Scouting Forums

Blue Card Limitations

@PaulMcDonald it would be more to try and keep them from opening too many and forgetting what they may have open.

Again if a scout comes up and asks for 5 or 6 Blue cards at once and they are not attending a function that these cards are immediately being worked on, it would be in the scouts best interest not to open so many at once.

Again, Not stopping them but maybe discuss why and explain that it would be beneficial to them not to open so many at one time.

Jeremy - my son has a notebook with all of his rank and merit badge cards with a section that holds all of his partials. He also has a listing that he can see in scoutbook. So at the moment he has 9 partial merit badges that will need to either be worked on or never worked on again. The decision is the scout and not the adult.

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No, I wouldn’t agree. So what if he doesn’t finish any of the seven? So what if he starts all 7 and decides he hates them and abandons them? If they aren’t required for eagle who cares? Remember Scout Run, Scout led.


Scout run, Scout led, but Adult mentored.

My son has a passel of partials from summer camps, or troop events that he just wasn’t really interested in. When he talks to his SM about another merit badge, they discuss the partials every time. It’s a matter of teaching self-management, not just expecting the scouts to learn it as they go.


mentored yes but we don’t get to impose additional requirements upon the kids (such as limiting the number of merit badges at any one time), nor do we get to dictate our values (such as how many merit badges are acceptable to be working on at one time). Feel free to counsel the kids but limiting would be an imposition of additional requirements and far overstepping the role of mentor.

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@kevinwindisch I didn’t say anything about adding limits or dictating values. I said teach them self-management. That’s squarely in the role of mentor. Please don’t try to read more into my comments than is there on the screen.

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This falls under my rule #1: Dont ask for a rule, you’ll eventually regret it.

I would encourage the SM to handle this on a scout-by-scout basis. And leverage the situation to encourage personal growth.

Is your troop meeting every week in the summer? If so, then maybe issuing a couple cards a week based on the how well the scout is acting on contacting counselors and working on badges is a good idea. That way, the scout can explain why he’s stalled with some badges and wants to try to start others.

If the troop is not going to be that active, or the scout will be traveling, then maybe the scout should get as many cards as he plans to start in the summer. In the fall, follow-up with scout to see if counselors for each badge were contacted. If they weren’t, then have a conference with the scout about the first and ninth points of the scout law.

Regarding the Advancement Chair … of the 13 responsibilities listed in Guide to Advancement Section “try and help the scout complete what they have …” is not one of them. Now I know that GTA says that list is not all-inclusive, but it’s tone is clearly adult-facing, not scout-facing. The committee works best when they replay with “yes, but safely.” And, so far, I don’t think there have any incident reports of scouts harming themselves from amassing a stack of uninitiated or partial blue cards. So, from a committee perspective, I’d let the SM and ASM know that you’ll support whatever they think is best for each scout. I would especially encourage them to treat each scout on a case-by-case basis. Then, in a couple of months, ask that scout who got the 21 blue cards that you’re ready to log his progress! Also, I think it’s fair game, if you wind up sitting on his board of review, to ask him where he is with all of his blue cards.

Bottom line: instead of making a rule, have some fun interacting with your scouts!


It’s a great point. Scouting is all about letting scouts learn from their mistakes as long as safety isn’t a concern.


@Stephen_Hornak, Scoutbook is great for those things, if parents and/or the scout actually updates these things. If not, the first time it is being touched is when I get the completed blue card. All of my sons Blue Cards are in Scoutbook, we have been trying feverishly to get all of our parents on board with SB.


The Guide to Advancement (GTA) does not limit on how many merit badges a Scout may work on at one time. As long as the Scout is registered, he or she may work on merit badges prior to getting a blue card (the blue card is only required prior to a Scout working with a merit badge counselor).

Some merit badges can take a Scout months or even years to complete. I know Scouts who will start a merit badge at summer camp, then finish it at a different summer camp later on. Some Scouts decide that they started working on a merit badge, but aren’t interested in finishing it (or perhaps not interested in finishing it right now). There may be many reasons why a Scout has several partial merit badges.

