Why are so many boys taking so much longer to reach Eagle Scout?

You can’t blame this one on inflation.

More than 60 years ago, the average age of a boy earning Eagle was 14.6. Today it’s 17.1.

As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Eagle Scout Award this month, it’s a good time to ask: Why the increase?

Are boys simply taking time to enjoy the journey toward Scouting’s top honor? Are they busier with school or extracurricular activities? Or is some other factor at work here?

I do know this: More boys earn Eagle today than ever before, a sign that the program is working. But at the same time, more boys wait until they’re 17 years and 11 months old to finish the journey — raising their parents’ blood pressures in the process.

What do you think?

Why are today’s new Eagle Scouts so much older than Eagle Scouts from a generation ago? Join the discussion below.

Graphic adapted from this official BSA infographic.

169 thoughts on “Why are so many boys taking so much longer to reach Eagle Scout?

  1. I am 17 with only 4 months to go. I understand that I have to do some major work but I am aware and ready. We wait because we choose to enjoy scouting. Taking time allows us to learn skills and perfect them. I have nothing against scouters but I believe when a scout earns Eagle at 14 or 15 he has not perfected the scouting skills and taking your time may be a little dumb, but it shows how much you truly loved it.

  2. i am a life scout and ii am 14 i hope to have my eagle very soon i have all ranks and badges i think kids are just finding more things to do then scouts

  3. The Eagle Board in my area rejected Eagle Scout applications from boys who were younger than 16, at least they said some of the boys that applied at age 13-14 were too young to get Eagle because they said they would quit Scouts after they got Eagle. If the Eagle Board in my area did that I’m pretty sure a lot of others did that too, which in my mind is unjust

      • when i reached eagle at 14 i was just getting to the next step. Explorers: Philmont Boundry waters etc etc I think I stayed in up to 17 then high school events took over

    • I would appeal that decision as the Eagle Board is not the council itself and cannot add an additional age requirement. If the scout has completed the requirements, they should receive the eagle scout rank.

  4. More things going on. Sports, school, GIRLS, computers, work, etc. Or, in my case, I was more interested in camping, and hanging out with my buddies in scouts. It was just months before my 18th birthday that I accidently got enough merit badges to advance to Eagle. All I needed was a project, which I did. Took my board less than a month before my 18th birthday.

  5. There are to many distraction as a youth i can say it from technology to girls. but also there isnt a push like there was i am lucky and had many wonderful leaders but most leaders and parents dont push like they should because we’re boys and we cant see the good behind it tell we are older

  6. I feel that the reason (at least in my council) is that there are so many hoops to jump through before the project is actually able to be carried out.

      • The new Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook now has 21 pages (previous version was 16) and asks for much more detail than the previous Workbook. This will help the scout be more organized and better plan his project but there are a lot more hoops in this requirement now.

  7. I agree with the consensus. I achieved mine at 14. Todays world is much more complex and filled with distractions. Even in 1971 there were many things to distract me. My high school buddy was also striving for Eagle so we had a healthy run for Eagle. As the post says “Always and Eagle”

  8. Because I have seen Scoutmasters delay advancement based on their own agendas and not on the program. Some have inserted rank/age requirements on Eagle Req’d MB, some have mandated attendance to rank, some have delayed Scoutmaster conferences because they either do not feel the Scout is “worthy” or simply because he does not feel the Scout is ready. Part of the problem is the adults involved.

  9. Being a Boy Scout who did his Eagle at the age of thirteen, and plans to continue until at least eighteen, I believe that many people are ashamed to be a Boy Scout. I am not; at all. I would run down my school hallways proclaiming it and still feel no shame for being in a great program that teaches many useful skills. But this is hardly the usual case: many of my friends through Scouting ask me not to mention camps or things relating to Scouts at school, and say that they would hate it if their friends knew they were Scouts. I am yet to understand why they consider it bad…

  10. I made the Rank of Eagle at 14.9 years old on September 10, 1968. I was married with children by 17. In years past, people grew up quicker and became, in most cases responsible for themselves. People also just acted older. Frank Sinatra and the others of his time looked and acted really old when they were 40. They typically did not ride bikes, jog, etc.., Today we have people in their 40′s who Skateboard or ride a 20″ bike for a living. People are trying to stay young longer and have adopted the attitude that they are going to not stress so much and enjoy their life. But what it means is that we have more people are not responsible for their actions and the burden is placed more on the parents. When the Eagle feels it’s time for the little Eagles to get out of the nest, she picks them up and throws them out. She is there for guidance, but she does not do their work for them. Do we have too many young Eagles who are too comfortable in the nest?

