These 8 often-overlooked words in every merit badge pamphlet mean a lot

A Scout works with his counselor on the Animation merit badge.

When Scouts earn merit badges, they get more than a small patch for their merit badge sash.

They get hands-on experience in future career paths, college majors and hobbies. They become better-rounded individuals who, like a skilled Jeopardy! player, seem to know something about everything.

That thought came to mind when I flipped open a merit badge pamphlet recently and saw eight words on the first page. The words were added to pamphlets around 2013, but I hadn’t noticed them before.

Perhaps you have overlooked them as well.

The eight words are: “Enhancing our youths’ competitive edge through merit badges.”

Pretty powerful stuff — and a fitting first impression for a title page.

The implication is that when young people earn a merit badge — be it one or 100 — they become more competitive in life. That makes them more likely to earn scholarships, land a fulfilling job, or enroll in a good college or trade school.

‘Competitive edge’

When you ask Scouts to describe the process of earning a merit badge, you might hear words like “fun,” “epic” and “eye-opening.”

But the decision-maker at a job, college, vocational school or scholarship committee might see things differently.

They might understand that this person has become a mini-expert in dozens of distinctive fields. They’ll see this person’s appeal goes beyond book smarts to encompass sports, crafts, science, trades and business.

All other things equal, merit badges might be the edge a young person needs to get wherever they want to go.

Speaking of, why not include a sentence or two about merit badges in a résumé or cover letter? Explain to that decision-maker, through a brief but powerful anecdote, just what kind of competitive edge the merit badge program provided.

Likes … and dislikes, too

We often hear stories about young people who were driven toward a particular career because of a merit badge.

Merit badges like Dentistry, Drafting, Law, Surveying, Welding and many more are directly linked to actual, well-paying jobs.

But the opposite can be true, too.

Sometimes when young people earn a merit badge, they learn what doesn’t interest them.

Realizing you have no chemistry with Chemistry is only a $5 lesson in the form of a merit badge pamphlet … rather than a $12,000 lesson for a semester at college.

Extrapolate that cost over four years, and the debt really adds up. This puts an actual dollar value on discovering what you don’t want to do.