How To Succeed In Scouts BSA (And Rank Up Reliably!)


Your Scouting journey will be a thrilling adventure filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities. But, how do you make the most of your experiences at each rank? How do you progress with confidence? In this article, you’ll learn all of that and more!

In my early days in Scouting, I definitely felt like a small fish in a vast pond at times. Ranks like First Class, Star, and Life seemed like distant milestones, and the path to Eagle was filled with uncertainty. But, fear not! I’ve been in your shoes, and have learned some fantastic tips for making progress at each rank!

PS. This article is a collaboration between Eagle Scouts, Chandler M, and Cole 🙂

To begin, let’s go over the structure of this article. To help you out at whatever stage of your Scouting journey you’re at, these tips are broken down into 3 main sections:

Feel free to click on the section describing your current rank — or read through all of them to be a Scouting success expert! Now, without further ado, let’s dive into some of my best tips and lessons for making the most of your scouting journey at whatever stage you’re at!

Tips For Beginner Scouts (Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class Rank)

Getting started in Scouting can be a fun yet terrifying time. You’re the lowest on the totem pole, you don’t know anyone yet, and you’re unfamiliar with what’s expected of you. I was in that position once, so I know the feeling. Below are a few tips to make your transition into Scouts BSA an easier one!

Scouting Tip #1: Just Show Up

This is probably the most important thing that I learned as a younger Scout: just try your best to show up and be present! Asking questions and attending as many activities as possible will be your key to meeting new people, trying new things, and learning some important lessons well before your peers.

While it may be a little scary to put yourself out there as a young Scout, I promise that it will benefit you a ton! There will be a lot of activities available to you such as fun troop excursions, campouts, or service projects! Below are some troop outings that really helped me get comfortable:

Participate in Campouts

Even if you haven’t been on one yet, campouts will quickly become one of your favorite things to do in Scouting! Camping is a great way to meet your fellow Scouts, explore nature, learn new skills, and take a break from the busy world. I still camp often because of my memorable experiences in Scouting!

If you’re just getting involved, sign up for as many campouts as you can! In my first few years of Scouting, I went on nearly every trip that I could fit into my schedule. On these trips, I became friends with older Scouts and adult leaders whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Outings are a necessity for getting involved and should be attended no matter how long you’ve been a Scout.

Attend Meetings

Meetings aren’t always the most fun activity for a Scout. However, even though they’re not as exciting as camping or going on an adventure, troop meetings are essential. A lot of important information is presented during these times, especially if you’re a younger Scout.

To advance past the first few ranks, meetings are crucial. Here, you’ll meet with your patrol, work towards the next rank together, learn useful skills, play games, and build friendships. The information and relationships you gain through meetings will be instrumental as you progress toward Eagle!

Whatever you do, don’t skip out on meetings! Speaking from personal experience, you’ll regret it later. Despite being occasionally boring, you’ll pretty much always benefit from a meeting. Whether it’s a skill instruction, merit badge, or an upcoming outing, the benefits of troop meetings go to Scouts who are present and paying attention!

Help Out With Eagle Scout Projects

While you may be a long way from reaching Eagle, there are probably other Scouts in your troop that are getting close to the finish line. One of the last steps in becoming an Eagle Scout is completing your Eagle Scout Project. An Eagle Scout Project is a service project planned, set up, and carried out by the Scout.

These take a lot of work (speaking from personal experience), and help is greatly appreciated. This is where you can get involved! Typically, there will be a sign-up sheet for the project posted at a meeting. As a newer Scout, you should try to participate in as many of these Eagle projects as possible!

Through these projects, you’ll show older Scouts and leaders that you’re helpful and willing to put yourself out there. You’ll also meet new people and gain exposure to leadership examples for when it comes time for you to complete an Eagle Project of your own. This was something that I did as a young Scout and it helped me out a ton!

Scouting Tip #2: Build Relationships

Some of the most valuable friendships you make in life will be with the people you meet in Scouting. This sounds cheesy, but it’s coming from personal experience! Many of my close friends today are people I met as a young Scout. Whether they were in my patrol, older than me, or adult leaders, I still talk with them frequently!

