One of the most dreaded parts of applying to colleges and universities are the supplemental essays. As an Eagle or Life Scout, you might be wondering how best to write about your Scouting experience — or maybe whether you should even include it at all (You should 🙂 ).
Worry no longer! In this article, we’ll be covering some of the best ways to make your Scouting experience shine on application essays and even the Common App. Plus, I’ve also pulled together some fantastic example essay passages so you can get a feel for the writing style of great college applications.
When writing about your Scouting experience on a college application essay, your main goal should be to tell a story about personal growth. The essay should be free of acronyms and understandable to most readers. The best topics to write about, for most scouts, are their: unique experiences, troop leadership roles, and Eagle Scout project.
However, there’s a lot more that goes into a successful application! Carefully read the section below to learn the best methods of structuring your application essay. Then, we’ll be jumping into some real-life examples of the best ways you could write about your Scouting experience to really make your application stand out to an admissions committee!
How to Structure a College Admissions Essay
Do you know the ways your Scouting experience can help you stand out on a college application? If you don’t, I’d highly suggest checking out the linked article! College admissions essays may be the trickiest documents you’ll ever write, as these personal statements require both conciseness and detail. Therefore, use everything you can to get a leg up! Your writing structure will be key to clearly communicating your message.
To create an effective structure, you first need to decide on your essay’s message. What is your main point for the beginning, middle, and end of your essay? Often, effective application essays begin with a story of a personal obstacle, guide your reader to the problem’s unexpected solution, and then end with a description of the lessons you’ve taken away from overcoming the challenge you’ve faced.
The Challenge->Solution->Takeaways structure is also effective when writing informative anecdotes in your essays. Here’s a quick excerpt showing of how I used this structure in one of my actual college application essays:
Challenge: In my freshman year of high school, a classmate and I were tasked with creating a joint presentation detailing the effects of GMOs on the environment. I had prepared my materials beforehand, so, naturally, I was excited to speak. My partner, however, had completely forgotten about the project and hastily began to plan a way out.
Solution: After I’d delivered my portion of the presentation, complete with graphics and pie charts, I anxiously stepped aside and began mentally preparing for my partner to get us both laughed out of the room. To my dismay, my partner resourcefully rolled a short but informative Youtube video relating to the subject, and then, in a stroke of genius, improvised a quick activity. In seconds, the entire classroom was gleefully chanting the NATO phonetic alphabet parodied to GMO-related terminology!
Takeaways: I was struck, and my B to his A was all it took to convince me that effort is not directly proportional to success. From that moment, I realized that I needed to think less about the work and product itself, and more about the audience that I was delivering my creation to.
I’m sure you have stories like this in your own life as well! In Scouting, maybe you thought you’d be a great leader right away, but later realized you needed to improve your approach. Maybe your path to Eagle had a few twists and turns. Either way, by using this structure, you can better place the reader in your shoes and guide them through an interesting and exciting journey.
Remember, the goal of your admissions essay should be to show as much of your personality to the reader as possible. Tell a story. Let them see you as a unique, endearing individual, and try to get them to like you. By describing a challenge, you show vulnerability and mark yourself as the kind of person who’s able to reflect, learn, and overcome difficulties.
Sample Outline For An Eagle Scouts Admission Essay
Now that you know how to effectively structure your story, it’s time to begin looking at a few essay samples that you can draw on for inspiration. As an Eagle Scout myself, there are 3 main Scouting topics and values I’d recommend writing about in your own application essays.
- Earning Eagle: Personal Growth and Persistence
- Leading Your Troop: Teamwork and Leadership
- Your Eagle Scout Service Project: Service and Contribution
Each of these three topics demonstrates values that are in high demand by universities. However, even if you don’t choose to write about these topics specifically, it’s still important to come up with a value-packed idea to serve as the core of your essay. I’d recommend watching the following video (8:51) for some great tips on coming up with your own essay idea.
Have a general idea for what you’ll be writing about? Great! Below, I’ll first be covering the best ways to capture your reader’s attention and frame your experiences. Then, with sample essays, I’ll be breaking down some of the best techniques for crafting a structurally-perfect application!
Capturing Your Reader’s Attention With Scouting
Your ‘hook,’ which serves to capture your reader’s attention, should be a concise but intriguing statement that reflects your personality. Hooks can take many different forms and engage the reader through the use of quotes, excamatory statements, or even questions.
Personally, this was the hook I used in one of my own college essays:
“Guten morgan, wie gehts. Ich heiß Cole. Ich bin seibzehn jahre alt.” I hear myself echo as I stand before my German class. Nervous, I mouth a half-smile and try to remain calm. Apprehensively making eye contact with the faces before me, even at a glance I can tell that this room is inhabited by people from all corners of the world.
