5 tips for helping Scouts reach Eagle before time runs out

Some Life Scouts race against the clock to earn the Eagle Scout award before they turn 18, including a handful who complete their board of review on the eve of their 18th birthday.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Dial down the drama of eleventh-hour Eagles with these five tips for helping Scouts reach Eagle with plenty of time to spare.

The ideas were adapted from Mark Ray’s Scouting magazine article called “Game of Life to Eagle: Helping Scouts reach the finish line.” Find more great ideas there.

5. Set a target date.

Everyone needs a deadline. Encourage Scouts to set target dates for completing key requirements. For example: Have all Eagle-required merit badges completed by age 16. Have the Eagle Scout service project completed by age 17. An Eagle coach (known in some troops as a “Life-to-Eagle coordinator” or an “involved parent”) can help the Scout come up with these dates.

Make sure the target dates are several months before the Scout turns 18.

4. Manage expectations.

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Emphasize to Scouts that every step along the journey will take longer than they think.

Then if they finish the requirements early, everyone wins. (And everyone gets to eat cake at the court of honor even sooner!)

3. Take it one step at a time.

The journey to Eagle isn’t easy. So it’s best taken one step at a time.

That’s why you suggest that Scouts concentrate on merit badges first and then the service project (or vice versa), so they won’t feel overwhelmed.

2. Finish the time-sensitive merit badges ASAP.

The Eagle-required Family Life, Personal Fitness and Personal Management merit badges have requirements that take several months.

Urge Scouts to get those time-sensitive requirements out of the way early.

Those requirements can’t be altered in any way, so a Life Scout starting on Family Life requirement 3 — “Prepare a list of your regular home duties or chores (at least five) and do them for 90 days” — two months before he turns 18 would not be able to earn the Eagle Scout award.

1. Remember your role.

A basketball coach encourages and guides his players from the sidelines, but he doesn’t take the shots himself.

Similarly, encouragement along the journey to Eagle Scout is fine — and preferable to not paying attention at all.

But don’t take the shots for them.

And never work harder than the Scouts you’re working with. After all, they’re the ones who get the Eagle Scout badge once all requirements are completed — not you.

Make sure they’ve earned it.

What are your tips?

How do you encourage Scouts along the trail to Eagle?

What memorable experiences do you have with “eleventh-hour Eagles”?


  1. It is important to let the Scout watch out for “timers” in requirements, which can be a show stopper on the trail to Eagle well BEFORE their 18th birthday.

    For example, Eagle Requirement #1 requires that the Life rank be earned at least 6 months before he turns 18. So if he fails to earn his Life by 17 – 1/2 years old, then he cannot be an Eagle. With the focus on the 18th birthday, the Scout can easily miss this important due date, which unfortunately, I’ve seen happen.

    Ditto for a number of Eagle Required Merit Badges, such as Physical Fitness or Personal Management, which require you to do something for a certain period of time. You cannot start those MB’s just before your 18th birthday.

  2. Scouts don’t realize how long it takes to type in the worksheet descriptions and write ups. I encourage them at a conference (with a parent ) to start showing us their work on their project. This includes the letter of ambition for req 7. The proof is in the pudding when you start hearing excuses rather than seeing a printed copy of work done.

    • As an Eagle, ASM, and counselor for 4 of the required badges (including two of the “90 day/12 week) ones, I will say I really miss some of the structure in the ranks we had 1,000 years ago when I went through. In particular I miss that some ranks required specific Eagle-required badges, not just a specific number of Eagle-required merit badges. If the boys had to earn Personal Management, for example, as a Star requirement, we could use some of the long-term planning and goal-setting that is done as part of that badge to help them internalize the sequence of things that still has to happen to make it to Eagle if that is their goal. We ought to make sure that they have all of these time-bound badges done as a requirement for Life, not as a suggestion, but as a requirement. That said, I think that only Personal Fitness really benefits from a requirement of that duration anyway. The other two could easily be cut to 30 days with little loss to content.

  3. Make the pursuit of Eagle fun for the Scout. There is tremendous pressure to finish the Eagle along with so many distractions that can provide road blocks on the road to Eagle including the “fumes” (perfume (girls) and gasoline (cars)) as well as school programs – choir, sports, etc, that the young man feels overwhelmed. Help him keep his spirits up and make the journey much easier for him, his family and the Troop.

  4. One of the practices we’ve begun is regularly pulling our Life Scouts as a group (all of them, not just the 18 year olds) out of the meeting for 5-10 minutes and asking them about their progress.

    It is an experiment – but one we are conducting because our Life Scouts are so often the ones who are helping run the meetings that they often forget their own goals. The reminder is gentle but it gives them a forum to ask any questions they may have. There is another side benefit – they see what their friends are doing and how they’re progressing.

    So far it has been interesting. We have 5 young men – ranging in age from almost 14 to almost 17. The older ones seem to be getting some of their motivation from the energy the younger guys are bringing.

    As a side note, we have 3 Eagles who are currently in college but seem to find their way back to troop meetings on a regular but infrequent basis – along with two other Eagles who (Senior, Sophomore) who are very active in other scouting programs (OA, Sea Scouts) but attend troop meetings regularly. We try to emphasize that Eagle is not the end. It just affords you a different perspective.

  5. I think along with “manage expectations”, we all need to remember that making Eagle is not the be-all and end-all of the Scouting experience or the Scouting program.

    Advancement is just one of eight methods to the programs; and Eagle is just one of six (soon to be seven) ranks within the advancement program. Making it to Life Scout and falling short of Eagle (assuming he’s been exposed to the other 7 methods) means that a Scout missed out on just 1/6th of 1/8th of the overall program (that’s a 98%…that’s an A+…that’s success!)

    Eagle Scout is not the “finish line” or the “final level” or even the ultimate goal in the Scouting program. Once you achieve it, you’ve not “won,” “beaten” or “finished” the game of Scouting…. and, likewise, falling short of Eagle does not mean you’ve “failed.”