This is something you realize when you’re older, and it’s too late, so I wanted to write this section: You’ll benefit significantly from building relationships with fellow Scouts and adult leaders! While you may advance in rank and complete merit badges individually, Scouting success is still a group effort. 🙂

It takes a lot of people to make Scouting work, and you’re all working together whether you realize it or not. Helping out wherever and whenever you can is a surefire way for others in your troop to notice and appreciate you!

Scouting Tip #3: Be Prepared

The Scout Motto is “Be Prepared.” This advice applies to every part of your life, especially Scouting. There is a lot of prep needed before attending any Scouting function. Staying on top of your supplies and how you’ll get them is an important skill to practice, and Scouting is the perfect place for it!

Below, I’ll list some basic things you should prepare for in Scouting. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of what to expect.

Your Scouting Uniform

One of the most important things to remember is your uniform. This will be required for every meeting, Court of Honor, and outing. Once you get the hang of packing and wearing your uniform, this won’t be too hard to remember, but I struggled with it in the beginning.

I have a great article that lists the costs for various uniform items with a full list of every item required on your uniform. I suggest checking it out if you still don’t have a complete uniform or need a list of items to bring on an outing. There are also often troop uniform inspections in most troops, so being prepared with a proper Scout uniform is essential!

Packing For Outings

Packing for outings is a skill that will only improve with practice. In the beginning, you’ll probably need a list of things to bring, but with time you’ll be able to pack without thinking about it. Paying for this gear is expensive initially, but it’s pretty much a one-time cost if you choose supplies from reliable sellers.

I have a helpful guide detailing the main Scout camping gear essentials, along with some bonus items I really liked bringing along as a scout to have an even more fun time. You should be sure to check the article out if you still need to pick up some trusty gear!

Scouting Tip #4: Put Yourself Out There

This is rather self-explanatory, but I feel like I should touch on it. As a younger Scout, you’re probably not familiar with the older Scouts, and they probably don’t know you. These older Scouts can be helpful resources; you just need to put yourself out there so you can meet them!

The best way to do this is by volunteering for things you wouldn’t normally do. Skill instructions and leadership positions can seem daunting as a younger Scout, but they’re the perfect way to meet new people, learn communication skills, and show your leadership potential.

Assuming responsibility while you’re a new Scout is a little scary, but I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s a valuable opportunity that will put you far ahead of your peers. Showing initiative is the only sure way to get the older Scouts’ and adult leaders’ attention and support. 😀

Scouting Tip #5: Pay Attention

This should go without saying, but if you’re anything like me, paying attention during meetings was rough. I was in your shoes once, whispering to my friends, playing games, and doing anything else to entertain myself and others! This definitely came back to bite me later on…

You could miss out on critical information if you don’t pay attention during meetings, skill instructions, or safety briefings! A lot is presented during sessions, giving Scouts an opportunity to join activities, learn a new skill, or gain vital safety information that may save a life.

One suggestion that helped me and many of my fellow Scouts was keeping a journal. This helped us stay more engaged with what we were discussing, and we could refer to it later. There are plenty of great notebooks available, but I’d highly recommend this waterproof one that I took along on campouts for years.

Tips For Intermediate Scouts (Second Class, First Class, Star Rank)

This is where you’re really in the thick of it! You’re now a seasoned Scout, with plenty of fun experiences under your belt, but you’re not to the end just yet. At this stage, Scouting can be the toughest. It takes some drive to push through to the end, but I promise it’s well worth it.

Below, I’ll give you a few tips to guide you through this intense part of the Scouting journey. My goal is to help you stick with it until the end so that you can reach the best part of Scouting and earn your Eagle Scout rank! Buckle up and let’s dive in…

Scouting Tip #6: Stick With It!

I touched on this already, but it’s a crucial point that I want to stress. This is the time in Scouting when Scouts tend to drop out. It happens in every troop. There are a lot of distractions at this point in your life between school, learning to drive, and socializing with friends, so reaching Eagle may not feel like a top priority.

Despite these distractions, I highly encourage you to stick with Scouting for the long haul. Some of the most fun you’ll have as a Scout is yet to come. It’s easy to get disheartened as some of your friends leave Scouting, and the same thing happened to me. However, it’s 100% worth seeing your journey through.

If I had left Scouting at this point, I would’ve missed out on some lifelong opportunities, including achieving the rank of Eagle Scout! Soon after that period, I went on two High Adventure trips, participated in several Eagle Scout Projects, and got to be the older Scout who delegated chores on the outings.