  11. I like many others obtained my eagle. There was an enormous support system within the troop and camp dynamic in the Old Hickory Council. Camp was fun and we had a large troop so it required 2 campsites to accommodate us. We were active as a troop and my mentor was an Eagle Scout that took me under his wing so to speak. I was asked a question in my leadership review board for Tenderfoot to verify that I had completed the requirements and to ensure I was ready for the journey to Second Class. I had obtained all of the skill awards required to complete Tenderfoot and the typical knowledge questions were asked. Finally my mentor, may he rest in peace, asked me “What is your goal?” “What will you get from Scouting?” “What will Scouting get from you?” My answer to the first was to get one more palm than you did. (he smiled and told me good luck) The second question’s answer was knowledge on how to be a better person. The last answer was that I put back in as much as I get out so there will be something for others to learn later.
    I never knew the impact that my mentor and Scouting would have on my life or the impact that the Eagle Scout rank still makes in my life today I earned my 4th palm to not only meet my goal but, to keep a promise to Victor (my mentor). I dedicated the palm to him when I received it, as he had died earlier in the year with an aneurysm at the age of 21. He was motivational for me and to me.
    Scouting is not about teaching, it is about mentoring future leaders and the Eagle Scout rank embodies all of the drive, dedication and hard work needed by leaders today. The country could use a few Eagles in our government including the office of the President and bring the values we learned in Scouting and mentor the Nation in the direction we should go.
    There have been 3 different Boy Scout Handbooks used in my lifetime and 2 of those I used on my trail to Eagle.

  12. From when the Boy Scouts first started, there are more requirements to earn Eagle now. As far as youth earning their Eagle at ages 13, 14 and even 15, I would suggest they slow down. When boys earn eagle at that young of an age, they cannot completely transform through the journey. The biggest part of earning Eagle is developing from a boy to a man and developing into a strong leader. When kids are trying to rush through the program, they are defeating the purpose. To get Eagle as fast as they can is not what being an Eagle is all about.

  13. I beleive it takes longer to get the eagle today because around the age of 14 or 15 the boys start getting pressure from other areas. They are not proud to be a scout and will not wear the uniform. After the boys are a life scout it takes a lot of work to get the eagle. The boys do not want to take away from the other things they are doing to get the Eagle rank. To tell the truth I do not beleive it is as important to them as it is to their parents. When they get closer to 18 the parents apply a lot more pressure on the boys and they get it done.

  14. An Eagle is an Eagle, so we need to avoid thinking of this as any sort of a problem. In fact, it might be safe to say that a Scout who earns his Eagle two-and-a-half years later is involved in the program two-and-a-half years longer, giving us that much more time to achieve our mission (“to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”).

  15. It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that the Eagle service project became a requirement. The project sometimes looms as a a “big deal” for Scouts who find it hard to come with a project idea and then proceed with execution. In addition, there are far more things today competing for a teenager’s attention.

  16. I think they should let adults wear the eagle rank on their uniform. This rank should be the only exception. Not just a little “knot” Most “young” scouts does not know what the “knots” are. They see adults or 18 to 25 year old wearing their eagle badge, it may give them the drive to get it and want to “be” like them. If the average age is 17.1 then we don’t have a whole lot of scouts “wearing” the eagle rank patch, then why have it?

  17. There is no honor in scouting for example the camps usurping the requirements for merit badges making camp a a merit badge mill BSA inspectors over looking accreditation policies, scouts who have a scoutmaster that has “here you go policy” and leave the scouts to there own devices. Men and women who have don’t have a clue on how to teach young men. Scouting chooses quantity versus quality it makes the bean counters look good and of course $$$$$$.