    The real goals (the ultimate objectives and the true aims) of the Scouting program are: (1) character development, (2) citizenship training, and (3) personal fitness. Getting the Eagle badge is great, however a Scout who falls short of earning Eagle is not a “failure” if he still develops strong character, citizenship and fitness as a result of his Scouting experiences. Likewise a Scout who checks all the boxes, files all the paperwork and receives the Eagle badge is not a “success” unless he has developed the character, citizenship and fitness to back it up.

    Let’s not lose sight of what Scouting is aiming for… it’s not about a badge, it’s about being prepared for life.

    • Well said. Even those Scouts who stay in the program for 6, 12, 18 months are better because of it. Of course we want them to stay in for a long time, but Scouting changes lives from Day One.

      • One of my favorite quotes from an unknown source: “Scouting is not, and should not be about the race to Eagle. The aims of scouting are: Character Development, Citizenship, and Physical Fitness.”

    • Amen, amen, amen. As Scoutmaster, I give examples in my Troop of a boy who joined scouts at age 16 who aged out as Tenderfoot but was an “Eagle in his heart” with all the hiking, camping, fishing, and outdoor skills of the best of Eagle scouts. Another boy in our Troop aged out as Life with pride after being in scouts from Cub Scouts. Both of these boys come back to visit from time to time as young adults.

      Other boys have done the minimum, or perhaps even less than the minimum, and with parental pressure, have been awarded their embroidered Eagle patch.

      The Eagle rank is not a graduation present from Scouting. If the boy has not earned the rank, whether due to falling short on merit badges, leadership, service, or scout spirit, then I may as well award him a Nobel prize, a Gramophone, an Oscar statue, and a PhD.

      As you mentioned, the Aims and Methods are the true goals of scouting – becoming a better person, becoming a better citizen, understanding service to others, appreciating the outdoors, developing confidence, and learning to be a leader, etc. I would much rather have a boy age out as a polite young man than a cloth Eagle.

      • I agree. I told my son who is finishing the paperwork for his Eagle, “There is no shame in being a Life Scout. None. It is a great accomplishment.” He said, “I know Dad, but no one looks at it that way. They don’t say, ‘Wow! You made Life Scout! Nice job!’ They look at it and say, ‘Oh, you didn’t make Eagle.'”

        Unfortunately, there’s some truth in that. “Everyone I’ve talked to said they really regretted dropping out and not earning their Eagle, and I’m afraid if I drop out I’ll really regret it later.” I said, “You’re right, son. You will. But I’m not going to bull whip you to the Eagle Court of Honor.” He pursued band for a year but eventually came back, and I’m convinced that having the freedom to leave was key to his decision to re-engage. He loves the outdoors and everything that scouting is about, but for a long time all the fun had been stripped out of it and he was pretty discouraged. Now he’s back in the game and is working on making his troop more fun.

        We should be doing this because we want to spend time together, develop a love for the outdoors, build character, learn skills, etc., and the rewards should be seen as what follows as a result. Merit badges are often the ends themselves because they are needed to advance. Boys often do the activities not because they want to learn, say, leather craft, but because they need the round patch.

        Here’s something else to think about: The requirement for Eagle is 21 merit badges. That is considered hitting the brass ring —the top tier, outstanding achievement for one’s entire scouting career. I’ve seen kids with 80-90 merit badges and they’re 13 years old. I don’t know how that’s possible. When you look at the requirements for some of these badges it’s physically impossible to rack up that many badges in that amount of time. How do you go to a merit badge university for a day or two and come away with 4 & 5 merit badges? I think BSA ought to tighten that up.

        I also think that if a boy doesn’t want to participate in scouting no one should make him. Maybe his passion is academics, or music, or athletics, or theater, or photography or whatever, and he wants to zero in on that. Let them pursue their passion. I’ve seen kids who were disconnected, moping around, disruptive, and spoiling the atmosphere for everyone else because their parent(s) were making them be there when they couldn’t have cared less. That’s a disservice to the kid.

    • While I agree that Eagle is not the ultimate goal, I have to disagree with the position that making Life is like making a 98%. There is one near universally recognized advancement rank. Others are not going to give you a 98. Certainly, you were a Scout and had great experiences.

      As an Eagle, there are two things I think need to be emphasized. First and foremost is the journey. Without a real journey, Eagle is nothing. The second is documenting said journey as you go. I would never have made it had there not been regular meetings to ensure I was documenting stuff.

      I think that a push to do merit badges is great. But it shouldn’t be just about the badge or Eagle. This is a chance to explore an area of interest. A chance to learn and experience something.

      The two greatest things from being a Scout would have to be the exploration, and the confidence from it.

      • Earning Eagle is not about gaining a special title or a line-item for your résumé. It’s not about what others are going to give you as a result of your Scouting accomplishments or experiences… it’s all about the journey; it’s about you. 100% or 99.9%… what matters is that you have stronger character, citizenship and fitness as a result. The Eagle badge is just a patch…what matters is the experiences you had and who you are, not the paper you pushed (or didn’t push) and the title you received (or didn’t receive).

  6. My husband (SM) added a column to his roster for days until the scout turns 18, which he shares with them and encourages them to plan ahead. You can’t stop the clock!

    • I should add that he shares this with scouts who are about 17 and procrastinating in what they say they want to do, but ultimately the scout has to decide if he wants and can earn Eagle in time. It’s not just the scout who is rushing to finish at the end, but the adults who have to invest even more hours into Scouting by meeting outside of troop meetings for signatures, project sign-offs and the like. Part of planning is being respectful of the time of adults/volunteers as well.

  7. when a young scout joins our troop our troop guide works with them helping them get scout and started on tenderfoot. We encourage summer camp and they are working on the personal fitness merit badge also cause they need those fitness stuff to be able to get tenderfoot. Hopefully with in a year or two a scout can be done to first class. Then is the time to plan not at life scout a boy that is 13 is still excited about camping and activities and not involved as much as a 15/16 year old . So you talk about what merit badges need to be done and plan for the next rank with them . When they hit star then have them plan how long till life and they usually plan by 16 or 17 then if it takes longer they have a year to get it done. We just started this with boys in our troop in 2012 and most of them will be life scouts around 14/15 . Meanwhile we have 4/6 boys we are working with that have the push thing going on to beat the deadline before the birthday! When boys are given tools to plan and are working toward life scout by 16 and all merit badges done by 17 eagle is easier to not have them loose it by aging out. You notice that we get them started then we pick back up after a couple ranks then help them again at star then they connect again with the life to eagle coach. We are a small troop but it works well. They are doing the work and most of the planing we just added a planning meeting at star scout cause they seemed to be getting stuck at that point.