Take it from me: I promise Scouting is worth your time. I’ve benefited greatly from Scouting in my adult life thanks to all of the skills I’ve learned. I still look back on my time as a Scout fondly, and at many times wish I could go back and relive some of those experiences again.

Scouting Tip #7: Reach First Class Rank ASAP

Many Scouts get stuck right before getting their First Class rank. It’s pretty understandable, as First Class is a big step. If you plan to continue as a Scout, as I recommend, get First Class as quickly as possible. It will take a lot of work, but First Class is your first step to becoming an older Scout.

When I asked a few leaders in my old troop about when most Scouts leave, they said before First Class. We can debate all day why First Class seems to be an issue among Scouts, but the thing we can agree on is that it’s a pretty difficult step in the Scouting process. But, alternatively, once First Class is reached, you’ll be so much more likely to continue ranking up to Eagle.

To reiterate the point, get to First Class as quickly as possible. It may seem like you have a lot of time to work on it, but I promise your time in Scouting will fly by. If you need some help with the rank requirements leading up to First Class, I actually have some super-helpful ranking-up guides for you!

Scouting Tip #8: Prepare for the Road Ahead

At this point in Scouting, start thinking about achieving Eagle rank and the later stages of your journey. While you have some time, it will definitely help to plan ahead. I finished my Eagle Project early on, and this saved me a ton of stress down the road. Make sure to plan ahead as well!

Here is a solid list of things to prepare to make the most of your Scouting journey:

Building Leadership

For most of the later ranks, you’ll be required to hold a leadership position for some time. If you wait, you might be unable to rank up in time to reach Eagle. Leadership positions take a lot of time, so planning ahead is essential.

To start early, see what positions are available to you at your next troop election. Then, try to take on a position that you feel confident doing, or one that would teach you something new. I’d recommend speaking with a Scoutmaster and asking for their suggestion if no position calls to you immediately.

If you need some help finding out what each position does, you should check out my guide on the various troop positions in Scouting! This is a resource to help you prepare for any leadership positions you may take on now or in the future. You can even show your troop if you haven’t yet filled all of these roles. 🙂

Attending Service Projects

Nearly every rank and many merit badges require Scouts to help out in some sort of approved service project. Service requires a lot of time, so getting it out of the way as quickly as possible is best. Not only are service projects just a great thing to do, but you’ll also learn some valuable skills that will help you complete your Eagle Scout project!

Service is something you should continue doing for the rest of your life. Scouting is a great opportunity to build that foundation. I treasure some of the great times I had working on service projects — like cleaning a long-forgotten cemetery or repainting a local YMCA with some close friends.

My suggestion to you is to hop on whatever service projects become available. While they may not all be fun, they will help you complete your requirements, teach you some valuable skills, and build a foundation for a life of service!

Planning Your Eagle Scout Project

Finally, It’s time to start thinking ahead about what you want to do for your own Eagle Scout project. An Eagle Scout Project is a pretty big undertaking that requires a lot of your time. While you’d only begin seriously planning at Star or Life rank, you should definitely start thinking about it early on.

I have a bunch of guides on Eagle Scout projects, which I’ll link below for you to reference. However, here are the main components to take into account when figuring out what Eagle project you’d like to do:

  1. Brainstorm: The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what project you’re doing and where you’re doing it.
  2. Get Funding: Once you have your idea, recognize that some projects need fundraising, which can be a challenging process.
    • Fundraising requires approval too, so you’ll need to set some time aside time for planning and outreach.
    • If you need help budgeting for your Eagle project, check out my guide!

These are just a couple of the things you can do ahead of time to be more prepared. The closer you get to Eagle, the more of your project you’ll need to plan, so I definitely recommend starting as early as you can! 😀

Tips For Older Scouts (Star, Life, Eagle Scout Rank)

You’re on the home stretch! Even though you can probably see the end of your Scouting journey, don’t slow down. Keep your momentum going! This final stretch of Scouting is fun — but tough — and requires a lot of effort to achieve. I know you can push through!

Below, I’ll give you some tips to help you complete the last part of your journey. With the skills in your arsenal already, and even more helpful lessons below, I know you’ll make it to Eagle!