    Scouts are not proud: on the way they look, do projects, or their writing skills (something I work on every day). I believe their should be a certain amount of discipline within the troop….actually lot of the discipline should come from the parents, but the break down of the family causes a lot issues in scouting.

  18. It isn’t rocket science why it takes longer. In 1965 was the first time we saw the modern requirements of 21 merit badges and a list of 11 required badges; and for the first time required specific leadership and a community service project. Prior to this it was merit badges and rank advancement. I would also add that having 4 sons in scouts, 2 have achieved eagle rank, one a life scout and a current 1st class scout that the adults involved are frequently OVER ZEALOUS. Meaning that these adults too often create obstacles and requirements not listed in the project workbook. I have had to step in and ask that a final list of “extra requirements” be put in writing as a contract so the project to begin. I have no problem with the leadership and service project requirement. None, zip, nada ~ no problem. I think it is a very good thing. But, I think the adults cause the ‘final year scramble’ which results in the boys being older before eagle completion.

  19. It would be interesting to see the age getting Life. In my experience, we see many boys make it to Life very quickly (13 to 14) and then wait years (17+) to get it wrapped up. As advancement chair, it always gave me gray hair.

  20. I earned eagle a few months after my 14th birthday, Sept 22, 2004. I almost had it at 13 if it weren’t for the excessive paperwork. Worked up to brotherhood in the OA, and got a bronze palm on top of my Eagle. I left scouts at about age 15 or 16 to focus on other things I had wanted to do. What do u achieve by waiting to get eagle till ur 17? If one has the ability, i think giving all u got to reach ur goals is important, i was very driven and its a great lesson i still practice. In my experience a lot of people in my 9yrs of scouting werent there to reach a goal. My philosophy is very goal oriented, but it doesn’t make taking ur time and enjoying scouts wrong, i think people are just gradually becoming more carefree.

  21. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed. Then add the pressure to make sure the scout has a full resume for college (scouts, a job, other activities, sports and academic excellence, apply to and visit colleges) – it’s no wonder boys take longer to become an eagle scout. I also think that as long as a boy is still in high school, they should be allowed to stay in scouting and work on their eagle.

  22. I believe that the age is more dependent on the maturity of the boy. I think that there are some parents and mentors who push kids to get their Eagle rank as fast as they can, and this makes the journey that less meaningful. I want my son to take his time and enjoy all that Scouting has to offer. In my opinion a 14 year old boy is not mature enough to understand what it means to be an Eagle Scout.
    I am an old Eagle and my son is now a Life Scout at age 15.6. He is NOW old enough in his thoughts and actions that he is ready for the honor that becoming an Eagle Scout means. I know that he even understands that some of the kids that get their Eagle at a younger age are not ready for it. He has voiced this to me because he hears it at school from those kids that think its a competition to see who gets Eagle first. I reassure him that he is doing it the right way.

  23. I could be wrong and I am sure someone will tell me I am regardless but here goes. In 1949 Childhood was shorter. Kids were required to be working full time at a younger age, on the farm in a shop or some sort of family support position. The boys that were interested in achieving Eagle knew they had to finish it before they took a full time job and had to quit scouting. Today that is not as rampet as it was then. Scouting as a whole has declined over the years and yet today there are more Eagle Scouts promoted every year than there were back then. So whatever the reason, I think we are doing something right!

  24. I was one of those scouts that passed the board-barely- with about three hours to spare. The board members were hesitant to pass me until I gave them more details on how my project went and how it benefited the community. Since I was scheduled to depart for the Army in a few days I got my Eagle Award mailed to me. I’ve never worn the patch, but it sits prominently in a shadow box in my office. I had the usual distractions of a kid growing up in the late ’70s, but the biggest holdback was that I am a horrible procrastinator to this very day. Sadly, neither of my sons chose to follow me on the Eagle Trail. Maybe my grandchildren will take that route….

