Why I Value My Eagle Scout Award More Than My College Degree

This past weekend, I was at my local Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch registering my car at my new address. This meant getting new plates. In Indiana, you have the option of getting a standard plate or getting a premium plate that is sponsored by a particular university or organization that operates in the state. I decided that rather than opt to get a standard plate, I would support an organization this time around. I knew that there were really only two plates of this kind that I would be interested in getting, the Purdue University (my alma mater) plate and the Boy Scouts plate.

indiana boy scout license plate

After some brief internal debate, I decided to support the Boy Scouts of America with my vehicle. I was a boy scout beginning in fifth grade and continuing all the way until I was a sophomore in high school. I passionately latched onto the organization during that time, and was able to earn my Eagle Scout award as a 14 year old; just three years after I had joined. There is really only one reason why I chose the Boy Scout license plate over the Purdue one; I value my Eagle Scout award more than I value my college degree.Purdue University Indiana License Plate

When I began working on my Eagle Scout award, I had never led an entire group of people, never had slept under the stars, never had climbed mountains, or never built a fire without using matches. Through scouting I had the opportunity to do all these things with excellence. It was during that time where I gained most of my self-confidence, my commitment to hard work, and my passion for exploration.

Although college was testing at times, much of what I learned was a rehash of past life lessons (aside from the intellectual gains made). Furthermore, I suspect that the standards we hold college students to has diminished over time. The heightened project collaboration and the distractions created by digital technology, have considerably eroded the challenges colleges were once known for. Nowadays we educate people to become creative expressionists and appreciative of fluffy opinions and luxuries instead of training them to be autonomous critical thinkers and problem solvers.  Scouting on the other hand, teaches our youth to rely on themselves to accomplish great things.

I don’t want to come across as bashing collegiate studies too much, because I genuinely believe that an educated populace is the only hope we have at fixing many of our society’s problems. I will just say that I think scouting can do more and does more for an individual than a college education.

19 Replies to “Why I Value My Eagle Scout Award More Than My College Degree”

  1. gae hill says:

    So incredibly poignant. Believe me, I have often secretly coveted the “I’m proud of my Eagle Scout(s)” bumper sticker. I knew from the start that scouts was an absolutely perfect fit for how you are constructed. (I also know there is no one else I’d rather be with were I lost in the wilderness!!)
    I also agree with your college degree sentiment. Only a small percentage of degreed students have learned to bust their chops for the document they have in hand upon departure. To think so many have invested thousands of dollars only to have had a fraternity or sorority experience is frightening and sad.

  2. Jonathan Pfluger says:

    I can totally agree with what you are saying. I am soon to be a junior in Chemical Engineering at Purdue University. Both organizations have afforded me great opportunities but Boy Scouts has helped me develop, learn and grow far more as a person. I got my Eagle Scout the summer after I graduated 8th grade and proceeded to earn 7 eagle palms and serve as a Section Chief for the OA.

    I hope we can agree that a Purdue diploma is far more valuable than one from IU.


  3. Terry Gray says:

    when i graduated high school i had one of two plates ’05 MHS and after that and the Eagle Scout Plate, Now with the I have I have a firefighter’s plate and i always said to my self when i get a second car i will get that Eagle Scout Plate again. I am proud to say i earn the rank of Eagle Scout

  4. Steve Ray says:

    Outstanding article! I have always known that I gained more useful life lessons from my college fraternity experience than I ever did in the classroom, but my Scouting experience truly provided the foundation for my adult life. Well said!

  5. Crazy Joe says:

    Sitting alone in a far-off jungle, it was my experiences in Scouting and as an Eagle Scout that kept me sane. I had learned self-reliance, I had learned certain technical skills that equipped me as a teacher of land navigation and direction of artillery fire, I had come to trust my team. I would be OK!

  6. Cathleen Anderson says:

    Excellent article! And I completely agree. The owner of the company for which work has expressed this same sentiment. He admits that his first choice for hire is always an Eagle Scout. I am the proud mom of an Eagle Scout and brag about this often! : ) My son and his three closest friends are all Eagle Scouts and have been in scouting since they were in first grade (they recently graduated from high school). We took a picture at one of the young men’s Eagle ceremonies with the four of them and we will all proudly frame it next to the picture taken of them at a “Mom & Me” camp-out taken over nine years ago! These young men have experienced many high adventure camp-outs, one in which they were on an 11,000 ft mountain in Philmont in a hail and lightening storm! I agree with Gae Hill, if ever lost, would love to have an Eagle Scout there. Very proud of all current and future Eagle Scouts!

  7. I could not agree more with your article. It is the practicality of it that makes it so valuable. I am in my second year of law school, and I’m very proud of the degrees that I have and will have, but none of them are nearly as useful or valuable as the skills learned in Scouting. In addition to the practical survival skills, I helped direct Scouting’s national advanced leadership program, and I can say with confidence that I have not attended any leadership training nearly as valuable as the NJLIC and NAYLE programs that Scouting provides–incredibly practical skills and lessons that one will actually use. [On a side note, I am fixing to renew my tag in my state, and instead of getting one for my alma mater, I believe I will be following your lead and getting the Scouting one that my state offers.]

