The College App Star

There is a gem waiting for the college application that any child can start now...

The college app star

Now that Scouts, formerly known as Boy Scouts, is finally open to girls, I can explain why the Eagle Scout rank is a permanent advantage on any college or job application.

If your child is in 5th or 6th grade, you're also at step zero in the process and haven't missed anything. If your child is in 7th grade, they can get up to speed quickly, because a 7th grader can do twice the work of a 6th grader twice as quickly.

I'll give you 3 reasons that illustrate the Ah-ha moment before hitting you over the head with the punch line.

The boring reason

Scouting is made of two sets of activities. One set is all the fun things that scouts and their parents like to do. This is a long list that includes camping and hiking in the summer, luging and physics disguised as aircraft maintenance in the winter. The other set of activities is showing up to the weekly meeting and getting ready for the fun activities. The weekly meetings vary in their entertainment value from not at all to slightly, but this is the value driver of the Eagle Scout rank for admissions officers and hiring managers.

The value proposition that I put in front of my kids for the boring part is this: You are going to take a 90 minute break once a week from sitting around with screens and sit around with other scouts actually talking face to face. Non-negotiable. The fun things that will keep them in Scouting for another year? They discover these activities on their own. I just need to get them over the immediate hurdle.

The less boring reason

At some point, the kids have to learn how to tie knots and which knot is used for what. When this training is presented to adults, we're usually confused and frustrated and politely voice our concerns without expletives (another useful skill). Then we promptly forget everything we learned until the topic comes up on a camping trip and ask the scouts for help. Scouts aren't so lucky - they need knots, and dozens of other skills because in Scouting, the adults don't help with setting up tents, cooking, or the other activities.

Multiply this experience times 50 and you can imagine how it would impact a difficult subject or work issue.

For those parents who were involved with Cub Scouts, I stress that parents aren't really involved with Scouting. (Scouting is the term for the big kids.) The kids do all the planning, management, leadership, chopping wood, building fires and everything else. Adult volunteers are always welcome, but my presence on hiking trips is because I like cheap family vacations, and I like to hike. I'm just in the way when I try to help.

The More impactful reason

One day at camp last month, my 10 year old announced he had to pack for the Survival Skills Survival Test. The kids hike into the wilderness, build a shelter, and return the following morning. Each year, a new story is added to our lore: The night it poured, the night it was freezing, the kids who tried to fit 8 kids under a tarp for 2, the kid who just rolled up in a tarp and woke up the next morning like a soggy burrito. Three hours of sleep is about the max. My son knew all of these stories, but he desperately wanted to get over the hurdle that separates newbies from the veterans.

An hour later, I asked his partner in this training whether or not he was packed. "I'm not going", he replied. Coincidentally, this child fit the profile of a child of most of my readers from my previous website, in other words a privileged only child of devoted, over involved parents. "Yes you are", I replied.

It was the older scouts who actually changed his mind. Being exceptionally bright, he was the first one to ask "What can I bring?" Survival Training is all about answering the question, "What do you do when you are unexpectedly stuck in the middle of no where with nothing?" For this reason, most kids bring a sweatshirt and a tarp. This kid brought a sleeping mat and a blanket. The only reason he had to suffice with 7 hours of sleep is that the older kids on the excursion were complaining all night. More importantly, he learned something about himself he didn't know the previous day. He is capable of more than he once thought.

The punch line

The entering class at every University has high turnover. At top schools, it can be 25%. A student that quits after 1 or 2 years, for any reason, is $150,000 to $200,000 in lost revenue. The same thing applies to job applications at every level. The cost of hiring starts at about $75,000 and gets much higher up the ladder; any indicator that reduces risk carries weight. All things being equal on a college application, and in today's environment grades and extracurricular activities are usually equal, "Eagle Scout" on an application says 'you're not going to lose money on this child'.

Most people would say that an Eagle Scout shines because of all that training, skills, communication, etc. I would say there is a much more powerful factor: The Eagle Scout doesn't quit. Learning not to quit is built into the program from the beginning. Surviving four years of high school is great. An Eagle Scout typically survives a 7 year program. Staying up late eating cheese balls and drinking Mountain Dew to pass an AP test is commendable. Forgoing sleep in the freezing rain in the middle of nowhere because you can is fortitude on a much grander scale.

FYI, a child can start Scouting in May of 5th grade.

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