Fill in the blanks – the right way

With fall comes our surge of new members in the Boy Scouts of America – mainly in the Cub Scouting program – and with it comes the paperwork. The BSA membership of our current members gets renewed at recharter time, but those new to Scouting or new to our units (including transfers from other packs) need to complete a membership application. And of course, this means both youth and adults.

For the last year or two, it’s been possible to submit applications online. This allows the new member to complete a paperless application, have it routed automatically to the unit leader or committee chair and chartered organization representative for approval, and forwarded to the council for processing. Key unit leaders must be registered on, and will receive emails to notify them of new applications needing their action. The system makes the process smooth and foolproof with no paper to handle.

For various reasons, though, this approach isn’t optimal for many units:

  • There may not be computer access at the school or other location for the unit’s recruiting event, or enough computers to handle in a timely manner the number of new members wishing to join.
  • Parents may not have a smartphone with Internet access to complete the application on site.
  • Units that include the BSA’s registration fee in their annual dues amount may need to collect a separate fee or be unable to use the online credit card payment option.
  • Packs and troops may want a paper trail so they can have a physical record of applications.
  • The application is for an adult changing positions or for an adult in a non-paying position.

For these and other reasons, it may be more convenient to use paper applications.

The application forms have been recently redesigned, and there are some important differences in addition to the usual things that are often overlooked in the application process. And while older versions of the application forms are still accepted by some councils, units should recycle their supply of older forms and use only the newest versions of the form. Forms are available at your monthly district Roundtable and your council’s service center or Scout Shop. Your unit commissioner or district unit-service executive can obtain them for you as well.

Youth applications

The most evident difference in the new Youth Application form is that it is now a single page. It’s no longer a carbonless three-part form that provided a copy for the council, the unit and the applicant. If the unit wants to keep a copy of the application, they’ll need to make a copy or scan it before turning it in to the council. Also, the fields on both youth and adult forms have been rearranged so that information from the applicant is at the top, and the unit’s information goes at the bottom.

Youth Application Form with annotations
Click for full size graphic

Here are a few things to look for when checking over a youth application (refer to the annotated application form):

  1. The youth’s full legal name should be listed. There’s a box for a nickname if desired.
  2. Each Lion or Tiger must have an adult partner, so make sure that the circle designating the adult partner is filled in for those youth members. And if the adult partner is not a parent, guardian or grandparent, the relationship must be listed.
  3. The Registration Fee box at the bottom should show the BSA registration fee (currently $33 per year or $2.75 per month), not the unit’s registration or membership dues. Ask your district executive if you should also include any local council insurance fees in this amount.
  4. Don’t forget to fill in the Scout Life circle if the youth will be subscribing to the magazine. (Scout Life is the new gender-neutral youth magazine replacing Boys’ Life.)
  5. If the Scout is transferring in from another unit, there’s now a box for the youth’s current membership number. This prevents the issuance of a second membership number. It’s not necessary to attach a copy of the membership card as requested on previous application forms.
  6. The unit leader or designee must sign the youth application form. The unit leader is the Cubmaster or Scoutmaster. It’s also possible for the unit leader to designate another person, such as the membership coordinator, to sign the application. And of course, make sure the parent signs as well.

Adult applications

The current adult application is perforated at the left edge to help distinguish from previous versions of the form, which were perforated at the top. Be sure to discard any old versions if you have them. It’s still a carbonless form but it’s only three parts – there’s no longer a copy for the Chartered Organization, so if your CO requires a copy, either make one to give to the Chartered Organization Representative or ask the CR to copy it for their own use.

Adult Application form annotated
Click for full-size graphic

When checking over applications, the committee chair should take note of some common mistakes and omissions, and ask the applicant to correct them before signing:

  1. Both the driver’s license number and Social Security number must be filled in. They’re needed for the National Council to conduct a criminal background check.
  2. If the applicant wants to receive Scout Life (formerly Boys’ Life), fill in the circle next to Boys’ Life subscription. Most youth members will subscribe, but if the adult wants their own copy, or if they no longer have youth members in their family, they may wish to subscribe at an additional fee. (All adults receive Scouting Magazine as part of their membership at no extra charge.)
  3. The two spaces to the left of the signature must be initialed by the applicant. These affirm the applicant’s adherence to the Declaration of Religious Principle and the Scouter Code of Conduct, and that the applicant is truthful in the information provided.
  4. New members must complete online Youth Protection Training and attach the certificate of completion. Fill in the circle below the applicant’s signature if the certificate is attached.
  5. Complete the Background Check Authorization form on the very last page of the application form and fill in the circle below the applicant’s signature. (This important and often-overlooked form was previously located on the page facing the application form.) Important update: Effective in October 2019, the BSA requires the use of a different Disclosure and Background Check Authorization form. See this post for more information and a link to the form.
  6. Unit adult members don’t need to fill in the District name – this is only for use by District volunteers (such as Commissioners or District committee members).
  7. Most often omitted are answers to the six items on the right side of the form. If the applicant has no Scouting history, experience in other youth organizations, previous residences or current memberships, they should write “none”. Most chartered organizations require references for new members, so be sure the applicant lists them. And the questions in item #6 must be answered; those that are not answered will cause the application to be rejected by the council, and any that are answered Yes will require approval by the council’s Scout Executive before the application proceeds further.
  8. There are spaces at the bottom for indicating a position change and whether the individual is a Multiple. “Multiples” are those registered in more than one unit (e.g. a pack and a troop); they only pay registration fees once overall, not once in each unit.
  9. The signature of the committee chair is no longer required, but he or she should approve of the new member before forwarding the form to the chartered organization representative or executive officer for approval.

For a new leader, you’ll need to turn in three pieces of paper along with payment:

  • The completed application form, signed by the applicant and the chartered organization representative
  • A copy of the applicant’s Youth Protection Training certificate
  • The complete and signed Background Check Authorization form

If you are in doubt about any items on your applicants’ forms, ask your Unit Commissioner to review them before turning them in. Submitting properly completed forms with no errors or omissions will result in the application being rejected and sent back to the unit for correction.

It’s a lot of paperwork, for sure, but it’s a necessary part of welcoming new youth and adult members into our organization. So check all the fields and boxes to make sure your new members get off to the right start!

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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