pursuit of the doctorate the ultimate intellectual “survival of the fittest” challenge? Are there common characteristics and experiences that result in success while earning the PhD? Can examining the experiences of individuals successful in pursuing the doctorate lead us towards learning how to increase success rates and decrease doctoral attrition? The intent of this work is to address these questions and highlight the experiences of those who have earned or are in pursuit of the doctorate. Through learning from the varied experiences of those who have earned or are striving towards the highest academic degree in higher education, we can understand what characteristics assist in rendering success and completion. In addition, by considering the challenges and struggles faced by those holding and pursuing the doctorate, leaders in higher education can determine what strategies may work in ameliorating the process and creating greater equity in terms of graduate education outcomes.
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