  8. “It [dragging along until 17.9] doesn’t have to be that way.” But, there is nothing wrong if it is. Obviously the probability of not reaching the stated goal is higher, but if they miss it, a valuable lesson is still learned.

    That said, the entire culture of your troop changes if the boys hustle up, get their birds with a couple of years to spare, and stick around to plan ridiculous adventures, etc …

    Those Eagles who just graduated from college/military can be a big help. Encourage them to have your Life scouts over for dinner, figure out “next step” deadlines, who to call, etc … then play a video game or something.

  9. It was mentioned that even some of these scouts have their boards of review the eve of theur 18th birthday. The board of review can occur after the 18th birthday as long as all of the paperwork is received at the council office before the 18th birthday.

    • Actually, only MB’s, Project sign-off and Scoutmaster Conference and Committee Chair signature need to be before 18th birthday. Paper work can go in later, but BOR needs to happen within 3 months of 18. If within 3-6 months, then council approval required and beyond 6 months, then national approval (I think, haven’t had to do that yet).

      Unfortunately, I know these rules well because at least 8 of our last dozen or so Eagles were right at 18 when they finished! I have a policy of not requesting letters of reference until all the requirements are completed, or they have met my comfort level that they will in fact complete them in time.

      • Why are so many of your scouts finishing right at their 18th birthday? Do your leaders hold theie ranks hostage until then? This trend is becoming the norm in many units and not letting scouts advance to keep them on the roster. It is somewhat disturbing. I have seen it in NJ lately. Does nothing to enhance the program.

  10. While I essentially agree with the blog, I do have some issues with #2. What 5th grader has the follow-through or possibly the understanding to complete Personal Management & Family Life at such a young age?

    My son & I discussed the various Eagle required Merit Badges & he put together (with my input) a plan on the order he wanted to complete them. My son, who has some learning disability issues (one probably wouldn’t notice them when meeting him), put Personal Mgt, Communication & Family Life as his final 3 Eagle required Merit Badges. He completed Personal Mgt in January 2015 just after his 13th birthday, will likely complete Communication this weekend, & will meet with the Merit Badge Counselor for Family Life in April to finish it. He has already done most of the requirements for Family Life (projects & 90-day chore sheet) so he has already got the biggest hurdles done.

    It took my son 3 tries to do his 90-day sheets for both Personal Mgt & Family Life. So while getting the Eagle Merit Badges completed ASAP may be a good idea, it will likely depend on the Scout to whether it will actually work or not. If a Scout is 16 though, I can see where the guidance is a good idea.

    • If your boy is earning 4 required badges every year, there is no problem saving the ones with tracking requirements for last.

      Agree that every boy is different. At 11, I was earning $ during the summer at my dad’s business, and I was a saver. Loved buying bonds. However, Personal Management sounded boring to me. So, like most scouts, I put off earning it. I may have enjoyed the fruits of what I learned a little earlier had I taken that badge first! When I did take it, I really enjoyed going to meet the councilor at the bank where he was VP.

      What should drive when a boy earns which badge? Well, IMHO, the skill sets that he may need in the immediate future. If a boy’s all about jamborees, encouraging him to start that Personal Management sooner rather than later may help him get to where he wants to go. Likewise if a boy is all about high adventure bases, then maybe it’s time to start Personal Fitness so he can understands how to condition to get the most out of his trek.

      Making it less about the bird and more about what he wants to prepare for in the next couple of years may help a boy lay out a workable plan.

    • Agree that boys should wait a bit and concentrate on getting scout skills down prior to working on those challenging badges. They can get a bad taste in their mouth about all the time and work needed at a young age and get turned off to MB’s as a whole. Scouting skills are a better mark of an advanced scout than MB’s, If they focus on scout skills and get to 1st class within 18 months or so there is plenty of time to then attack these badges

  11. One of the issues that scouts (and their parents) fail to take into account is that they cannot control the weather or environmental conditions. In many regions, outdoor projects become much harder in the winter or early spring months. Between freezing, snowy, or muddy conditions, it might not be feasible to do a project that involves things like fence/kiosk/bench instalation, trail clearing/restoration or invasive plant removal. Scouts (and beneficiaries) with wonderful plans in the summer months can be in for a rude awakening when they try to execute the project in the winter or early spring. Therefore, building in a big time cushion is especially important when outdoor projects are involved. Just because you have an 18th birthday deadline does not mean that Mother Nature is going to be a cooperative team member on your Eagle project.

    • Because Western PA has unpredictable weather, we encourage boys to consider plans “A”, “B” and “C”. The first project that comes their way might not work for the season in which their deadline falls.

  12. Great article and reference to Mark Ray’s past article. But one of the things I would like to know is how the Eagle rank process over the years since 1912. I read the book “The Four Percent”, which did a great job to outline this. I earned my Eagle rank just before I turned 18, but I also spent a year overseas at age 16 were no advancement took place. When I returned, most of my friends had “Eagled” out of the troop. I was also one of the earliest generations to have the service project requirements to complete. My youngest son has repeated my record by completing his Eagle Rank just days before his 18th birthday. What is the impact, both good and bad of the Eagle Scout Service Project?

    Back in 1949, the average age that a scout was awarded Eagle Scout was just over 14 years old. Knowing that the age 14 is often considered one of the “ages & stages” thresholds for our youth (between middle school & high school) that the BSA has been adding to the requirements over many years and has this negatively impacted the interest of the youth by taking longer for most youth to earn this advertised goal in scouting.