Judging from her defined jawline and shining blond hair, the girl who’s absentmindedly looking away appears to be Russian. The bespectacled boy with the tousled dark hair who wears a badly-translated t-shirt seemed to be distracted as well, reading from what I can only guess to be a Chinese dictionary. Another girl sits beside me, dressed in alternative clothing and sporting a septum piercing; judging from her edgy look, one would never have guessed she was from the suburbs of Rhode Island.
Hearing the melody of birds chirping, I glance outside the window. On that beautiful Autumn afternoon in Switzerland, I see snow glistening on the Rhône glacier. It’s an enormous mass of brilliant blue hues, swirled together, filling the space between two gargantuan mountains: the Schwartz Horn and the Eiger. At that moment, a thought crosses my mind: “How on earth did I, just some kid from Hawaii, wind up in a place like this?”
While my introduction isn’t perfectly written, I think it does a solid job of capturing attention and pulling the reader down the page. Your essay should do the same! Keep in mind, my essay was about personal diversity and transitions, so this introduction really catered to my core theme. Your intro should also be informed by your essay’s main idea.
Now for some example hooks! If the focus of your essay is your Scouting experience, some possible hooks might be:
- I figured I’d peaked at the ripe old age of 13 years old when Scouting officially granted me the power to mobilize a legion of 12-year-olds in carrying out community service projects.
- I’ve recently come to the realization that community service just isn’t for me. Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.
- Inside the meeting room of South Church where I’d spent almost every Thursday night for the past six years, I held my breath as the whole troop stood by me awaiting a decision. What hung in the balance was the culmination of years of commitment and hard work since joining my Scout troop at age 12.
- Who’d have ever guessed that a single small disc made of fabric and glue was exactly what I needed to catalyze my passion for (Topic)? When I began working on the (Topic) merit badge…
Basically, the point of your hook is to first grab attention and then segway into a significant experience that will continue to intrigue your reader. Tell a story around your experience, then identify a key value that you’ve learned or embodied which will serve as the core of the essay.
In the next section, I’ll teach you to craft a thesis statement based on your core theme!
Eagle Scout Values as a Core Theme
Now that you know the point of your introduction, it’s time to get into the meat of your essay: your core theme. Your core theme should be based around the values that make you, you. Remember, a reader should be able to identify your core focus at least halfway through your essay. The most effective way to do this is with a thesis statement!
It might seem like you don’t need a thesis statement for an admissions essay but having one or two sentences to encapsulate your core theme will ensure that your essay is coherent from start to finish.
Using our examples from earlier, here’s what an effectively phased thesis might sound like:
- Earning Eagle: The 4 years it took me to earn Eagle taught me more about persistence, leadership, and growth than I’d learned in my previous 12 years of schooling. (What you do now, in contrast to your first story)
- Leading Your Troop: In my time with troop (troop), I’ve learned that skillful and supportive leadership can make any team greater than the sum of its parts. By appreciating each other’s faults and growing together, my patrol was able to put aside our differences and. (reference story)..
- Your Eagle Scout Service Project: Serving the (Area) community through my Eagle Scout Project was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Through collaboration, sheer will, and an overwhelming desire to do good, I was able to bring together (number) volunteers over a total of (time) manhours, to (your result). Now, when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, I (how you grew).
Remember, your thesis should perfectly suit your essay. Now that you know each of the ingredients for an amazing personal statement, it’s time to review some examples! Most of the experts agree that the best way to write well is to read good writing. Afterward, you’ll be ready to craft your own application and get that “Yes.” 🙂
Eagle Scout College Essay Samples and Examples
Below is a great excerpt from a personal statement that talks about a scout’s journey to Eagle. The writer does a fantastic job explaining the wide-ranging value of merit badges.
The Importance of Merit Badges
It was a long journey from an energetic adolescent to the mature man I am today. With every merit badge earned, I learned a valuable lesson about how to conduct my life.
For example, the Personal Management merit badge taught me how to manage a budget. The Family Life badge gave me the skills to pitch in and help my parents run a household. Two trips to West Point Military Academy for Scout jamborees exposed me to cadets who were studying to be US Military officers and made me think about a military career.
Leadership in Scouting
Leadership means holding yourself to a higher standard and putting your fellow scouts above yourself. In my last six years as a Scout, I have led others in finding their strengths, weaknesses, and encouraged boys to work as a team to accomplish a common goal. I started as an Assistant Patrol Leader and worked my way up to the highest leadership position, Senior Patrol Leader.
