Life Scout to fellow Scouts: Do not rush your journey to Eagle

The true reward of becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t the fanfare at the finish but the experiences along the way.

That’s why Cameron, a Life Scout in Troop 424 of Katy, Texas, wrote a letter encouraging his fellow Scouts to slow down and enjoy the journey.

“I really would like for other Scouts to see and understand how rushing your Eagle isn’t the best option for Scouting,” he writes. “Scouting should be something that you want to do and not a chore.”

Through Scouting, Cameron (on the left in the photo above) has made lifelong friends, learned to communicate more effectively and become a better leader.

“If a Scout was to rush and not experience the path toward Eagle, he will not understand how to lead a group of young men his age,” he writes.

See Cameron’s complete letter, which he agreed to let me share on this blog, below.

Enjoy the journey

My name is Cameron, a Life Scout in Troop 424, currently working on my Eagle.

I am finishing my final Eagle requirements. I am here to let others to know that Scouts should not rush their Eagle but enjoy their path to it. Rushing will stress you out, and in the end you miss out on the full experience Scouting has to offer. I really would like for other Scouts to see and understand how rushing your Eagle isn’t the best option for Scouting. Scouting should be something that you want to do and not a chore.

One of the most important factors that Scouting will give, even after you have finished, are friendships that will last for years. Friendships form because of the things you have in common with fellow Scouts, and you learn about the person when you go to meetings and campouts with them.

Friends will also limit you so that you don’t go out and rush your Eagle because then you’d leave them in the dust. My friends and I stuck together and waited for each other to get to the same rank in order to complete our Scouting journey together.

A Scout also learns effective communication through Scouting by becoming a leader. Leaders are able to communicate to an audience and move projects forward. But leaders don’t just happen; a leader has to learn from others and not by themselves. If a Scout was to rush and not experience the path toward Eagle, he will not understand how to lead a group of young men his age. Yes, people can learn through classes or parents, but Scouting gives you an opportunity.

Don’t rush a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Take the time necessary to learn and comprehend what Scouting is giving you: friendships, leadership and a path in life.

Take it for a goal — not a chore.

22 Comments

  1. Great advice. Earning the rank of Eagle Scout is also often perceived as a finish line or terminus of the trail for the Scout. There is a lot to do as an active Eagle Scout and this goes overlooked.

  2. He has no idea how deep and long-lasting the friendships will be. I attended my first troop meeting at my second boyhood troop January 5, 1981. (6 days after moving to a new town.) That night, six of us formed the Owl Patrol. I moved away after High School, but 4 of the 6 of us earned Eagle, and are still in contact.

  3. Agreed – there are so many rewards to staying involved. Teaching younger scouts how to do things, watching and helping others meet their goals, improving your own outdoor skills, Order of the Arrow outings, high adventure, summer camp. Why leave that all behind?

  4. Advancement is at the boy’s own pace.

    I’ve personally known about a dozen Eagles who got Eagle at 17 and many months, and a half dozen or so who earned the rank at 15 or 16. To the Scout, the ones who finished earlier were happier about it for the simple reason they did not have to rush to beat another, more ominous deadline – their 18th birthday.The guys who got the rank at 17 years and many months, likewise, were all stressed in ways they wish they had avoided.

    And it’s true: rank is not necessarily accompanied by effective leadership. Likewise, the Eagle rank is not the end of the road.

    I tell all my Scouts to think of leadership, rank and their last day of Boy Scouts as three separate things. They should seek to advance whether or not they feel they are the best leaders they can be. They should all lead as well as they can regardless of rank.

    The Eagle Rank is many things, but it’s never supposed to be the end of a Scouting career.

    • Waiting until 17.5 to earn Life, and giving yourself only 6 months, causes a different kind of rushing!
      I often wonder, however, if we didn’t have that age deadline, how many boys would actually earn Eagle? Let’s face it, if you put it off until 17 thanks to no real pressure, with a continued lack of urgency you might put off until 19, then 21, then maybe when your an SM and the 100th scout asks you why you never earned it … maybe you’d try to wrap it up, but if the first 50 years of BSA is any indication, probably not.

    • I agree. I just earned my Eagle Scout as a 15 year old. I never felt rushed, and don’t plan on quitting. I always would just work on a merit badge to pass my free time, and I just earned my Eagle at a younger age.

  5. Nicely put Will.

    That may have been the issue “back in our day” when we had “time in rank ” requirements. Now, I don’t have a copy of the Handbook in front of me and haven’t been in the program since the mid 1990s, but a motivated Scout can advance to First Class inside a year. Issues from the Eagle Letter routinely had stories of 13 and 14 year olds earning Eagle. If they want to leave the program and pursue school sports or girls, more power to them.

    I earned Eagle at 17 and earned the Hornady Award (Bronze medal…this is when they had a selection board decide if you earned the Silver medal), being the fist in the Long Beach Area Council to do so. I also inspired another scout (Mark von Leffren) to do the same.

