Unraveling the mystery and misery of an Eagle Board of Review

It was a cold Thursday and I l sat alongside a handful of other scout leaders in a dimly lit basement. At the end of the table stood a young man who was shivering in fear, he could barely get his own name out, let alone the Scout Oath and Law. Welcome to your Eagle Board of Review. 

This particular young man, was in my troop. I remember him as a shy 11 year old and watched him grow into a strong leader and confident young man. But he was so fearful of the process and the finality of it, he nearly made himself sick. 

At that time in our district, and I would assume in many others as well, Eagle Boards of Review were a stressful thing. There was an aura of mystery about them and we had one guy who was the gatekeeper for all things Eagle. And if you didn’t do things exactly his way, no applications were being signed. 

Eventually this volunteer stepped down and an entire committee of "eagle coordinators" emerged, including myself. We have worked to take away some of the stress for our candidates. I personally tell the young men (and eventually young women) that there is very little they can say during the board that would make us not recommend them to earn the rank. As long as they have completed all the requirements and answer honestly and openly they will be recommended. 

In the handful of board I have sat on since becoming a coordinator all has gone well the scouts have been prepared and less stressed out by this portion of the process. 

Show up on time - If there is an issue about getting to the board location on time (which is a few minutes before the scheduled time) contact someone, your scoutmaster,  your eagle coordinator, basically someone. People won’t worry and they will not feel like their time is being wasted. 

Come dressed neatly. - A Scout is Clean, right? When you walk into your board of review wear your uniform in the same was you expect to wear it when your scoutmaster pins the Eagle award onyour shirt. 

Have your paperwork together. There are few things that can lessen the impact of even the best eagle projects than sloppy paperwork. Because if there is any doubt in the mind of any members of the board, being disorganized may sway them to a no vote. 

Be honest - If there were problems with your project talk about them. And how you overcame them, that is what leadership is about. 

Don’t worry about it - On the odd chance that you are not recommended for the rank. You are given an automatic appeal. And feel free to ask the board right there why they are not recommending you.  

Be prepared to answer weird questions- Obviously nothing inappropriate but not every question is going to be about what your favorite merit badge was. Personally I ask questions like "what does your scoutmaster do well" or "what did you like least about your scouting experience" and my signature question "what’s your favorite book".

Remember that no one is trying to trick you and everyone who is sitting on the board comes in with an open mind and wants to see you succeed. By the way that young man was recommended to become an Eagle by that board and a few months later he and his best friend were awarded their eagle badges together. 


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