It might make for a good point of discussion with the Scout: “Hey, I noticed that you are working on X number of merit badges. How is that going? How do you keep track of them? Which one do you think you will complete next?” That type of thing. This is a way to provide coaching / mentoring, but still allow the Scout to be in charge of his or her own advancement.


While there is no limit to how many blue cards can be opened, the SM or ASM should at least counsel him on not having too many irons in the fire. Also, during our BOR’s, if it is noticed that a scout has had a blue card open for a very long period of time it will be a topic of discussion. Not in a punitive way, but to talk about finishing what you start.

There are some kids that are real go-getters, some start things and need a lot of persuasion to complete it, then we have MB’s that you can clearly tell the parent probably did most of the work and fed the scout the info or talking points.

I don’t like scouts plowing through merit badges. I want them to really take in the course rather than rushing though to get it checked off.

What about the idea of allowing Scouts to NOT earn the badge? Merit badges are out there to …“learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers”… So if a Scout starts one, then part of the way through figures “I’m not interested in the rest,” then that’s okay. Hopefully they learned something already.
I’d rather have a Scout start 135 merit badges and learn a little about each, while only finishing 21 of them (16% completion rate) than a Scout who only tried 21 and completed every one of them (100% completion rate).


I agree completely. To take things one step further, far be it for me, the scoutmaster, to decide that you shouldn’t explore 2 or 3 more fields since you “Haven’t finished what you started.” As long as a scout finishes their required eagle merit badges, who cares?

Furthermore since advancement is only on of the 8 methods of scouting, this entire discussion needs to be put in perspective. As an Eagle Scout, I greatly value the rank but not every kid sees things the same way… Should we, then limit their experience?

That is true. A partial can last all the way until the scout ages out. Having said that- it is possible to have 137 partials.

The SM assigns who can and cannot sign blue cards. The only signature that should be on card is on the application portion under the paragraph that states the signing person has talked with the scout and they assigned a counselor. MBC training states a scout should be ready for the MB prior to getting to the counselor.

I put pictures of the blue card in Scoutbook on the scouts advancement profile in case the blue card vanishes.

Vanishing blue cards? I’ve NEVER seen that happen!

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Said another way, if a young person came to me today and said they were considering Scouting but were 16 years old, I’d tell them join! Have fun learning. I wouldn’t discourage them because of concerns about being too busy driving, working, dating and never being able to make Eagle.


There is no limit to the number of merit badges a scout can be working on at any one time. If in the opinion of the scoutmaster the scout has too many open they can discuss it when a new blue card is asked for.

There are a variety of reasons a scout doesn’t complete something. THey may be having trouble finding a new counselor or working with one. The scout may not have time to complete the requirements for a particular badge. Did the scout lose interest in the badge?

The bottom line is the Guide to Advancement does not place a limit on the number of blue cards a scout can have open at any one time and it also does not allow troops to set a limit.

No SM should open a blue card if the scout hasn’t made arrangements with a merit badge counselor. With that said, discussions like this that deteriorate into a BSA rule book quoting contest accomplishes nothing.

Do we agree that a scout can open up as many blue cars as he wants as long as a MBC agrees to work with the scout and the SM agrees to open up a blue card?..I would think yes.

Everything else is subjective. I think using a little common sense will always be the best aid to what the rule book says because it’s a little vague at times.

The rule book is vague on purpose to allow flexibility.
Identifying a merit badge counselor is part of opening a blue card but it doesn’t mean the scout ever has to finish a badge. I have a current scout who is working on his Eagle Project and has about a dozen badges open. Some have been open for nearly four years. He has done the work to complete one of the open badges at least four times just from his school work but he is not interested in completing the merit badge. The bages remain open and if he ever decides to talk to a counselor he can complete it but there is no requirement to finish a merit badge. He has also completed enough to earn seven palms with his Eagle.

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Here’s the “flexibility part”…I’m a merit badge counselor for several like many people from their troops. If the same scout keeps asking me to be a MB counselor and doesn’t complete what he starts then I reserve the right not to accept that role. Personally (That flexibility thing), I don’t need a scout wasting my time not completing what he starts. That’s one of the first things I tell them is that I’m very happy to be a MB counselor, but finish what you start.