The Final Ascent – Earning Eagle Scout Rank

The final ascent on the Eagle trail is the longest and the hardest.  It is not unusual for this rank to take several years, and many boys never make it.  You are different, however.  Just the fact that you are reading this page means the rank of Eagle Scout is important to you. If something is important to us, we can find a way to get it done.

As you probably know, on your 18th birthday you will no longer be a Boy Scout and no longer eligible to earn the Eagle Scout rank.  While there are Scouts who earn Eagle just days before their 18th birthday, I don’t recommend this as a strategy!  Why?  First, you leave yourself no margin for error or circumstances.  There are many Scouts who could have made Eagle, but just ran out of time.  (I have never met an adult who was happy with a top rank of Life Scout as a boy.  Every one of them says, “I wish I had pushed to Eagle.”)  Second, you never have an opportunity to share the wisdom of your Eagle rank with your troop, or even wear an Eagle patch on your uniform!  Finally, the task becomes even harder as you become an older teenager since there are more and more responsibilities competing for your time.

If possible, I suggest you set a goal of achieving Eagle Scout before you start the 11th grade.  This is an age where your life will get very busy.  If Eagle rank is already accomplished by this time, it will be off your plate as you tackle increasingly adult responsibilities.  With a little concentration (and a little coaching), this goal is very possible.  It is done all the time.  It only means that you are earning Eagle Scout in a time period of four to five years.  You can do that, right?  Now let’s talk about some strategy.

1.  Immediately after your Life Scout board of review, start thinking about your Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project.  Eagle projects typically take no less than six months to complete, and a year or more is not uncommon.  Remember, “slow and steady?”  Meet with an Eagle coach, and get yourself started.  The first task is to get a logbook started so you can track your hours, and those of your volunteers.  Then it is time to go looking for a project.  If you put 30-60 minutes a week into your project, it won’t be the huge insurmountable mountain that it becomes for many boys.

Every once in awhile, I hear about Scouts who face a roadblock from their troop – perhaps they are not allowed to start their project unless they have reached a certain age, or are “mature” enough.  You should know that this is not allowed!   If you are a Life Scout, you have every right to begin your project.  The most current Guide to Advancement can be downloaded from this website.  It is very clear on this subject, and you can show it to your Scoutmaster.  If necessary, call your District Advancement Chairman, or Council offices to make sure that you can start your project.

2.  Plan, don’t drift!  Take stock of your merit badges, and work out a plan to finish up the Eagle-required ones, and the few electives that may be left.  Which ones can you tackle at summer camp this year?  Which ones require a call to a counselor?  When I coach a Scout, we use a calendar to plan out his next 12 months.  You want to have a plan to get to Eagle, and not just drift in that direction.

Don’t forget about the “90 day” merit badges!  There are three of them:  Family Life, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management.  All of them require logging for roughly a period of three months.  I once had the heart-breaking task of telling a Life Scout that he could not reach Eagle rank – he was two months away from his 18th birthday and had not started two of these merit badges.  Don’t let that happen to you!

3.  Get yourself organized.  Put all your Scouting materials, particularly all your Eagle Service Project work papers in one place.  I know, some of us are more organized than others!  But you can buy a file box (if funds are tight, use a cardboard box) and a spiral notebook to keep notes.  Is that so hard?  When you meet with your coach, you can just grab your box, and you have EVERYTHING.   Photos, plans, printed information from the internet, printed pages from your Service Project workbook – they are all in one place.  Some Scouts arrive at meetings with me unprepared, and then we have to delay activities or discussions until the next meeting.  This just drags out the process and slows you down.

4.  You must stay involved with your troop.  Your Eagle Board of Review is most interested how you have developed as a leader.  You will be asked to talk about your leadership experiences, and what you have given back to the troop.  And trust me, younger Scouts really look up to you, and will listen to you a lot faster than they will an adult!  You have a lot to offer your troop now.  You will be living the Scout Oath and Law by returning mentorship and leadership to your troop, and at the same time, advancing your own cause with your Eagle Board of Review.

5.  The Eagle Scout application is fairly involved, and will take some time to complete.  You must write an essay (single-page will do) and you will need the Advancement Coordinator in your troop to run off a copy of your official BSA transcript to attach to the application.  You also must provide a blank reference letter to five references, six if you are employed.  Different Councils have slightly different requirements for submission, so check out their website for specific instructions.  (My Council has a four-page set of instructions for Eagle projects and applications.)  In any case, all of this takes some time and you should plan for it.  (To make your job a little easier, you can use the EagleCoach checklist.)

No question about it, this is the steepest and toughest part of the Eagle trail, which is why only an average of 4% of the boys who start Scouting become Eagle Scouts.  There is  wonderful book by Michael Malone, entitled “Four Percent.”  In the book, Mr. Malone calls the Eagle Scout award the PhD of Boyhood.  A PhD means that you have earned your doctorate.  I recently had one father, a PhD himself, witness an Eagle Project coaching session with his son.  He told me, “This is just like my doctoral dissertation!”

I completely agree, and look forward to helping you complete your dissertation and earn your PhD of Boyhood!  It can be done, and you can do it.

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