  25. But why the increase? Eagle is mainly an American award. Though Boy Scouts or tough “Rain, Snow or Shine the Boy Scouts are always fine”, is it because leaders have gotten soft? Did scouting lower it’s standards? A lot of leaders seem to be in the “Don’t push/encourage” them arena now. When I was a kid, the parents that cared were always on the push. Finding a merit badge counselor was not part of the challenge, it was “Who did you get stuck saying yes to doing a badge with?” You couldn’t not be working on at least one badge all the time. If you showed up to 1 meeting a year, you were still working on a badge. Paperwork is also an issue. Adults and Scouts are just buried in it. It’s not so much a procrastination on doing the work as it is doing the paperwork. Again, this compounds. The Scout avoids doing it and the adults avoid/delay both distributing and processing it.

  26. Both of my sons completed Eagle just before their 18th birthdays. I think it is because they did not fully understand the meaning behind earning this rank and what it really means until they realized they were so close but still had a lot of work to do.

    The oldest completed everything and had his Scoutmaster’s Conference the day before his 18th Birthday in 2003. At that time he was also involved in Speech and Debate Club, Technical crew for the Drama Club and occasionally acting for the Drama Club.

    The youngest we hoped would have done differently but he also completed his requirements and had his Scoutmaster’s Conference 2 days before his 18th Birthday. Although not involved in a lot of extracurricular activities he set a goal to retain himself in the top 25 percentile of his class which he has done. During that time he completed Hiking, Family Life, Personal Management and Personal Fitness Merit Badges. His project was initially nixed and he had to scramble to find another one. The second time it was approved and he started at the end of June. The problem was the lumber company did not deliver the lumber for the project until 2:00 PM. The ground was prepped but the time to work was ending for the day. His troop then left for Summer Camp which he had opted to not attend in order to get the project completed. He spent afternoons and two weekends with his brother and mother along with the mentor of the project to complete it. It was finished the weekend before his Birthday and then the rush was on to get the application completed and insure the letters were sent to the Advancement Chair. Everything was completed on July 18, 2012. Council approved the application for the Board of Review and that was completed on August 1, 2012. National Eagle Scout Day.

    I think both of them understood along the trail the importance of achieving the highest rank in Scouting but just were not ready to accept it until they were close to their 18th Birthdays. As a Father and Scouter who have led both of them along the trail, I am proud of them as I am proud of all the young men who have achieved this honor along with all youth in the Scouting Programs. Yes, my daughter earned her Silver Award through the Venturing program.

  27. In the 80s when I was a Scoutmaster the average age of an Eagle Scout was 15 – 16 Years of age. It was a good age because then you could tap their experience to be an Instructor or Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. So did people “Eagle out”? They did when I was a youth member in the 60s. I knew some Scouts in one troop who when they achieved the rank of Eagle and were appointed to the position of Jr Assistant SM, they were scarcely at a troop meeting. But of course there was their Senior year in high school also. Now, the average national membership is much higher. Tenderfoot and Second Class Scouts can earn merit badges now whereas we weren’t allowed to work on any merit badges until we were First Class. As with all things, the Boy Scouting program changed after studies were conducted by the National Board. Is it easier nowadays? Maybe…but I am of the opinion that Scouts are drawn to many things these days such as youth sports leagues, travel teams, band, high school sports, etc. We didn’t have these, except for middle and high school sports, from the 60s through the 80s. Some Scouts are lucky to have very supportive parents and earn the rank early on while in the 10th and 11th grades. Others appreciate the outdoor activities a lot more than achieving the rank of Eagle. It’s all up to the individual. Is the rank of Eagle Scout any less because the national average annually has increased from 2% of all Scouts to 5% in 2011? I don’t think so because today the Eagle candidate has to learn to be a manager of people, a goal-setter, etc. My conclusion: it’s all up to the individual.