    I am very proud having earned my Eagle Scout as I am proud of my youngest son. But I am also proud of his older two brothers who did not complete the rank for what each of them gained out of scouting. There is allot of “marketing value” placed on the image of earning the Eagle Scout rank from improving one’s resume to famous people that are also Eagle Scouts. At age 11 when a scout joins his troop, everyone of these scouts wants to earn Eagle Scout rank. We know that only a small percentage will complete this task. Advancement and the Eagle Scout rank process is about building the strength within one’s scout spirit. The scout must truly want to earn this rank to give it the value that is represents. If a scout is unsuccessful on his path to Eagle, he is still successful in strengthening his scout spirit from his effort prior to his 18th birthday.

    I have watched too many parents push their sons because of this “BSA” marketing effect. A Life to Eagle mentor must also remember to ignore the parents and listen to the scout, to determine what are the goals of the scout. Scouting is not just about earning Eagle Scout, it is more about improving character and service to others in our youth and community.

  13. Bryan…As you know, the scout does not have to complete his EBOR before his 18th birthday nor turn in his Eagle application before his birthday.

    I recommend that the scout attend a Life to Eagle session as soon as they become Life Scouts. If your council or district doesn’t offer something like this, have them start one. We invite Life Scouts, parents, Unit Leaders and Eagle Coaches to attend. We cover all the Eagle Requirements from remaining active to the project and also include the Eagle application and EBOR process.

    • Personal to Matt Culbertson….. As a member of a council advancement committee, our
      council does not offer a “Life to Eagle session.” I am very interested in discussing this concept with you. Please email me at: bjwerrm@aol.com

    • Our District regularly offers a L2E conference, usually facilitated by our Advancement Chair. We aim for twice a year and encourage Life Scouts and their parents to attend. Star Scouts can come too. Our neighboring Districts also do this, so there is ample occasion to learn the ropes. We cover the Work Book, the need for documenting EVERYTHING, the deadline schedule, and the need to have all the dates lined up and make sense. Our council (NCAC) is famous for checking MB dates and counselor names, and (sometimes, rarely) misplacing paperwork. Make copies of everything!

  14. One of the stumbling blocks I see at the council level is errors in the Scout’s record in Internet Advancement.
    This is what I recommend to all my leaders: At the end of the Life Board of review, hand the Scout a paper version of the ESRA. Have him fill it out using his source documents (blue cards and Scout Handbook). Turn in it within two weeks and allow the unit to do an advancement audit for this Scout. Troop records (if keeping a third party software data base) should be checked against the Scout’s records and then ensure that ScoutNet (Internet Advancement) also agrees with the source documents.
    The Scout can then download the fillable/savable ESRA and begin to fill it out even before his project is planned. And since it is savable, additions/corrections can be made at any time.

    • This is part of our Life to Eagle discussion…get the records that are in national’s database and start matching them up.

  15. I have been in Scouting about 45 years now and it took me about 20 years to learn what it is all about and that is the Mission and Aim of Scouting ( I must be a little slow). I have had the privilege of being the the District Adv. Chair for about 360 units (that is Pack, Troop, Teams and Crews) for the past few years and we do a Life to Eagle Seminar about twice a year at Roundtable, where we invite all Star and Life Scout. we cover all of the requirements one by one and also review the Eagle paperwork, and it has been very successful.

    After reading the above comments, I think a lot of you need to review section 9, from the Guide to Advancement and the Eagle Requirements, some of your comments are incorrect, For example the Eagle Application and the signatures can be done after the Eagle Candidate has turned 18. The only things that has to be done before the 18 birthday are requirements 1 through 6, 7 can come after he is 18

    I once read the following: “the goal is not for young men to get their Eagle, the goal is for them to become an Eagle Scout. Some young men get their Eagle badge, but never become an Eagle Scout; others become Eagle Scouts and never get the badge.” (You’re now saying, clearly this guy is off his rocker… but keep reading.) I believe that some young men “get their Eagle” because their Mom and Dad won’t let them drive until they do, or maybe because their brother got his Eagle and they want to keep up with him, or perhaps it was just something that happened along the way. But some young men actually become Eagle Scouts because they have learned the leadership and service skills inherent in scouting, they have learned to teach and help others, they have put the principles inherent in the Scout Oath and Law into their own lives. (By the way, a sign that a young man just “got his Eagle” is that he drops out of scouting soon after receiving the badge. A sign that a young man became an Eagle is that he stays with the program and is involved in helping others reach the Eagle rank. Get the picture?)

    So what does this mean? I suggest that you don’t get hung up on the advancement program, just remember what you are really trying to teach (principles of scouting, leadership, Citizenship development, Character development and Fitness, etc.). Use the advancement program as the “METHOD” it is, it is a tools to teach the scouting principles, not as an end in and of itself. Don’t worry, they’ll advance on their own if you are running the program right.

    I really like what Kyp and TimGinMN had to say above, so true.

    • I enjoyed this post. I have noticed recently how many SM’s brag how they review every merit badge with a scout after he has already had his blue card signed by a counselor. I am a counselor for 8 badges and volunteer my time at a local merit badge fair to work with the scouts. I have heard at District Meeting several SM’s make this proud statement. My question is how are they subject matter experts on over 130 topics? These quality control experts have no place in the program. Or are they just control freaks who are frustrated they never attained the Eagle rank?

  16. One idea I’ve heard to assist in Bryan’s item #2 above is to make those 3 time sensitive MBs required for Star and/or Life as part of the 4 for Star and 3 more for Life. That way they are completed well before 17.9 crunch time.

  17. I think some comments are getting off track here – the article is about helping motivated scouts to earn Eagle – not forcing them, not examining parental overinvolvement, not whether Eagle is a worthy goal or not, etc.

    If a scout has set this goal we should help him achieve it then by keeping him on track and making sure he understands time constraints and limitations. Bill Gates once said “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years” . The first part of the quote is pertinent to the scouts – they think they have plenty of time to do what they need to do to get to Eagle but that is not often the case. Our goal is to help them recognize that and move them along.

  18. There are some Scouts who give lip service to completing the requirements on time but do nothing. Not much can be done. How many times should a leader point out that time is passing? The only response is, “I know.” Okay, the Scout knows. Now what?

    • The leader really doesn’t need to point out that much. There is an conference and board of review after each rank advancement. That’s when the SM and committee talk to a boy about the next rank advancement. Getting almost every boy to become a first class scout is a reasonable goal. That gives three chances to point out that they will have to play this game and put others aside if they want to advance further. That should be enough.