    • Even prior to 1989 when the time requirements went away for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class, it was still possible to earn First Class in a year. The difference in my opinion was that back then, Scouts “mastered the skill” , and the “badge represents what a Scout can do, not what he has accomplished.” as sas Green Bar Bill Hillcourt wrote in our handbooks. Sadly I see a lot of the “one and done” mentality

        • Not necessarily. Unfortunately I am seeing more “Eagles” who have not mastered the skills. In fact one there was one “Eagle” in my council that’s parents and grandfather so manipulated the process, that when national overruled both the district’s Eagle Board of Review and council advancement committee’s appeals board and awarded Eagle Scout to him, the entire district advancement committee resigned in protest.

          I met the “Eagle” at an event afterwards, and tried to start up a chat with him on Indian Lore MB which I’m a counselor for. I had just moved to the area and was interested in local tribes. When I asked him questions about Indian Lore, as well as a few other MBs including Eagle required ones, all I got was a deer in the headlights look. It was later that day I found out he was the “Eagle” that caused the district advancement committee to resign.

  6. Scouts should be allowed to work at their pace. If they want to rush that is fine. In my troop, the older scouts rush to beat the age deadline. The rest tend to enjoy the program and forget to get things signed off (even though they are learning).

    If a scout came to me and said he wanted to slow down, I would suggest that he earn his Eagle and remain active. It is the same effect (fellowship, leadership, and service) and ensures he has the badge even if something changes in his scheuldule.

  7. I agree with the overall sentiment of his letter, however he makes, or appears to make an assumption that I abhor: Your scouting ends when you get your Eagle rank. You are a Boy Scout until you are eighteen. You might earn your Eagle rank younger, older, in between, or never. However, that should not affect your leadership, learning, teaching, and other involvement in your troop and elsewhere. Every boy is different in when they advance. Your time and involvement in scouting can be more important than the rank you earned while there.

  8. From what I’ve observed, yes, you should rush your Eagle. Most boys get way too busy as high school progresses to have “quality” time to complete their requirements for Eagle. Would say best time to earn Eagle is at the end of 8th grade or early in high school, freshman year. Scouting shouldn’t end after the Eagle Scout, but time demands will change, with additional schoolwork, high school sports and clubs. So Scouting may take the form of high adventure, OA, Jamboree, occasional Troop meetings and campouts.

    • Well stated “EarlyEagle” — While each Scout is unique, there is considerable merit in the capable young boy getting Eagle prior to high school and be a resource to the younger Scouts rather than just another plodding their way forward. While some may say thank you for the Scouting Experience and Bye, they also can stay in Scouting A-with the Troop, and/or Explorining/Ventering/Sea Scouts; Palms with more Merit Badges, Nova Stem program, the Outdoor Award {of which very little is heard}. More choices, and not the turn 18 Eagle rush.

  9. I like this Eagle’s advice. Reminds me of the “Story of Two Eagles”

    Once there was a Scout who rushed through the Trail to Eagle because his dad, also an Eagle and Exploring Silver Award recipient, pushed and pushed and pushed. He earned Eagle in 2 years, and then promptly quit Scouting, only to rejoin when his son became a Tiger.

    Now the first Eagle had a cousin who also joined Scouts. Uncle pushed him to get Eagle as soon as possible, and he was well on his way to getting Eagle at 14. But something happened on his Trail to Eagle. First, he went through the NYLT of his day: BROWNSEA 22, and learned a lot of leadership skills. Next he was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, where he eventually was honored as a Vigil while a youth. Then he went on to attend a national Scout jamboree and do a 64 mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. After five years as a Life Scout, he finally earned his Eagle. After Eagle he remained active as an ASM, Sea Scouts, OA, etc.

    Who do you think had more fun as a Scout, my cousin the First Eagle, or me as the Second Eagle?

  10. We are asking the wrong question: when to earn your eagle. This assumes all scouts should earn eagle rank. I think that assumption is very damaging to the program. Not all scouts are Eagle Scouts. Frankly, I think about 1 or 2 in 10 are true Eagle Scouts. Most are pushed by parents or scoutmasters or ASM’s to “check the box” and get the rank for resume or pride or the “finish line” mentality discussed in the post. In my experience, far too many scouts “earning” Eagle have not been self-motivated, self-driven and self-managed. And if they are not, they are not true Eagles. What’s the point of checking a box, or a bunch of boxes, at any age? Eagle is NOT the point of scouting!!!! Encourage and support, but DON’T push!. Let scouts work and enjoy the program on their own. IF they Eagle, great. If they don’t, also great. (It means they weren’t Eagles, and that’s fine!) And to the “early eagle” poster above, the best age is 8th grade, and you “should rush”? If we assume that Eagle is not merely checking the boxes, but actually involves learning, growth, and a maturity level commensurate with — an Eagle Scout! — then we have to recognize that it is an extremely rare scout who has that at 8th grade.

  11. My son earned Life at 13, and slowly but steadily continued toward Eagle, earning it three years later. His schedule became more challenging as he aged–school, girlfriend, work, car, etc.–but his maturity level and leadership skills became very apparent in every setting. The timing felt “right,” with consistent encouragement.

