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Frequently Asked Questions

In a recent discussion about advancement and advancement issues, it was asked if there are some issues that are addressed more often than others.  At the time it was not an easy question to answer.   But after pondering on the question, there are a few issues that are raised over and over.  Here are just a few of the many frequently asked questions.


Q: Doesn't make sense that a boy has to be First Class to take merit badges? Who made that rule?
A:  There are over 100 merit badges. Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time, although there may be restrictions on a few badges. You do not need to have had rank advancement to be eligible.
Q: We require a Life Scout to make 75% of the outings to be an Eagle in our Troop.
A:  The requirements for Eagle do not include attending a specific number of outings. The Boy Scout Handbook outlines the requirements.

Q: If a boy is also active in school sports or band and cannot make every meeting or outings is he still considered active? The first requirement for Eagle is that a scout be "active" in his unit for at least six months after attaining the rank of Life. So what is being "active?"


A:  National has defined what is being "active." According to the Guide to Advancement, a scout will be considered 'active' in his unit if he is: (1) Registered in his unit (registration fees are current); (2) Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons; and (3) Meets the unit’s reasonable expectations, or if not, a lesser of activity is explained. If a Scout does not meet a unit’s reasonable expectations of activity a board of review may consider the reason for not doing so. They must consider that a Scout usually has other responsibilities such as family, school, community, religious or jobs and he may well be exhibiting Scouting values in those other areas. The board may then consider those activities as being “active” if that is the explanation offered by the Scout. In considering the question board members should ask, “Would the Scout have been more active if he could have been? If so, for purposes of advancement, he is deemed “active.”


Q: Isn't Scout spirit attending most of the weekly meetings and monthly outings?


A:  Actually, Scout spirit is defined by the Boy Scouts of America. Refer to page 30 in the new Boy Scout Handbook. It states that "you show Scout spirit by making the Scout Oath, Scout Law, and motto and slogan part of your life." There is a full page that discusses the meaning of Scout Spirit and is worth reading. It should be required reading by Scouts, parents and leaders.



Q: Who has final “approval” after a Scout has completed all requirements for a merit badge?


A:  The merit badge counselor determines when a Scout has satisfactorily completed requirements for a merit badge and then signs the “blue card.” The Scoutmaster’s signature on the “blue card” only signifies that the merit badge has been recorded by the troop. The Scoutmaster may not examine the Scout to determine if the requirements have been met. Once a Scout has earned a merit badge and has been signed off by a registered counselor for that badge, the badge may not be taken away.



Q: How long is a “partial” good for a merit badge?


A:  A partially completed merit badge is means that a Scout has completed some but not all of the requirements. A scout has until his 18th birthday to complete the “partial”.

Q: Who determines when a Scout is “ready” to pursue a particular merit badge?


A:  The Scout decides when he wishes to pursue a merit badge. He may not be denied permission to do so.



Q: If an approved Eagle project must be amended due to unexpected changes, who may determine if it is OK to do so?


A:  As projects are planned, changes usually are necessary. If they are major, it is important to confirm they are acceptable to the beneficiary. You should also share major changes with those who approved your proposal (District Advancement Committee), and also with your coach to be sure you still have a chance of passing the board of review.

Q: Who is responsible for telling a new Life Scout where to obtain the materials necessary to pursue Eagle rank?


A:  It is the responsibility of each troop to direct the new Life Scout to the Connecticut Yankee Council web site so that he may obtain the three pieces of information necessary for him to continue his path to Eagle rank. Those pieces of information are: the Eagle Scout Rank Application, the Eagle Scout Project Workbook, and the contact information of each district advancement chair from the Council Advancement Committee. It is suggested that each troop have a designated person to inform the Scout of this and that it be done as soon as the Scout earns his Life rank.


Q: What is “duty to God?”


A:  “The BSA believes that, to be the best kind of citizen as possible, a Scout must recognize his obligation to God. However, religious instruction is the responsibility of the Scout’s family and his religious institution.”


Q: What qualifies as a non-Eagle service project?


A:  The Scoutmaster must approve such service hours before the project is started. Projects may be done as an individual project or as a troop or patrol project. They may be any project that is a service to others and include work done on another Scout’s Eagle project.


Q: Who sits on a non-Eagle board of review?


A:  A non-Eagle board of review consists of a minimum of three and maximum of six unit committee members. A Scout’s unit leaders, assistant unit leaders, relatives or guardians are never members of his board of review.


Q: How often are boards of review held?


A:   “Whenever a Scout completes all the requirements for any rank, from Tenderfoot through Life, he appears before a board of review. He does so after having a conference with his Scoutmaster. Boards of review should be scheduled at least monthly so Scouts are not delayed in beginning time-oriented requirements for the next rank. Note that when a Scout has completed all the requirements for a board of review and then requests to have one, he may not be denied a board of review.”  It should be noted that a board of review maybe held for Scouts who are not advancing. 

Q: What happens when the board of review determines that a Scout is not ready to advance?


A:   “If the board decides that the Scout is not ready to advance, the candidate should be informed and told what he has not done satisfactorily. The members of the board of review should specify what must be done to rework the candidate’s weaknesses and schedule another board of review for him. A follow-up letter must be sent to a Scout who is turned down for rank advancement, confirming the agreements reached on the actions necessary for advancement. The appeal procedure should also be explained so if the Scout disagrees with the decision he knows he has the right of appeal. .Should the Scout disagree with the decision, the appeal procedures should be explained to him.


Q: What is the appeal procedure when a Scout is turned down after a board of review?