      Anything else is overkill. There are enough parents and grandparents putting “heat” on these boys to make Eagle, and I think some of the delay is push-back on the part of the boy. Let the adult leaders focus on the skills the boys will need to get the most out of the upcoming year’s adventures. That way they get the most out of scouting while they make up their minds if they really want to advance.

      But, if a boy tells me he wants to advance … I do everything in my power to make sure there are no paperwork roadblocks in his way, and that the boy builds a solid plan.

      Literally, I greet 1st class scouts with “what’s the plan?” They have learned that I expect them to tell me either 1) what rank they are working on, how many merit badges they need for it, and what badge they are currently working on and with whom, or 2) they are not bothering with advancement but are seeking to do some other good in the world.

  19. As a SM I was facing 8 Life Scouts all at the same time looking to become Eagles. Some had more time than others and different requirements to complete.

    What we did was have a roundtable meeting where each of the guys presented their status and what they were going to accomplish in the next couple of weeks, before the next roundtable. This provided a little peer pressure and peer coaching, plus the guys learned from each other.

    All the guys in the group became Eagle Scouts. Some of the younger Scouts wanted to join the group but we made it “exclusive” to Life Scouts working on becoming Eagles. This motivated a few of the Star Scouts in the Troop to finish that last required MB or fill a position of responsibility so they could earn Life rank and join this special group.

    One of the members was my son. It can be tough to be the SM and coach your own son. In this group setting he was not singled out and was just another Scout member of the roundtable. As I said, they all became Eagles.

    This is just something that worked for me in a unique circumstance. Remember, you can not drag them across the finish line kicking and screaming.

  20. In our troop, part of the weekly meeting agenda is to have the SPL ask for updates from Life Scouts about their projects. The adult mentors (Life to Eagle Coordinator and Scoutmaster) know which scouts are far enough along they should be planning their project, so no one can hide. The Life Scout has to stand and tell everybody what his project will be and what the current status is. This accomplishes several things. If he’s ready to roll, this is when he’ll ask for volunteers. The younger scouts in the troop get to see one of the steps of an Eagle “in progress”. They get to hear about the latest roadblocks (and there are ALWAYS roadblocks for Eagle projects) and how the scout is dealing with them, and they get to volunteer for the project. For the Life Scouts not moving, they get some good-natured ribbing about dragging their feet, hear from adults who may have contacts for potential project ideas, and get put on the spot if this is the twelfth meeting in a row where they just stand up to say, “Uh, well, I haven’t picked a project yet.”

    The younger scouts get to ask questions about the projects and the Life Scout has to be ready to answer them. We had one poor fellow who was going to build a “you are here” kiosk on a local trail. now, “kiosk” is rather an unusual word for most 13 year olds, and most 13 year olds are notorious for not listening, so almost every week he’d get asked “What’s a kiosk?” Unfortunately, things never jelled and he started running out of time, so the project got changed. That question didn’t. It is now a standard question for almost every meeting, even though the original scout aged out over a year ago. Boys!

  21. As an Eagle Scout, what encouraged me was seeing the then Eagle scouts staying active within the troop. If they had just finished and then we never saw them again it’d probably cause me to question what’s in it for me when I finished.

  22. I agree that the goal of attaining the Eagle rank is not and should not be the goal of Boy Scouting. However, there is also no doubt that having this as a goal can prolong the scouts involvement in his troop, expose him to tasks/activities, and leadership roles that he might otherwise not experience. The thing that adults(Scouters and parents) know, that pre-teens and teens cannot possibly understand, is all that can be gained on the road to Eagle rank. The life-skills of leadership, commitment, and service to others is not suddenly learned between two ranks. These are skills that are acquired one experience at a time-starting out with roles as “minor” as patrol quartermaster for a camp-out(remember how overwhelming that was to a first year) and progressing to troop-wide roles like SPL, chaplain, etc. Throughout this time the scout has older scouts to be his mentors and adult leaders to be role models and encouragers. So, yes, as a parent that recognized the benefits and opportunities, I did push both my sons towards earning the Eagle rank(also as their parent I “pushed” them to be good students, to have jobs, and to follow our home rules). Both were very close to 18 years old when they completed their advancements AND both have expressed a delayed appreciation for all the opportunities that scouting gave them. I am grateful to all the men and women Scouters that walked the journey with them and gave them opportunities to experience life in a way many boys and teenagers have not. I will never forget when the Scoutmaster explained that Scouting is “fun with a purpose.” He was so right!

  23. My three sons all made Eagle and as committee chairman I worked with many Eagle candidates. The requirements and procedures can seem daunting to many Scouts and their parents, so we tried to “demystify” them with an in-troop Life to Eagle seminar once a year. We explained the procedures and had Eagles talk about their projects. It helped a lot for the boys to hear about it from fellow Scouts. We also had two or three adult coordinators who kept up with the candidates. The Scoutmaster and I insisted that projects had to be meaningful and realistic and had to be run by the Scouts and not their parents. (I have seen way too many “mom and dad” projects!) We also tried to offer as many Eagle-required badges within the troop as possible. Bottom line, any Scout who really wanted to earn Eagle and was willing to work hard could get it. Last I heard, the Scoutmaster had made over 100 Eagles in his time.

  24. I’ve enjoyed reading this thread and have a question. My son is a 14 year old life scout, 8th grade and we just moved. I’ve heard of complications happening with the Eagle Board of Review caused by moving. Is this a myth or are there things my son needs to do to prevent this from happening?

    And a Big Thank YOU to all you dedicated Scouters out there.

    • I’ve been there and done that. My younger son was in his 4th council as a Boy Scout when he made Eagle. (and that before ScoutNet) Just make sure you get a Person Profile report from the previous council and have the new Troop enter all those advancements into Internet Advancement.
      Also, your son should give the new Troop plenty of time to get to know him. Don’t expect to get a position of responsibility right away or a board of review. Do your Best. We all operate under the Guide to Advancement.

      • I can understand not expecting a position of responsibility right away, but on what basis would you deny a board of review? I think maybe you need to review the guide to advancement.

