The transition from high school to college, career, and family is difficult if you lack the personal skills necessary to succeed. These essential skills are not usually taught in public schools, but what if I told you they are taught in Scouting?

I read an article recently in the local newspaper about how different high school is from college:

“Typical high school teachers usually cover all homework and reading material in class.” In contrast, “In college, you’ll have to do reading that wasn’t covered in class and you will be expected to know it all for exams and final papers. Due dates are very important in college. Professors don’t accept late homework or papers and won’t let you make up the work you missed. Scholarships and financial aid are generally awarded each semester so you’ll have to apply for them each year. Stay in touch with you college’s financial aid office to learn what you need to do to keep receiving financial aid. Take 30 credits each year or 15 credits each semester, …” (Quotes from an insert in the Deseret News, 4 March 2016.)

Professors and instructors don’t make requirements harder to try to make you fail; they want you to succeed—believe me, I was a university professor for many years—but, unlike high school teachers, professors and instructors are duty-bound to allow you to fail if you have not developed the necessary skills to succeed. So, where are students going to learn these skills before college? Well, Scouting, of course!

As Scouts, youth learn many useful skills, but probably none more important than responsibility, time management, organization, financial planning, communication, problem solving, and the ability to work. Let’s look at how Scouting teaches these skills and how they can help in college, career, and family life.

 Boy Scout leadership training (which is also available for young women and adults) teaches useful skills for future success in school and beyond.  As an example, Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops includes these modules:

Module One—Troop Organization includes a description of each leadership position in the troop, including roles and responsibilities, troop organization, and introductions to vision and servant leadership.

Module Two—Tools of the Trade covers some core skill sets to help the Scout lead, including communicating, planning, and teaching.

Module Three—Leadership and Teamwork incorporates additional leadership tools for the Scout, including discussions of teams and team characteristics, the stages of team development and leadership, inclusion/using your team, ethics and values of a leader, and a more in-depth review of vision.

Responsibility

As an independent adult, you will be responsible to determine whether you succeed in life. You will be expected to take on more and more responsibilities as your life progresses. College and career will bring the need to know how to work independently. Marriage brings responsibilities for a spouse and children. Important church or civil leadership opportunities may also arise that our youth need to be prepared for.

Scout training offers opportunities for youth to be responsible for something bigger than themselves. Scouts become leaders of other youth and are often in charge of things like activities and caring for others’ needs and others’ safety—times when they are then responsible if something fails. Youth need these sort of experiences long before they attend college if they want to be prepared for what comes.

Time Management

With college comes a certain amount of freedom, but also more responsibilities and tasks that one has to manage, like a new class schedule, homework, laundry, group projects, clubs, social events and often a job. Time management is necessary to survive and thrive in college, but also later when you add a family in the mix.

From merit badges to weekly activities, service projects to summer camp, Scouts have to learn to manage their time wisely. Don’t over-schedule adolescents with too many activities. Scouting is the perfect way for youth to learn to manage time in a safe environment where they can fail without serious repercussions.

Organization

Knowing how to organize teams of people to accomplish projects that are too large for one person to do is a necessary leadership skill for communities and nations to function for the benefit of the citizens.

Scouting teaches and gives opportunities for youth to mobilize teams to do service projects, put on events, and teach others skills. Considering Eagle Scout projects take an average of 164 hours per project, it’s amazing to think of how Scouts get all these things done in the community.

Financial Planning

Quality of life is often related to how one manages money. Working within a tight budget is a common aspect of college living and family planning. Indeed, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement.

While a lot of the money is handled by the adults in Scouting, Scouts work under a budget when they plan for activities, camps and gear. Scouts learn about fundraising and making sure they have the money before purchasing.

Communication

Effective communication is a necessary skill for resolving disputes, solving problems, and accomplishing goals. Poor communication guarantees failure.

A part of Scouting is working with all sorts of people in different situations. For example, a Scout works with adults constantly in completing merit badges and coordinating projects. They also learn to communicate effectively when asked to teach skills to other Scouts, give presentations at events, or lead Scout meetings.

Problem Solving

To be a problem solver is to find solutions to issues that arise by trying different solutions. Problem solvers are not discouraged when faced with seemingly impossible problems, but move forward with confidence to find a solution. Higher education and beyond can be riddled with tough problems and choices that challenge even the most intelligent.

It takes practice to gain the confidence necessary to overcome challenges. Scouts are known throughout the world and pop culture as capable problem solvers. There’s a reason why Scouts are depicted as helpful in a bind. Almost every part of the Scouting program teaches problem-solving skills, ingenuity, and self-reliance.

Ability to Work

College is hard work. Professors are demanding, homework is grueling, and distractions are many. Those who collapse under the pressure are left behind in the scholastic system.

Throughout their time in Scouting, Scouts will do amazingly hard things—things that are hard to do even for adults, like camp in the rain or snow, hike 50 miles, spend hours collecting canned food, or live off their own cooking. Scouts can work hard because they’ve worked hard before and know that they will survive the ordeal and in the end, take pride in the work they’ve done.

A few moments of reflection on this summary will show that these skills are useful in all walks of life, not just in a Scout troop. Scouting is the best college prep I have seen that really works.

What other Scouts skills have you noticed help prepare Scouts for the future?

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Lee Hansen
BYU Chemistry professor for 32 years. Boy Scout volunteer for over 35 years, including 20 years as a Scoutmaster. Current chair of STEM Learning for Life.

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