A:   “All appeals, under any circumstances, shall initially be directed to the next highest level. If the decision leading to the appeal occurred at the unit level, the appeal shall be directed to the district committee responsible for advancement. If the decision leading to the appeal occurred at the district level (i.e., an Eagle Scout board of review convened by the district), the appeal shall be directed to the council committee responsible for advancement. A decision at either level finding in favor of the Scout shall be final. Units have no right of appeal of a decision.”

“If the initial decision was made at the council level, or if the council advancement committee upheld the unfavorable finding of the district advancement committee, the Scout or his parent(s) or guardian(s) may appeal to the national Boy Scout Committee. All requests for appeal shall be made in writing, signed by the Scout and/or his parent(s) or guardian(s), and shall set forth in detail the reasons for requesting an appeal.”
“Appeals to the national Boy Scout Committee shall be processed through the local council, and … All decisions of the national Boy Scout committee in reference to appeals shall be final”


Q: What happens if a unit leader or committee chair refuse to recommend a board of review or refuse to sign an Eagle application?


A:  “In such cases, the Scout or his parent(s) or guardian(s) may appeal the decision to the committee responsible for advancement at the next level… The committee hearing the appeal shall then grant the Scout a board of review and appoint its members. In such cases, the committee hearing the appeal shall decide to grant or not to grant a board of review.”

“If a unit leader or unit committee fails to sign or otherwise approve an application, the Eagle candidate may still be granted a board of review. The failure of a unit leader or unit committee to sign an application may be considered by the board of review in determining the qualification of the Eagle candidate.”


Q: If a Scout does not “pass” a Scoutmaster conference, when does he get a board of review?


A:  Note that this is a trick question. “The requirement for advancement is that the Scout participate in a Scoutmaster conference, not that he “pass” the conference. When advancement is going to be deferred, the Scout should not come to the Scoutmaster conference thinking that everything is OK and then be surprised that his advancement is deferred. He should have had plenty of warning and guidance prior to the Scoutmaster conference. This is not a time to shut the door on advancement, but rather to work with the Scout to create goals that will allow him to succeed. However, even after a negative Scoutmaster conference for the ranks of Tenderfoot to Life, if the Scout desires a board of review, he should be granted his request.”

Q: How frequently should courts of honor be held?


A:  “Formal courts of honor should be conducted at least four times a year. All Scouts who have advanced since the previous court of honor are honored. Their parents and friends should be invited to attend the ceremony.”  It should be noted that badges earned by Scouts should be presented as soon as possible after they are earned; they should not be held until the next court of honor. Courts of honor are a public recognition of awards earned and it is suggested that if the badges have already been presented, the “court of honor cards” may be formally presented.


Q: When is a Scout given his merit badges and rank badges?


A:  Presentations of merit and rank badges should not wait for courts of honor; awards and badges should be presented at the next meeting after they have been earned and the Scouts recognized (perhaps presented with the “court of honor cards” that accompany the badge) at the next court of honor.


Q: How may handicapped Scouts participate in a traditional unit?


A: Scouts who are physically or mentally handicapped are encouraged to participate in any traditional unit by taking advantage of either one or both options offered to them. (1) The Scout or his parent may apply for an age waiver, meaning that the youth is permitted to continue in the program without age limitations. The Scout must still meet pass requirements as written for advancement but this option will enable him to take as much time as he needs to complete them. (2) The Scout or his parents may request alternate requirements is he is physically or mentally unable to complete advancement requirements as they are written. These two options may be utilized separately or together. Please consult the Guide to Advancement to read about the specific instructions to follow for each of these options and speak with your district advancement chair about how to present the request.


Q: How do I become a merit badge counselor?


A: A prospective counselor must complete a new BSA Adult Application (Council copy page); Disclosure Authorization Form (part of adult application); a Merit Badge Counselor Information sheet; and provide a copy of his/her Youth Protection Training certificate. Those three items should be sent directly to the appropriate district advancement chair. There is no charge and not troop approval signatures are required. Merit badge counselor is a district position and the district advancement chair will sign for approval. Even people already registered in another Scouting position must provide all four documents in order to be placed on the counselor list.


Q: What happens when requirements for a badge change while a Scout is working on that badge?


A: Most changes take effect on January 1st of the next year although the changes may be published before that date. Scouts who begin work on the rank or merit badge after January 1st must comply with the new requirements; Scouts who are already working on that badge before the requirements change may continue working under the old requirements or, if they choose, they may switch to the new requirements.


Q: How do we, as a unit, know we are following all the rules of Scouting?


A:  Along with the unit leader handbooks every unit should have a copy of the current Guide to Advancement. The information in this book will greatly assist you in being sure you are offering the best program for your Scouts.           .

Q: When verifying my Eagle application, it was noted in the official BSA records that there was no record of earning the rank of Second Class. What do I do?


A: Have the advancement chairperson in your troop check their records for an advancement report (pink copy). If that cannot be located, your scout handbook will have the page with all the sign-offs as you completed the requirements for Second Class. It should have the sign-off including date of your Second Class board of review. Your advancement chairperson should enter this information into Internet Advancement. This will update your official BSA records and show you earning the rank of Second Class.


Q:  What restrictions may a troop place on a Scout before signing his Eagle Service Project Workbook proposal? 



A: None.  The only requirement is that a Scout be Life rank before submitting his proposal.  The only reason not to sign off on a proposal would be if there is a problem with the project itself or in the way it is written.  The unit may not place any restrictions such as attendance or completion of merit badges upon the Life Scout.