Rank-Up Tips For BSA Scouts: The Fast Path To Earn First Class Rank


First Class rank is a turning point in Scouting. Once a Scout has reached First Class rank, they’ll have learned all of the basic skills for troop success. At this point, Scoutmasters and leaders will likely even start to recognize these Scouts as older, more experienced members of the troop. It’s kind of a big deal!

What’s the best way for Scouts to advance to First Class rank? The most important thing when working towards First Class is prioritizing Scouting and putting in effort. If you don’t set goals and put in the work to advance, you’ll likely notice yourself falling behind. Conversely, if you care about the program and spend time on advancement, that passion and effort will pay off in the end! 

That being said, the trail to First Class isn’t always easy. Advancing in Scouting means putting in work, persevering through difficulties, and advocating for yourself. As you work towards being a First Class Scout, you’ll hopefully grow, not just as a member of your troop but also as a person!

PS. This article is a collaboration between Star Scout, Mary-Blakely, and Eagle Scout, Cole 🙂

In this article, I’ve compiled a list of 8 tips, tricks, and mindsets I learned (through many setbacks) on my own path to becoming a First Class Scout. By putting these methods into action, I’m confident that you’ll have a smoother path to First Class and an even more rewarding Scouting journey!

So, without further ado, let’s dive into advancement tip number 1…

Set Goals!!!

I can’t overstate the importance of setting goals (especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator like yours truly 😛 ). By focusing on making progress consistently, you’ll reach First Class rank in no time. This is because a goal and deadlines will motivate you to actually get work done, instead of sitting around without a plan and thinking you have plenty of time.

Take a look in your Scout book at the next rank you need to earn and consider the following questions:

  • How many requirements do I have left?
  • How time-consuming do I expect them to be?
  • How much time do I think I reasonably need to reach this rank?

Based on your answers, pick a date by which you want to advance. If you’re not sure, ask an adult leader to help you pick your deadline. Once you’ve chosen your deadline, write your goal rank and goal date in your Scout book and on your calendar. Once written, you’re already much more likely to achieve your goal!

Here’s an example goal and deadline:
I will reach Second Class rank before March 24 by finishing the 14 requirements I have left. Since 3 must be completed during a camp, I’ll be sure to finish those 2 weeks beforehand, at camp Mayfair.

To make it even more likely you’ll meet your deadline, consider putting your goal somewhere you look often to ensure you don’t forget what you’re working towards! Your refrigerator or a wall in your room might be the perfect spot. By monitoring your progress, week after week, you’ll have reached the next rank in no time!

For more help learning to set Scouting goals for fast advancement, be sure to check out my TrailMap To Eagle online course!

Get to Scout Rank Sooner Than Later

Scout, the first rank you’ll earn, is also the simplest in comparison with those that follow. It covers the basics of Scouting, such as the Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan; the patrol system; and how to advance in rank. It also includes basic knot-tying, discusses pocketknife safety, goes through youth safety, and more.

If you’re trying to rank up quickly, it’s super possible to earn Scout rank in under three weeks! However, make sure you’re actually absorbing the material. The best way to stay involved in Scouting for the long haul is to enjoy your journey and get the most out of it!

No matter the time it takes you to reach Scout rank, be sure not to procrastinate. And, if you need it, ask for help! Remember: the satisfaction of advancing and the support of those around you will serve as motivation as you move on to the higher ranks. 😀

Group Requirements Together

Did you know that you can work on advancement requirements for more than one rank at a time? Even if you’re working towards Scout rank, you can still complete requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class (To see my helpful guide to rank requirements, click here)!

This tip should be super helpful for most Scouts, especially when it comes to completing event requirements that go beyond discussion. A few examples of these requirement types could be demonstrating swimming rescues or picking a spot to set up your tent on a campout.

Tackling similar requirements at once can save you a ton of time, especially for those that require special outings or locations, like attending a campout or visiting a body of water. Here are some requirements you could group together:

  • Camping: Tenderfoot 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b; Second Class 1c, 2b, 2c, 2e; First Class 1b, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 5a, 9c
  • Aquatics: Second Class 5b, 5c; First Class 6a, 6e
  • First Aid: Tenderfoot 4a, 4d; Second Class 6a, 6b; First Class 7a, 7b
  • Flags: Tenderfoot 7a; Second Class 8a
  • Knots and Lashings: Scout 4a, 4b; Tenderfoot 3a, 3b, 3c; Second Class 2f, 2g; First Class 3b, 3c, 3d

This can be a lot of information to cover at once, so make sure you confidently know everything you’re planning to get signed off before attending any event. But at the same time, don’t pressure yourself to do everything all at once! It’s completely alright if you don’t get everything done on one trip.

In fact, space your camping requirements out over two or three outings so that you can better understand the concepts. Putting in the effort to group requirements together will still pay off in the long run, even if that means you get just one more signed-off than you would have otherwise. 🙂

Look Ahead For Potential Setbacks

As you advance, keep an eye out for requirements that may take extra effort to get signed off. For example, First Class 4a, completing a 1-mile orienteering course may take time if there isn’t one in your community. Many Scouts procrastinate on these requirements, but knowing that they’re there ahead of time can help you to be prepared.

