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Eagle Letters of Recommendation

I had the mother of a recent Eagle ask me today for the Letters of Recommendation from the Board of Review. I told her that the letters had been destroyed per the Guide to Advancement. I then explained the Guides reasoning, that the letters need to be confidential to ensure the writers feel comfortable in giving true honest opinions. She just said ok, and that was it, but I feel like she was disappointed. I can certainly understand wanting to see the letters, maybe even wanting to put them in his Eagle book. I just wanted to ask for some thoughts on the matter, and what others do.

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As far as I know, all of our EBoR letters are shredded after the boards make a decision (assuming an approval), or held for an appeal (by whom I’m not sure). I’ve never heard of anyone returning those letters to the scout/family.


So, I was unaware the GtA says to destroy these letters. I had my BoR in Aug 1991 and I later received all of my letters back with my full Eagle package. I still have them too…and I know they’re originals as they were still in their envelops with postage/etc. I’d like to imagine most of the writers would only say positive things, but it’s interesting to learn the policy is to shred them.

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The scout could ask the writers if they mind sharing their letter. Some people gladly share their letters and some don’t as they sometimes write a negative letter. My brother asked our next door neighbor for a letter and the man mailed a copy and gave him another. We learned quite a bit from that letter. In fact, that letter meant more to my brother than any of the letters that came after.


My observations

  • “letters of recommendation” and “reference responses” may be two different things.
  • It is the responsibility of the Scout to provide contact information for “references” (people). It the responsibility of the council advancement committee to contact these people and obtain their responses.
  • “reference letters received” appear to be “reference responses”,obtained by the council not “letters of recommendation” submitted by the Scout

Application Form Instructions

“Eagle Scout Rank Application”, form 512-728, January 2020 Printing, extract:

REQUIREMENT 2. As a Life Scout, demonstrate that you live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your everyday life and tell how you have done your duty to God.

List the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf.

  • Parents/guardians
  • Religious
  • Educational
  • Employer (if any)
  • Two other references

Guide to Advancement 2019

BSA Home > Resources > Guide to Advancement 2019 > The Eagle Scout Rank, 33088, ISBN 978-0-8395-3088-6, ©2019 Boy Scouts of America Updated October 3, 2018 and January 30, 2019, extracts: Complete the Application

  1. References : Must list all six (five if not employed). If not affiliated with an organized religion, then the parent or guardian provides this reference. There are no restrictions on who the Scout may list as the two other references. The candidate may list anyone, including parents or guardians not previously listed, other relatives, Scout leaders including those from the candidate’s unit, or other Scouts and friends. There is no requirement that any of the references be 21 years of age or older. Council Verifies Application and Board of Review Scheduled

… If everything is correct, the council provides a verification signature, files a copy of the application, and sends the original with the service project workbook and other items (such as reference letters received) to the board of review chair or other designated volunteer. The board should be scheduled only after the council-verified application is received. References Contacted

Council advancement committee members—or others designated—have the responsibility to secure recommendations from the references appearing under requirement 2 on the Eagle Scout Rank Application. This may be done by letter, form, or phone call. For reasons of privacy and confidentiality, electronic submissions are discouraged.

It is acceptable to send or deliver to the references an addressed envelope with instructions, and perhaps a form to complete. Scouts may assist with this, but that is the limit of their participation. Scouts are not responsible for follow through or any other aspect of the process. It is up to the council’s designated representatives to collect the responses. If after a reasonably diligent effort no response can be obtained from any references, the board of review must go on without them. It must not be postponed or denied for this reason, and the Scout shall not be asked to submit additional references or to provide replacements.

Completed reference responses of any kind are the property of the council and are confidential, and only review-board members and those officials with a specific need may see them. The responses are not to be viewed by or returned to the Scout. Doing so could discourage the submission of negative information. For the same reason, those providing references do not have the option of giving the reference directly to the Scout and shall not be given the option of waiving confidentiality. Once a review has been held, or an appeal process conducted, responses shall be returned to the council, where they will be destroyed after the Eagle Scout credentials are released or the appeal is concluded.

In Scouts BSA, advancement references are required only for Eagle Scout rank. The council determines methods of contact. Application Returned to Council Service Center

If a board of review approves a candidate, the signed application, reference letters, and any information that might be considered confidential are returned to the local council. Unless otherwise directed, the service project workbook and statement of ambitions and life purpose can be returned to the Scout. If approval is denied, all materials are returned to the council. Council Sends Application to National Advancement Team

At the council the Scout executive signs the application, certifying proper procedures were followed. The application is then entered into the BSA system, filed locally, …

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Our EBoR letters had to be given to the Council when we turned in everything else.