    • We had many transfers because of the high proportion of transient military families in Northern Virginia and never had a problem (maybe we were just used to it!). Be sure to hang onto ALL paperwork, especially blue cards and advancement cards. Your son has plenty of time, but when he gets to the application stage, nothing helps more than paperwork.

  25. Bethany, it is a myth, as long as you and your son have your “ducks in a row.” I agree with Margee and would also like to suggest that your son bring all rank advancement cards and merit badge blue cards, and make available to the “new” troop leadership if requested. A personal letter of reference from the “old SM” would not hurt. Example: A Scout recently transferred in a local troop from Hawaii. There were no paperwork issues within the “new” troop he joined because the Scout and his parents were able to prove everything he had earned while in Hawaii. The “new” SM explained the situation with me, and I was completely at ease scheduling his ES B of R. Funny follow up to this was that the Scouts’ references were all in Hawaii. I picked up the phone, called the numbers, and got right through. The references were as surprised as I was! First time I’ve ever called Hawaii, and ended up being 4 times in one day! Good luck to your son as he continues his climb to the mountain top of one day becoming an Eagle Scout!

  26. OK, the five points outlined above are what we have done in my Troop. We have a Life to Eagle coordinator who is our former Scoutmaster and I as Scoutmaster am involved in the process. In addition to these steps I have had scouts come to their Life Rank Scoutmaster Conference with printouts of both the Eagle Rank Application and the Eagle Project Workbook. At that time we review what it means to be a Life Scout and plot a path forward, concretely identifying Merit Badge Counselors for the Scout to contact for all remaining Eagle Required MB’s, and subjectively reviewing what leadership means, what Scout Spirit means, and what service to others means.

    Now then, after all this, from time to time we still get boys who can’t or won’t get it done. The problem in every one of these cases is the parents. Specifically the parents want the rank more than the scout. The cavalier attitude would be to simply say the boy is not an Eagle Scout, that he took on volunteer leadership positions but was not a leader. Or to say the boy did not have the scout spirit of an Eagle, still teasing others and showing up late, and having a generally unhelpful attitude, more interested in his phone than attending scout meetings. Or to say the parents were way too involved in the Eagle Project.

    What I am looking for is diplomatic ways to tell families that yes you have been in scouting a long time and yes the same program that made other boys successful in achieving Eagle rank was offered to your son, and yes I spent more of my finite personal time and attention (including writing on and reading this blog) on your son that would have been better spent on other scouts, but your boy did not do the job and will not get a cloth Eagle Rank Patch as a present for his 18th birthday. This does not mean your son is a failure. Your son is a better person for having been in scouts but he is not an Eagle scout.

    Every other time in scouting the message is “not yet” but when pressed against his 18th birthday, the answer is “no.”

  27. “Scouting is a game, with a purpose.” All of the comments above have validity, but let’s all remember Scouting should be joyous and fulfilling at its core. Achieving Eagle is a great accomplishment, but let’s not devalue the other 96 percent of our our Scouts whose lives were forever enriched by being a Boy Scout.

  28. Even before giving much thought to higher rank; make it a unit objective that every Scout reach First Class Rank at a reasonable pace, and everyone both masters & retains those basic skills. With just a few MBs along the way earned at camps or as part of the troop programs plus active participation, then Star Rank is easily reached. Now they realize fairly early they are within reach and individual goals start to kick in. Higher skills, troop Leadership, maybe OA, camp staff, higher adventures. At ~ age 16 it’s mostly a matter of keeping them in the program. It’s about enabling and not discouraging with a program that has not grown with them. Don’t have a program that’s only the same old stuff intended for youngers Scouts. Provide advanced programs for advanced Scouts where they don’t have to always be PL and SPL for young ones. Make them Guides and Instructors; have a patrol of older and experienced Scouts. Have them eat with the adults in camp; provide or get them access high adventure trips. Then some of these other more specific management techniques will make Eagle Rank much more possible. If the unit does this, those Scouts who will eventually deserve Eagle Rank will stay to earn it. And there will nearly always be a good number of active Star and Life Rank Scouts in the queue for Eagle. But make it clear from the start, they will need to earn it for themselves.

  29. To some “journey” is a code word for making Eagle difficult by imposing obstacles …because a young man surely can’t appreciate what he’s done unless he’s 2 months from his 18th birthday. Such nonsense. Our job is to remove obstacles and encourage young men through goal setting to reach for the stars if that’s what they want to do. They will continue their journey as an Eagle all the way to their death bed. The best way to help 11th hour Eagles is to remove barriers and unleash them to follow their dreams when they are younger and not under the stress of 11th hour constraints. If that means making Eagle as a Freshman so he can continue to grow and lead as an Eagle in the troop for 3 more years, then God bless him.

  30. My Scoutmaster always encouraged us to have our Eagle Scout requirements completed in time for the end of our junior year of high school. This way, when we applied to colleges, we could say that we were Eagle Scouts, instead of simply Eagle Scout Candidates. It also gives you a year to enjoy the rest of the Scouting program without the focus on getting to Eagle.

    • Although true, such a distinction is unlikely to influence admissions outcomes. Specific leadership experience (SPL, QM, Instructor, Treasurer — especially if a youth was managing a high adventure budget in the 5 digits, etc …) carries more weight.

      I think the best reason to nab that bird at grade 11 is so you’ll able to sport the patch on your uniform during summer camp and the rest of your senior year. More than anyone else on the planet, the scouts in your troop are the ones who know exactly what it took for you earn it. They should be the ones to see you wearing it.

  31. Be a trained leader, and do all you can to help his other leaders to be trained. A lot more boys would make out to Eagle if their leaders were more effectively delivering Scouting!

  32. Just asked our latest Eagle Scout to talk to all the Life Scouts. He pushed the time limits some. He was happy to talk to the other Scouts and explain how time flies.

  33. thanks for all of the comments. I learned a great deal about scouting and Eagle Scout. I have watched my grandson grow in wisdom and strength while his project is being completed. I watched his father and grandfather get involved in this project and each grow in appreciation of each other. I watched a group of people, men, women and young men, work together in harmony to complete this project. I got almost as much our of this project as he did. It is nice to learn something new at an advance age!