Reflecting on How to be a Great Leader
While in Scouting, I took on multiple leadership roles and gradually became more involved in my troop. With those roles comes a great responsibility. Once you become involved and have responsibility, it is up to you how you want people to recognize you. You can be the leader who just points fingers and gives orders, or you can be the leader who teaches others how to do their job, is involved, is supportive and gives rewards when it is appropriate to do so. It may be difficult to do, but a true leader puts others before himself.
Source: https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/01/14/what-scouting-did-for-me-a-recent-eagle-scout-tells-his-story/ Written by Ryan Eberlie
Your Eagle Scout Service Project
These experiences molded and shaped me. But the most significant experience came from completing my Eagle Project, during which I recorded the oral histories of eight war veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. As I listened to their stories, I learned the meaning of self-sacrifice.
The project took 140 hours—longer than a typical Eagle Project, but while I was working on it, I was not thinking about the time I was spending or even whether I would make Eagle if I completed the project. My only focus was on preserving the history of these noble citizens.
That is when I understood why I felt no different the night my Scout leaders named me an Eagle Scout. It was because what was inside of me—a commitment to public service and a willingness to sacrifice—had been there all along.
Also by Ryan Eberlie
Reading well-reviewed essay samples is something I did when crafting my own personal statement, and it definitely paid off! If you’re looking for more amazing personal statements to draw inspiration from, I’d highly recommend checking out the accepted essay collection from Johns Hopkins university
Now that you know what good writing sounds like, there are only a few more things you need to know to knock your personal statement out of the park! Firstly, try to place yourself in the admission’s officer’s shoes and connect your experience to what’s most relevant to them.
Consider, how will this experience help me at the school I’m applying to? What kinds of students are they really looking for? Have they seen an essay like mine before; is the story I’m telling unique enough? Use these questions to guide your writing, and connect your essay’s conclusion to your future ambitions. This, in itself, is a recipe for success!
Mistakes to Avoid on an Admissions Essay
Now that you’ve learned what to do when writing a college essay, it’s also important to keep in mind a list of things not to do. You’ll definitely want to avoid any cliche’s in your essay, and use impeccable grammar to convey your point. Remember, certain errors can make admissions officers immediately stop considering your application.
While we could spend hours talking about what not to do, I think the video (12:59) below does a great job of covering the most common mistakes students make. By avoiding these traps and improving your writing style by reading successful applications, every university will be dying to admit you!
General Tips To Keep in Mind While Writing Your Own Essay
In closing, here are 8 essential tips that you should keep front of mind when writing your essay. In this article, we’ve gone over a lot, but these points will help you to easily recall what we’ve covered so that you can write an incredible, engaging college essay!
- Conveying passion, critical thinking skills, and experiences, through a story, are key to making your application stand out.
- Essays should be free of grammatical errors. This is crucial! Get your English teacher to edit your essay, if possible.
- Don’t submit your first draft or even your second. Work and rework your drafts so that every word is strategically placed for maximum impact.
- Remember the Challenge->Solution->Takeaways structure we covered earlier. Use it to make your stories more engaging.
- After describing an experience, make sure you analyzing the skills that you’ve learned and developed as a result. Have clear introspection.
- Show your personality! Get the admissions officer to laugh or like you. Make it difficult for the reader to get bored or stop reading partway through.
- Read successful essays from previous years. By drawing on many sources, you’ll improve your writing and develop a unique style.
- Avoid common mistakes. Don’t use cliches and keep your essay flowing smoothly,
Got it? Awesome! With these tips, not only will you be able to craft an essay that’ll get you into your dream school — you’ll also be able to write competitively to win Eagle Scout Scholarships! Click the link to check out my painless guide to finding (and winning!) financial opportunities that are exclusive to Eagle Scouts. 🙂
You’ve made it! To thank you for sticking with me to this point, below are a few facts you might consider mentioning to bolster your application essay. Numbers lend credibility to your personal statement and could help to better communicate your accomplishments. Use them if they fit your theme.
- You’re part of the 4% of scouts who’ve earned the rank of Eagle! Alternatively, you can emphasize that 96% of scouts don’t reach Eagle.
- You’ve likely completed 100’s of community service hours and lead ambitious projects. Mention that!
- At a minimum, you’ve spent 2 YEARS of your life involved in Scouting to become an Eagle Scout. If that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is!
- You’ve earned at least 21 merit badges in an eclectic range of disciplines. The ability to master new skills is key to success in university.
At this point, if you’re not 120% sure of what you plan to write about, I’d highly recommend checking out my article on the 7 best skills to highlight on Eagle Scout college applications. If you exhibit these values in your own life, they might be the core idea of your accepted college application essay!
Give yourself a huge pat on the back for reading this far! That kind of persistence is also what helped you to reach Eagle, and likely what’ll get you into the university of your dreams. Wishing you all the best on your applications and beyond. 🙂