  12. While waiting may seem like a good idea, I would say don’t put off until tomorrow what can be achieved today. Yes don’t hap-hazardous rush through the ranks, but tomorrow isn’t a guarantee and so so many things can change your life in a heart beat.

  13. I have mixed feelings on this. I lean toward taking their time. I was 17 when i received my Eagle. I do not think most 12-14 y/o boys have the maturity to understand what they are doing, and the responsibility to take on a real Eagle Project, not a lot of the watered down projects that we see being passed off as Eagle Projects just to take the easy way out. (This is a who thread of its own.)

    Yes, high school gets busy, but if you pay attention to what you’re doing at school, and in Scouts, they can compliment each other, and make Scouting easily.

    Case in point. My oldest son (Eagle) didn’t even join Scouts until he was almost 16, due to competitive sports (his choice). When he met with the Scoutmaster, his first statement and question was “I’m 15 y/o and 9 months. I will be an Eagle by 18. Are you willing to help me set up a timeline, and keep my to it, or do I find another Scoutmaster that will? He knew he could pull it off in 24 months. He got a little stressed with 6 months to go, and didn’t do anything for 3 months beyond meetings, campouts, some OA meetings.

    With 1months to go, he completed his project. He completed his last merit badge, Personal Fianance, the night before he turned 18. He already had the Eagle Application filled out, and just needed to write the date in for PF.

    He said that the merit badges were easy. All you need to do is pay attention to what you are scheduling at school. Most schools, especially the larger ones, have class offerings that parallel many of the merit badges. He was lucky. His school offered swimming, lifesaving, and sports conditioning as options to Phys. Ed. His swim coach was a merit badge counsellor for both Swimming & Lifesaving. He used Sports Conditioning for Personal Fitness. He managed to use school work and classes for all his required Eagle MB”s (except for Camping), and several other MB’s.
    AND this with someone who had an outrageous schedule. AP classes, Varsity Swimming, International Club, Spanish & German clubs, Literary Magazine lead illistrator, City Park Board committee member, County Parks Wildlife Rehab volunteer, CCD teacher, and worked 12-16 hours a week as a lifeguard, and a girlfriend from another school district. It all comes down to time management.

    I also encourage Scouts & Scoutmaster’s to look at doubling the Eagle Project as a Hornady Project if the Scout has the right combination of nature related merit badges to earn a Hornaday Award. It just requires a second write up for the Hornady Committee. With a computer we are talking about some cutting and pasting at best. So many Scouts have no idea what the Hornady Program is, and that they may already qualify for the Hornady Badge, if not one of the medals. Scoutmaster, be knowledgeable, and help your Scout get as much mileage for the his buck as you can.

  14. My son was never a cub scout. We joined scouts when he was just able to join boy scouts. At first he didn’t like it. I made a deal with him that if he made it to first class and wanted to quit I would let him. In the first year and a half he made first class. In Jan. At 13.5 he made eagle. He was lucky because we homeschooled he could use the merit badges as curriculum and he learned a ton. He did have to fight to get a board because there were those who were afraid he would get eagle and quit but his goal now is to get every merit badge and nova award and be an example to the younger scouts. I m extremely proud of him. I see some of the older boys srltressing out about the possibility of aging out and now my son can relax and really enjoy scouting. I pushed for the ranks before first class but the rest was up to him. His eagle project was building a disk golf course with the city.

  15. My son set a goal of eagle at 13. He passed his eagle bor at 13, 6 months and 1 day.

    Currently has two palms.

    Along the way he earned honor patrol twice, was elected aspl, then spl to back to back terms.

    He is a brotherhood member of oa.

    He has 52 merit badges that his mother and I were counselors on only 4 minor ones.

    He is a den chief in the pack.

    After not running for spl again he chose to run and get elected to troop guide to help the youngest scouts.

    He is ilst and nylt trained.

    He has a handful of other awards.

    The point is not to brag on him (though he deserves the credit) but to point out that he advanced at his own pace. Neither his parents or troop set a goal or even emphasized eagle. And he had a good time, has made good friends and attained a lot of knowledge.

    He stays active in the troop and teaches what he learned.

    He learned from other scouts, eagles and non eagles.

    As advancement chair I always tell new scouts and their parents it doesn’t matter when you get eagle or even if you get eagle.

    The troop should give every opportunity to advance and the scout should set his pace and goal. The key there is the SCOUT should set it.

    I know and have known many scouts who earned eagle young and those that earn it older that are fine scouts. As well as plenty of fine scouts who never earn it.

    He asked me a couple of times along the way whether he was moving too fast because others who spoke out of place said so.

    I always responded are you having fun? Are you learning? And can you teach what you’ve learned?

    If a scout can answer yes to those questions and no one is pushing him, who is to say he’s moving too fast?

  16. Every scout is different. My 14 year old son earned Eagle recently. He’s young, but he is very mature. He’s a high school Freshman, and I’m the one who encouraged him to get his Eagle early. He is currently ASPL, and will be the SPL in July. He helps the younger scouts, and they look up to him. , For him, getting his Eagle rank was a huge accomplishment, but it’s just a stepping stone to many more years with scouting. He plans to get all 3 palms. The key is to enjoy the steps along the way!

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