  34. Somewhere in here, you have to make sure the Scout is enjoying the experience. I’ve seen young men so focused and intent on the goal that they don’t have fun along the way. It’s even worse when the Scout is being pushed along by parents/scoutmasters/etc., and he get to appreciate all the smaller accomplishments along the way. I remember being so pumped about the effort and experience of getting my Orienteering MB – it was almost as important as the Eagle. Help the Scout by scrapbooking and photographing the journey.

  35. Starr thinking about your Eagle project once you have become 1st Class. They don’t just happen. Attention to it early on will eliminate a lot of panic stricken scurrying around later.

    Also, as one gets into high school the demands in one’s time increases: more studying and social activities. You need to recognize this as you set your schedule.

  36. We encourage our scouts to complete one requirement .every. weekend. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10 minute task toward a rank requirement or a 30 minute task toward a merit badge. One requirement per weekend. If there is a snow day, add another requirement for good measure. Slow and steady wins the race.

  37. The ‘5 Tips’ are pithy and wise, as are the traditions and structure behind the Advancement Method of Scouting. The comments and additional wisdom shared in this blog add important ‘color’ to the Eagle Scout quest. With an interest in adding value to the excellent points already made, here are a few additional insights ‘earned’ from my experience of inheriting the role of Scoutmaster of a Troop with ‘bubble’ of ‘aging-out’ Life Scouts. Along with managing expectations(#4), it is also helpful to set them: promote a timeline (#5) to satisfy all the requirements by the age of 16. I could write chapters on the benefits, but establishing a culture where the Eagle rank is a new beginning is powerful.

  38. First, thank you to all of you helping keep Scouting alive and relevant for our Scouts. The experience has certainly changed since I became an Eagle in 1967.
    To help our Scouts achieve whatever goals they were interested in our Troop worked hard to get parents to be active in the program. An involved group of parents presented more opportunities for Scouts in the Troop to earn MBs and to get to activities that kept Scouting fun. Our Courts of Honor were a big deal where we received our MBs in front of everyone and when we achieved a new rank our Scoutmaster would ask us “What’s your plan or goal now?” For some it was to take more responsibility in the Troop and for others it was to go to Philmont or Ely. But when you stood up there in front of everyone and told them you were going to be an Eagle it was motivating and you were making a commitment.
    I think the suggestions above for the review sessions between ranks and the assistance with keeping records accurate and current are great but I think the best tip for helping Scouts to reach Eagle before time runs out is to keep them motivated and engaged.

  39. When all else fails, have a mother who nags, pushes, prods, and does whatever necessary to get the job completed!

    • Yep, honestly, that’s what I think when I hear Eagle scout …”his parents worked hard.” I myself could care less about “rank advancement,” so my son will enjoy Boy Scouts for the activities and the character development rather than the competition of jumping through the proper hoops to get his super-special paper.

  40. I got my Eagle Scout 3 days after my 15 birthday. The thing that helped me earn badges were summer camp and merit badge college. Over half of my 35 were earned at these events. Plan your time, be dedicated and loyal. These things will help.

  41. I have the honor of having received 8 eagle scout mentor pins.

    I think the key is getting the scout to have ownership. It is, after all, HIS project, HIS merit badges, and HIS Eagle. If he is not invested, then we are all spinning our wheels.

    My troop hands out an Eagle packet when the Life rank is recognized at a Court of Honor. I like to ask these Life Scouts what the plan is now. Some are content to stop at Life, and some are motivated to continue to Eagle. We go over what is needed to move on. Or we discuss whether or not he would be disappointed later in life by not continuing.

  42. Scouts has been a great experience for my son and my husband and I as we have met some wonderful people. We too, try to express finding the joy in the journey. Some advice given to us early on was to try and have him very close to if not completed, his Eagle rank. That is because after age 16 the very distractive ‘fumes’ start. The gasoline fumes of getting a driver’s license, and perfumes 🙂 I will say the percentage of scouts reaching Eagle might be higher if the intense paperwork requirements were lower. The paperwork nearly killed it for our son. It was much more than any college requirements and some workplace requirements! He got through it through several iterations of meetings with very patient and experienced adult scout leaders and we are so thankful for them all!!

  43. So what about when you have a troop that is rushing them through to Eagle? My son is in a troop that is so Eagle focused that they have kids just 14 years old ready to start their projects. I think that a child at 14 is not mature enough to be ready for what becoming an Eagle scout is meant to stand for. These kids are so pressured to get badges, hiking, and other Eagle stuff done that they say they just want to be done so that they can quit scouting. To me, the merits and meaning of Scouts is lost by this type of Scouting. How can we change that?

    • How about this:
      1) demand attending a summer camp where the patrol cooks their own meals
      2) scouts have to raise their own dues – not be handed money by mom and dad
      3) require a service project while at camp
      4) hold scouts accountable for lame Eagle projects
      5) limit the number of merit badges/year taught by teenagers or in park settings – require they go to adult counselors like Baden Powel intended

  44. Recognize that an older scout may need a little more encouragement through freedom. One 17 year old came to me while working on Citizenship in the Community and described the film he watched for requirement 5 (watch a film about a person or small group whose actions helped the community). His film was about two brothers raised in an orphanage who discovered that the orphanage was to be closed because they couldn’t pay the taxes. The brothers got their friends together, organized community support for the orphanage, put on a benefit concert, and raised the money needed to keep the orphanage open.

    The brothers were Jake and Elwood Blues.

    We had a good, meaningful discussion about the film, and fulfilled the rest of the requirement. The scout had been discouraged he wouldn’t fulfill the Eagle requirements in time, but this requirement lifted his spirits and he finished.

    I wouldn’t use that option for younger scouts, but it worked in this instance.

  45. Find your council’s Life to Eagle guidebook. Read it. Understand that the adults who review your son’s package don’t care what the guide to advancement or the council Life to Eagle guidance says, they will make the process as hard as possible for no good reason. They will look for phrases that allow maximum obstruction when the point is to help young men become Eagles (at least in our former district.)
    As a parent be prepared to go to extremes to get the package through. Your unit will probably help, but you must know the guidebooks and even then the district will make life as difficult as possible.

