Prepared for college – and life

graduation_250Prepared for Life.

It’s not just a slogan – it’s what Scouts become as a result of being Scouts.

For most of our Scouts, life after Scouting begins at college, and for many, it means living away from home for the first time in their lives. It’s true of their classmates as well. Most high school graduates going away to college may be prepared academically, but it’s likely that they aren’t ready for the new adventure that independent living brings.

Unless they were Scouts!

My sons, upon going off to college, found that many of their friends were less than comfortable with things like finding their way around campus, getting along with roommates and organizing their schedules. But my boys were fine with those things, thanks to the experiences they enjoyed as Scouts.

There are a lot of things that not enough kids know before going off to college. Columbia University associate professor Christopher Blattman wrote about ten of them in Vox earlier this summer. He says he suggests these things to his political science students who visit him during office hours. It’s a great list, and contains many skills he admits he wished he had when he was in school, as well as advice for the college journey.

And guess what? Scouting helps with many of the items on Prof. Blattman’s list. For example:

  • Try careers on for size. Prof. Blattman recommends trying different things during the summer – researcher, nonprofit worker, aide – to see what fits best, so you’re not stuck with a career you don’t like after graduating with a degree in what sounded like an interesting profession. Scouting helps through the merit badge system. Though it’s not the same as a trial summer job, experience working on a merit badge with a good counselor can provide a great insight into many, many fields of work. We’ve all heard that Steven Spielberg first got interested in cinematography after his Scoutmaster recommended that merit badge to him. It’s a great way to sample many different subjects and see what fits.
  • Develop skills that are hard to get outside the university. Blattman gives some specialized courses – statistics, law, accounting – but there are plenty of things a young man learns in Scouting that he probably wouldn’t learn anywhere else. How to survive in the outdoors is probably one of the biggest, but simple things like lashing a futon to the roof of a car are made easier and safer with the proper application of good knots learned while camping.
  • Learn how to write well. I was telling one of our student interns at work that I write a blog, and he asked me for advice as he wanted to start writing his own. My best advice was just to write! Writing is a skill that is easy for some but difficult or challenging for many. While Scouting is mostly about doing, there’s certainly a good bit of writing in there too. From letters to elected officials to completing an Eagle workbook, there are plenty of opportunities for a Scout to practice writing outside of an academic setting.
  • Go to places that are unfamiliar to you. Blattman recommends foreign travel for those who are able to do so. Experiencing different cultures can broaden one’s horizons and make one a better world citizen. Scouts have the opportunity to see the world beyond their own town or state. High adventure trips, travel to international jamborees and events, and even hiking the unseen areas of our own neck of the woods can really open one’s eyes to the world both near and far.

The intangibles of Scouting – beyond just campfires – are what make Scouts better citizens and more aware of the world around them and the people in it.

Photo: Stuart Miles /

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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