Some of the most difficult requirements you’ll need to complete to reach First Class include:

  • Scout 6: WIth your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet How to Protect Your Children From Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide and earn the Cyber Chip Award for your grade.
  • Tenderfoot 6b: Develop and describe a plan for improvement in each of the activities listed in Tenderfoot requirement 6a. Keep track of your activity for at least 30 days. (Similarly, Second Class 7a and First Class 8a)
  • Second Class 3b: Using a compass and map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.
  • Second Class 4: Identify or show evidence of at least ten kinds of wild animals (such as birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks) found in your local area or camping location. You may show evidence by tracks, signs, or photographs you have taken.
  • First Class 9a: Visit and discuss with a selected individual approved by your leader (for example, an elected official, judge, attorney, civil servant, principal, or teacher) the constitutional rights and obligations of a U.S. citizen.
  • First Class 9b: Investigate an environmental issue affecting your community. Share what you learned about that issue with your patrol or troop. Tell what, if anything, could be done by you or your community to address the concern.

Remember, this list is not all-inclusive. A requirement’s level of challenge always depends on you and your troop, which means some of these may sound easy to complete, and others that aren’t listed might be much more challenging for you.

For any Scout, I’d recommend reading through the entire BSA handbook to familiarize yourself with the concepts you’ll be learning in the coming months and years. Then, identify the requirements that might set you back, and make a plan to get them signed off!

Track Your Journey

In order to advance, the ranks leading up to First Class require that you attend a certain number of outings, accrue numerous service hours, and more. This means that you have to keep track of your activities. Don’t expect your leaders will do this for you!

To reach First Class rank, some activities and events you should track include:

  • Camping nights
  • Service hours
  • Outings attended
  • Frost points (degrees below zero it reached on your overnight campout — in some councils, 100 points qualifies you for the 100 Points of Frost Award)

On top of that, some of the hardest requirements in Scouting involve tracking things for a specified period of time. For example, fitness (Tenderfoot 6b, Second Class 7a, and First Class 8a) and a saving plan (Second Class 8c). Prioritize these! While they may seem simple at first glance, keeping up with a plan regularly is very challenging.

These tracking requirements will also appear in many merit badges, including Family Life, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management, all of which are Eagle-required. The links are to guides that’ll help you get started! Focusing on building your skills by tracking your activities will help you immensely when you get to these merit badges later on.

Start Merit Badges Early

Even though you don’t technically need merit badges before First Class, I highly recommend getting started early on. This especially applies to Eagle-required merit badges! Keep an ear open for merit badge counselors in your area holding workshops.

Additionally, summer and winter camps are some of the best places to sign up for merit badge classes. There, I’d highly recommend earning at least one Eagle-required badge each year. However, the most reliable method is to pick a merit badge subject that interests you, find a counselor, and work on the requirements in your free time!

You’ll thank yourself once you reach First Class and don’t have to rush to finish six merit badges before you can advance again! To start figuring out which Eagle-required badges will be best to earn, make sure to check out my article on The Easiest (And Hardest) Eagle-Required Merit Badges, along with when to earn them.

Get Involved and Make Friends

It’s challenging to stay motivated to rank up if you don’t regularly attend meetings or outings. Getting involved and staying involved means going to meetings as often as possible. It also means signing up for outings!

You don’t have to go to everything (as a matter of fact, I don’t recommend this, especially if your troop has very frequent outings), but outings are arguably the most fun times in Scouting. Don’t overcommit, and don’t undercommit. It’s a difficult balance to master and it’s different for every Scout.

Plus, community is a huge part of being a Scout. Your fellow Scouts and your leaders will support you and encourage you to reach your goals. Of course, the support of other Scouts requires you to actually get to know them.

I’m lucky to have been a founding member of my troop, so we created our troop community from scratch. However, I definitely know what it’s like to join a group where I didn’t know anyone and had to find my own friend group.
It’s really challenging! But, while stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t fun at first, I promise it will be worth it.

I’ve found that another great way to grow closer with your fellow Scouts is to go on overnight camping trips. Temporarily living with your troop is great for forming and strengthening bonds! 😀

Stay Engaged

It’s easy to get caught up in other activities — like homework, sports, or other extracurriculars — and lose track of Scouting. It’s totally alright for Scouts to join the program without the intention of advancing to higher ranks, but if your goal is First Class (and eventually Eagle), Scouting needs to be high on your priority list. It’s okay to go through busy and chaotic times, but if you put Scouting on the shelf for too long, you may find it difficult to catch up.

Early in my Scouting journey, I couldn’t attend troop meetings for three months because of another commitment I’d made for the same time. This wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if I had prioritized Scouting during those months. However, without weekly meetings to remind me of my goals, I pushed aside my advancement requirements, which set me back when I returned.

If you’re discouraged because you don’t think you have time for Scouting, I challenge you to set aside just fifteen minutes (or another amount of time that works for you) every day to work on advancement. That time adds up quickly and keeps you from slowing to a halt on your progress!

Conclusion

Thank you so much for reading! I hope I provided you with some helpful tips and pointers. If you liked this article, I encourage you to check out some of these others which may also be helpful as you delve into Scouting:

Before you go, I challenge you to open up your Scout handbook and quickly skim through every requirement you’ll need to complete to earn First Class! Then, set a goal and get started! I’m wishing you the very best of luck as you work towards First Class and beyond. You’re going to crush it! 😉

About the Author: Mary-Blakely is an aspiring Eagle Scout from Troop 134, who is so grateful for the community she’s found and skills she’s learned through Scouting. She can’t wait to continue learning, growing, and glorifying God throughout her adventures, and hopes her writing will help you do the same.

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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