You should not have to turn in your letters. That is a common mistake many Districts/units fall into. It is the sole responsibility of the Advancement Committee to gather those if they choose to. GTA

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It wasn’t an option. The Council required them to be turned in.

@JeanannGoss then the council is wrong. Tradition creeps in past the GTA

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I will keep that in mind when submitting future Eagle applications to council.

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You need to double check the reference you posted. It says in the GTA

The reference letters are not to be returned to the Scouts.

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I think that @DonovanMcNeil is saying that it is the council advancement committee’s responsibility to get the recommendation letters from the persons listed as references - not the Scout, Scout’s family, or the unit, which is what @JeanannGoss seems to be saying.

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In the first paragraph of it states “or others designated” have the responsibility to get the letters of recommendations and later on in the first paragraph it also states that the scout may assist.

So it will depend upon the council on how the letters are to be obtained.

Example: as the District Advancement Chair of a rural district in a large council (~14,000 youth in ~470 troops) centered in a large metropolitan and geographic area (16 counties) it has been left up to the units on how to obtain the letters. The units in our district (3 counties, ~3000 sq mi, ~ 99,000 population) are between 60 and 108 miles to the Council service center. Our district (and other outlying districts) have dispensation to obtain the council verification signature (GTA electronically:

  1. E-mailing the scanning documents listed on the council provided “Before EBOR” checklist to council.
  2. council performs the verification (usually within one working day).
  3. emails back the scanned council signed application to the unit as verification.
  4. the unit coordinator (SM, Advancement Coordinator, COR, CC, etc) contacts the District Advancement Chair to schedule a date, time and place (home town of the eagle candidate) for the BOR. (Can be as fast as 1 week up to about 3 weeks depending upon ability to coordinate the unit adults & candidate(s) (I have done as many as 4 candidates in one afternoon)(I also schedule any need Eagle Service Project Proposal reviews the same time if required to save every body from too much driving)
  5. BOR is held (appropriate signatures are placed on correct documents).
  6. Unit coordinator uses the council provided “After EBOR” checklist to gather documents (makes appropriate copies for unit records) and delivers the completed package (including all letters of reference) to council (usually drives to council)
  7. Council checks paperwork while unit coordinator waits (just in case), Unit coordinator fills out contact information
  8. Council sends to National
  9. National sends completed Eagle credentials to Council
  10. Council contacts unit coordinator
  11. Unit retrieves Eagle credentials from Council usually by driving to council.

This is what I have seen in our district:
The references are contacted by a member of the unit (Adult or the youth), [verbally or otherwise(email, phone,etc)] and asked to provide the letter in a sealed envelope to a unit adult (SM, Advancement Coordinator, CC, COR, etc) who collects them in preparation for the EBOR before the paperwork is taken to council for approval.

Good Scouting to all

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Our council has delegated this to district advancement committees, who have in turn delegated to units.

When a Scout is ready for the step of references, we use the blank application to show them exactly what contact information we need, and instruct the Scout to ask potentials if they would be “willing to provide a reference when their unit leader contacts them.”

When Scout finishes her Eagle application, we email the references listed with a “canned” pdf form. If they don’t have an email address (yes, these people exist :wink: ), we call to make contact and mail them the form.

Here is text of email or letter (Please use if you don’t want to re-invent the wheel.) I keep this as a draft in my email, so it is ready to go with few edits.

Subject: Request for Character Reference for Eagle Scout Candidate Wannabe Aneagle

Dear Family, Friends, and Mentors of Wannabe Aneagle,

As Wannabe’s Scoutmaster, I am pleased to announce he has finished the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. To confirm he has completed the requirements for this distinguished rank, Wannabe must meet with an Eagle Scout Board of Review.

For his Board of Review, he requires a character reference from those who know him. Wannabe has requested a reference from you. Please take the time to complete one on his behalf.

To make this process smoother for you, I have attached a standard form you can easily fill out. Please read the instructions on page one of the attachment, and print out page two to fill out.

You may also write a letter of recommendation if you wish, but this is not required.

Handwritten forms and letters are perfectly fine. (Legible, please :slight_smile: )

Once you have filled out and signed the character reference form (or written your optional recommendation letter to the Board of Review), please send to Mrs. Ima Committeemember. Ima is our Advancement Chair, and her contact information is on the instructions page.

You may scan and send your signed form electronically, send by postal mail, or deliver it personally to Ima (or me).

If your recommendation contains sensitive information, please do not send it electronically.

Please do not give any letters directly to Wannabe. In all cases, your communications to the Board of Review are kept confidential, and any letters will be destroyed after the Board of Review concludes.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Yours in Scouting,


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