Scouting Tip #9: Jump Into Leading

Leadership is especially important towards the end of your journey. While you may have your leadership requirements out of the way, you are now the role model for a new generation of Scouts. It’s your duty to guide them through the beginning of their journey, just like the older Scouts that came before you.

Assuming a leadership role can be a challenge, but it’s also an invaluable learning experience. Leadership is a crucial skill that will only improve with time and be extremely useful later in life. Start developing your leadership now, and use this opportunity to teach some of the younger Scouts as well.

You don’t necessarily need to be Senior Patrol Leader, but you should find some leadership position that will allow you to give back to your troop. Stepping up is a wonderful way to show your appreciation at this stage in your journey, and you’ll probably learn a few new things along the way as well!

Scouting Tip #10: “A Life for Life”

A saying in my troop was that you stay “a Life for Life.” This was because many Scouts would reach Life rank, get too comfortable, and not finish. The worst time to quit is when the end is almost within reach. It may be tempting to slow down, but it’s essential to keep pushing until the very end to reach Eagle.

I know the journey has ups and downs, but you can make it! Your Eagle rank will look great later in life and provide you with key skills you can’t really learn elsewhere. You’ll have to be on top of your work and be proactive if you want to reach the end, but I can promise you it’s worth it.

I have an info-packed TrailMap To Eagle course to help you plan and track your journey to Eagle if you need a little extra help. The path may look tough now, but either way I know you can do it! Reaching Eagle is still one of my greatest accomplishments, as it took a ton of work but the benefits were incalculable.

Scouting Tip #11: Be Super-Organized 

On your way to Eagle, you’ll have to manage lots of paperwork, including project approval sheets, rank work, merit badges, and even some leadership documents. This can seem overwhelming. The best thing to do is to stay organized. Below I’ll give you some helpful things I did to stay organized:

  • Keep a Binder: Every older Scout should keep a binder or a folder to keep all their paperwork together. You’ll be juggling a lot towards the end, and it’s important that you know where everything is at all times so you can easily access what you need.
    • For my recs on keeping a binder, check out my article on setting up an Eagle Scout Binder!
  • Show Up: Towards the end, some Scouts get burnt out with meetings and outings. It’s completely understandable, but if you’re absent, you miss valuable opportunities to turn things in, meet with leaders, and get things signed off. No matter how tedious they can be, show up to meetings whenever you can!
  • Meet With Leaders: In order to keep track of your progress, meet with your Scout leaders whenever possible. They can help guide you through the later portion of your Scouting journey and keep you on track to finish before you hit 18 and age out.
  • Record Progress: Write down the steps you need to take to advance, what you need to complete, and who you need to meet with. This will help you track what’s next, document important information, and keep a running record of your progress.

Keeping all of your things organized can be difficult, especially when nearing the end of your Scouting journey, but it’s crucial to keep your things accounted for if you want to reach Eagle. Organizational skills are something that you’ll need later in life, and this is the perfect place to learn them!

Scouting Tip #12: Give Back And Be A Mentor

Now that you’re nearing the end, it’s time to give back! Many older Scouts probably helped you get to this point in your Scouting journey, so it’s vital you return the favor. Whether it’s teaching a younger Scout a skill, helping them plan a trip, or whatever else it is that they may need, it’s important to offer support where you can.

In my later years as a Scout, I frequently went on campouts and helped wherever possible. I would provide leadership to younger Scouts who hadn’t mastered certain skills yet, like putting up tents, cooking, or cleaning. It really helped the younger Scouts grasp some more difficult skills as older Scouts had done for me years before.

Younger Scouts will remember this help for years to come and appreciate what you’ve done for them (I know I did!). This is your way of giving back to the troop that pushed you through to the end, even when the going seemed tough. This is like your legacy to your troop once you Eagle out! 😀

Conclusion

Your Scouting journey will be sure to transform you into a more capable, kind, and service-minded person. By following each of the tips we covered in this article, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your time with your troop at whatever stage of Scouting you’re at!

Thanks for reading, and for supporting the betterment of our country through your involvement in Scouts BSA! If you enjoyed learning about this, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles if they spark your interest:

Before you go, I challenge you to start taking charge of your Scouting journey today! Finish some requirements on your own, volunteer to do more in your troop, or just read a bit of your Scout handbook. Doing so will help you to have an even better time with your troop. That’s all for now, best of luck on your Scouting adventures!

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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