  28. There are many, many reasons that the average age of the boys who achieve Eagle, is going up.

    1. The Eagles themselves; Eagle Scouts who are now adults are the worlds WORST when it comes to approving the completion of requirements. These Men, who themselves were once Boys, seem to think it should be as “hard” as it was for them. In doing so, they almost ALWAYS overlook the fact that what is “hard” for a man is near impossible for a 12 to 14 year old. Things are relative, and Adult Eagle Scouts, have standards that are too high.
    2. Adult leaders who have the attitude that an Eagle Scout must be “mature”. This is CRAP, CRAP, CRAP… This one get’s under my skin, a boys physical, mental and emotional “age” will vary wildly between the age 12 and 18, and you CANNOT expect every Eagle to have the “maturity” of a grown man. “Maturity” is subjective, it is not absolute. Requirements are absolute, and the subjective approach taken by so many leaders is extremely unfair to Scouts who are 12 and want Eagle by 14. It can be done, but all it takes is ONE HARD HEADED ADULT to get in the way, and then the dream is crushed, because of the Adult and Scout learns nothing. When failing to meet a reasonable goal of Eagle at 14, is the failure of the Adult to provide the proper environment for success.
    3. Distraction…? I don’t agree! A Boy who wants Eagle, and is motivated by the achievement and fun of Scouting, will put the proper focus on Eagle. If they don’t want it at 12 they won’t want it at 17.9.
    4. Eagles with Broken Wings! Too many Boys are, so called, earning Eagle at a late age because Mom, Dad, Guardian, or someone else is attaching non Scouting related motivations to the completion of this Rank. Scouts who earn Eagle to get a new car, or to get a promotion in the Military, or to get into a College, or just to get someone off the issue, ARE NOT EAGLES. Often these are the Boys who become Men, that are Eagle Scouts that make it so difficult on the 12 year olds who want to earn Eagle… “If I couldn’t do it, well there is no way these kids can!”… I have heard this, and it makes me sick to my stomach.
    5. Lazy Adult Leaders!!! Yes, YOU all of YOU who take the easy way out as leaders, and allow poor meeting, activities that are not fun, you don’t camp enough, you don’t lead by example, you were given everything on a platter by your parent, now you are in your 50s and don’t want to work too hard, never worked hard a day in your life, and NOW you get to wear a uniform and be a leader. So, it’s “your way”, which is the “easiest” way you know. This is a poor example, and when you just set around the camp fire and say, “Let the Boys do it”, “They will figure it out”, “Boys lead, so I don’t have to do anything”… If those leaders would get up, and “be a part” of the Troop, be the first to setup a tent, the first to prep the gear, the first to be ready to help someone, be the person Scouts come to for advise, be the person to uses teachable moements, your Scouts would be Eagle at a much earlier age… … You know who you are, and if you are offended, Well…

    For the Record… I am not Eagle, I am a Life for Life, and have LEARNED more from my “failure” than I would have ever learned from earning my Eagle!!!

  29. I don’t think that it is a bad thing, especially given that more scouts make Eagle than ever before, 4 or 5% I think? When I made Eagle in 1986 it was about 1%. I made Eagle at 17 and I think many things get in the way but I think it gives a boy the chance to grow into being a leader.

  30. On Brian’s comment above: Yes, I agree the paperwork has compound things especially with the changes in the Eagle Application and the Eagle Leadership Project Workbook. Both require more detail from the Scout along with the Advancement Chair who has to ensure all of the Merit Badges are correct with the right dates the Scout has earned them. Then they have to match what is currently on Scout.Net and the On-line advancement records. Plus the project now has to be entered on the Good Turn for America site in order to be counted along with the total hours and numbers of the youth and adults who participated in the project.

    Paperwork is not only involved in the application and project process. It is also involved in the Merit Badge process. Worksheets have been developed so the Scouts can now enter their answers, achievements and findings in completing the requirements for the different merit badges. They are great and allow the boys to work on their own or in groups but the Merit Badge Councilor is to council, advise and now explain, demonstrate, guide and explain the requirements and tasks needed to complete the merit badge.

    With information and technology, accountability of a Scout’s progress is important for the bean counters but what happen to the first law of the Scout Law, A Scout is Trustworthy?

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