You’re a Scout! Congratulations. You have a wonderful and fun journey in front of you. There will be amazing opportunities to challenge yourself, go places and learn new skills. You will have lots of fun and make new friends, some of whom might become life-long friends. The rank of Eagle Scout might seem impossibly far at the moment, and that’s OK. Rank advancement is about accomplishing things one step at a time, checking them off, and moving on to the next. And you can do that, right?
In the Boy Scouts, unlike Cub Scouts, every boy moves at his own pace. So find the pace that is comfortable for you. I know that boys are very busy today! Between sports, schoolwork, band practice, and karate, it might be difficult to put a lot of time into rank advancement. So let’s talk about how you can do it efficiently.
First, many troops have a program that will provide all the resources, trips and instruction that a Scout needs to advance to First Class Scout in just one year. Hopefully, your troop will provide the hikes, first aid instruction, knots, compass practice, cooking opportunities, and camping that will teach what you need to know, and let you be signed off for the requirements. Take advantage of these opportunities as best as you can, particularly the ones that may happen only once or twice a year, such as a five-mile hike. And keep track of your camping trips in the back of your Scout handbook! You’re going to need those records for your Camping merit badge.
It’s not too early to be thinking about Eagle rank. Maybe you will be one of the 4% of Scouts that reach that lofty rank, and perhaps you won’t. But you can increase your chances by taking one simple step. Always take every opportunity to earn Eagle-required merit badges. There are 13 Eagle-required merit badges. The other eight that you must earn are “electives.” These electives will fall into place naturally during your Scouting career. As an Eagle Coach, I am rarely working with an older Eagle candidate who is missing one or more electives. It is almost always the Eagle-required badges that are missing. Eagle-required merit badges are also necessary for both Star and Life rank advancement, so by taking them early, you will speed up that advancement as well.
I recommend that you always earn two Eagle-required merit badges at summer camp every year. In addition to these two Eagle-required badges, you can usually earn an additional one or two elective merit badges, and those should be something fun! Perhaps merit badges like Archery or Climbing (Plumbing and Farm Mechanics are very popular in our troop!) If you earn two Eagle-required merit badges every summer, you will have a majority of your Eagle-required merit badges in just four years. Good Eagle-required merit badges to earn at summer camp are Swimming, Environmental Science, Communications, Camping, Cooking, First Aid, and Lifesaving. If available, both Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World are also good candidates.
My best advice? Have fun! Enjoy your time in Scouts. You will feel great when you have all the first aid skills that you need to save a life, the cooking skills to prepare a meal, or the wilderness skills to survive and find your way out of the woods. If you want to be an Eagle Scout, it does not matter in the long run whether it takes you one or two years to earn the rank of First Class Scout. Slow and steady wins the race!