  8. Scouting is fabulous. Produces responsible. caring, and reliable young men. I am proud of my Eagle Scout and Boy Scout stickers on my car. The only ones i would ever consider. I was there the moment my son walked out of his Eagle board of review. I was the first to see the joy on his face. My First Class son is on his way and his goal is Eagle. I am proud and blessed.

  9. Fred in IT says:

    As a third generation Scouter and a second generation Eagle (along with my bro.) I too agree with the sentiment that my Eagle means more to me than my degree. My wife didn’t understand how important it was to me until our son was old enough to start Scouts (Tigers!). I am hoping that, with appropriate guidance and direction, he will be a third-generation Eagle. I let him know that I’m happy to show him the way, but he has to walk the path himself. I am also lucky that I work with two Eagles. Eagles have the tenacity and drive to figure it out and ‘get ‘er done!’

  10. Thank you all for your comments. I think the feedback here just goes to show how powerful and meaningful Eagle Scouting really is. The leadership, mental fortitude, respectability, and courage it produces in the lives of men is truly amazing. I am grateful for each of you sharing your stories. It’s an author’s dream to strike a chord with people in this way. Thank you all!

  11. Thank you, I totally agree with you. My son is working on his Eagle project as the age of 14 as well. And I can’t say enough what Scouts has done for him and how he feels about himself.

  12. I truly believe in the Scouting Program. It give a chance for boys who do not have a male mentor around to guide them through their youth. He too became an Eagle Scout. Learning that working together with others and learning at the same time has given him the knowledge to become a well rounded person. Becoming an Assistant Scout Master of his Troop, helping the boys earn the badges and becoming the Troop hestorian has given him great pride. I am very pride of my Eagle Scout. I too have been very active in the troop, being there for almost every project, ceremonies, and helping hand has been great. Every parent who has a boy is scouts should also get involved and watch their child grow. THANK YOU SCOUTS

  13. Fritz Coombs says:

    Great sentiment, Steve. I can agree with almost all of your article, but must infer that you came to this realization recently. Otherwise, why would you have left Scouting while only a sophomore in high school? You could have given so much more to your Troop and the movement in general ( not to mention the opportunities for further personal development, such as Jamboree, any of the high adventure camps – Philmont, Northern Tier, Sea Base – and numerous OA events. My biggest regret is that I did not stay in Scouting after i graduated high school; I rediscovered it 28 years later when our son joined Cubs. He has stayed with it, after earning his Eagle and graduating high school, working several summers on Philmont staff.

  14. I am an Eagle Scout and the father of an Eagle Scout. My son is in the military and on a recent deployment he wrote a very special letter to me. He thanked me for supporting him in Scouting (as the Scoutmaster) and giving him the occasional “push” many teenagers need. As an adult he now saw the training Scouting provided him – both in skills (ie camping and the outdoors to rifle shooting) and leadership. As he put it, a piece of paper from college was not doing him a whole lot of good in the middle of the desert trying to build a shelter. His commander made him the “Senior Patrol Leader” on the deployment because he was the only one who knew what he was actually doing. I actually cried reading the letter he wrote. It’s when I knew he was no longer “a kid.”

  15. My dad earned his Eagle in 1924. My husband earned his in 1976. Now my son will be honored as an Eagle Scout this month. He will be a third-generation Eagle and I am so proud of him. Scouting has helped make my son much of what he is today: a confident, competent, well-rounded leader who is unafraid of practically everything. What a joy to read how much someone values his Eagle Scout rank! I know my son does. He has often said how glad he is that he stuck with it.

  16. Thank you for this extremely well written article with which I could not agree more! I think that the reason why so many of us Eagle Scouts look back on our various accomplishments in life, especially our college degrees and end up holding the Eagle Scout award above all others, is that the achievement is not only meaningful in and of itself, but that the critical thinking skills, leadership skills and work ethic, among other traits, that are developed at a young age helped us to become successful later in life. The value of a quality college education is directly proportional to the amount of effort that an individual invests in it. In my opinion, an Eagle Scout is going to tend to invest far more in that endeavor than most students and therefore will get that much more out of it.

  17. […] There’s an interesting and brief article on Steve Hill’s Gritty Soul blog called, “Why I Value My Eagle Scout Award More Than My College Degree”.  http://stevenahill.com/2011/06/eagle-scout-college-degree/ […]

  18. My son enters Boy Scouts this year. I am very excited to see him embark on this journey, I pray he graduates the ranks of scouting with the same attitude that you have. Thank you for being what is right with America.

  19. Thank you for this inspirational article. I am an Eagle and my father is too. I am also encouraging my two sons, (13 & 15) to get theirs. They are very close.

    What other organization teaches boys to be leaders like the BSA? I love the scouts, and I love people like you who have such a strong commitment to leadership and scouting.

    This country needs people like you all who live and teach these great principles!

    God be with you!

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