  46. I have noticed lately that many SM’s at round tables mention how they review all the requirements for merit badges AFTER the scout has completed his work and had his blue card signed by the counselor. Can they possibly be experts on 130 topics? Also many units hold the scouts “hostage” until they are 17 to complete their Eagle in order to keep them active and on the roster. This happens more often than we think. My Troop had 2 Life Scouts transfer to us because of this tactic in their prior unit. This does nothing to enhance the program.

  47. I think the point is being missed… how about:
    1) help the scout in the troop who doesn’t have so many friends
    2) learn to be the best patrol leader you can be
    3) after earning a merit badge, learn even more of the skill
    4) earn all your badges from adults rather than teenagers
    5) cook all you meals at camp yourself

    After that you’ll be an Eagle Scout at heart, and that’s all that matters

  48. When a scout makes the Life rank, especially if they achieve it with a few years to go until their 18th Birthday, have them complete the Personal Management MB immediately–if they have not done so already. This MB requires them to set a schedule and plan a project. Most scouts procrastinate their Eagle Service Project not for lack of motivation but for lack of knowledge how to begin. The Personal Management MB is a great “hands on” example of how to do this.

  49. I really like this timeline from Boy Scout Trail: http://www.boyscouttrail.com/docs/eaglemeritbadgetimeline.pdf

    It lays out a framework for 21 MBs, including the 13 Eagle-required, in a generally age-appropriate manner (although I would put Family Life before Citizenship in the Community), starting from 5th grade and completing in fall of 9th grade. After that they just do their Eagle project, and by then hopefully they’ll have had the experience they need to do that effectively.

    Too often I see 17.5-year-olds rushing to do the long-term MBs right at the end. I wish the word would get out that those MBs aren’t just theoretical life skills — they include practice on much of what the Scout will have to do in the course of his project, like resource planning, leading a meeting, delegating responsibility, managing people (and specifically, managing family members), site safety, progress tracking, and result analysis.

  50. With my son JJ he just earned his Eagle Scout by the age of 15. The rule was no fumes…. no perfume is girls and no gas fumes is no driving. When he finished his Eagle project he was allowed to get his permit… when he finished his B.O.R. he got the keys to his truck. It was a good motivation, now that he is officially an Eagle he gets to go on dates!

  51. I’ve worked hard as SM in our Troop to help Scouts realize that Eagle is not the end, but a step in the journey. Getting our Scouts to focus on getting Eagle before 17 years, 11 months and 29 days allows them to continue doing things like summer camp high adventure programs without the pressure of having the Personal Fitness (or one of the other “big three”) merit badge hanging over their head. It also has a side benefit of encouraging participation in a leadership role, further enforcing the youth-led aspect of Troop life.

  52. The eagle does not pursue the scout, the scout pursues the eagle.

    Make sure that all leaders are comfortable with a scout achieving eagle at 14 or 15 so they have time to enjoy it and become an example for the troop. Good summer camp, water camp, monthly camping, leaders who counsel merit badges, good fund raising to reduce costs. Sometimes we the leaders have more influence that we realize on how hard things are. If you are uncomfortable with young eagles you may be the problem.

  53. My Scoutmaster Mentor, E. John Standeven, told me to keep the coal to the fire on a new Scout. Get him working on merit badges from the start. The Scout needs to set a goal of reaching Eagle Scout by his fifteenth birthday, before cars, dating, and high-school sports get added to his activities. So, planning for his success starts very early.
    Start an Eagle Scout application for every Scout, and fill in the dates of the required merit badges and the names and dates of the others as the Scouts earn them. Then you will be able to guide the Scouts in their Trail to Eagle.

  54. Good afternoon Mr. Phelps.
    Your assignment, should you and your Scout Team choose to accept it,
    is to create OPPORTUNITIES, not NECESSITIES for the boys in your Scout Unit.
    To help the boys organize themselves, not organize them.
    You may provide the End, but not necessarily the means to that End.
    Your assignment included providing an example to emulate, and not one to escape from.

    Please be advised , we understand this job will be attempted over several years, and not overnight. You may never realize the success of your efforts, and you may find that not everyone you come across will understand or appreciate what you at trying to accomplish.

    As always, should you or your Scout Team be recognized or discovered in the pursuit of these goals, the Chief Scout may, at his discretion, pay you tribute in the form of a colorful scrap of cloth. Or he may not.

    That’s all for today. Good luck, Mr. Phelps. This message will hang on the internet for the next 100 years.

  55. As the mother of a Tenderfoot drop-out and an Eagle Scout, and the Eagle Advisor to 25+ Scouts, one of the things I’ve learned is that not all Scouts want to be Eagles.
    Some Scouts are there for every Meeting, every Service Project and every Campout not because they want to advance, but because Scouting is the only safe place they have.

    I think it is important to remember that some kids just want a place to belong.

  56. My son has wanted to make Eagle since 6th grade. His first year goal was to make 1st Class in one year. He did that, so we discussed what he wanted to set as his next goal. He said he wanted to earn every Eagle required badge before the end of that year. With that goal in mind, we helped him line out which he should schedule at what time, Spring, Summer and Fall. He just about made his goal and felt great. Personal Management came in a month after his “deadline” and Camping 4 months after. Excited about goal setting now, he’s decided to earn every Eagle, not just the minimum. Two years into scouting, age 13, he only has one left. His next goal is to work on leadership skills for the next year, and schedule his Eagle project next summer. He will turn 15 that summer, and will have all requirements completed for BOR.

    The point is, be educated about the process and timelines, ask him his big goals, and help him break them into bite sized pieces.

  57. The Mission Statement of the Boy Scouts:

    The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is 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.

    Where is it stated anywhere that a Scout has to make Eagle Scout?

  58. Have random strangers (that you are comfortable with) approach your scout to tell them “Hi (scoutname). You really should finish your Eagle”.
    It took 5 months, but eventually, my youngest finally turned in his Eagle paperwork.
    We started at summer camp. A cute Venture Crew member on staff struck up a conversation with my youngest. He thought he was making a new “friend” when she tells him he really should finish his Eagle paperwork.

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