Scouting Forums

SM Conference for Ranks

I know that Scoutmasters/Assistant Scoutmasters aren’t supposed to add or take away anything from a rank requirement, so isn’t making the Scout be totally finished with all requirements for the rank prior to allowing a SM conference adding to the requirement?

The Requirement for First Class state: " While working toward the First Class rank, and after completing Second Class requirement 11, participate in a Scoutmaster conference."

Is making everything be signed off on before granting an SM conference adding to the listed requirement?

The scoutmaster conference does not ever need to be the final requirement for and of the ranks. The requirements can be done out of number order. Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference
“While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review.”

The SM conference can be done last (prior to the board of review), but it does not have to be.


But isn’t it adding to the requirement by demanding that everything be done prior to the SM Conference?

I think it is a case of Scoutmaster’s preference / discretion. Is the Scout on a tight schedule?

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I don’t think so. The SM isn’t refusing to allow a scout to have a Scoutmaster Conference, he’s setting the schedule for it. I’ll bet you a dollar he’s doing it this way to help the scout check that all the other requirements are completed before the BOR.

We’ve had scouts that did the SM conference early (before they completed all the other requirements), and show up at a BOR, only to find out they don’t have all the requirements completed and signed off. It’s a pain for the adults in the BOR, and it’s embarrassing for the scout – especially for the younger scouts, who are also stressed at the idea of talking to THREE ADULTS AT ONCE…


It’s up to the SM. Work with him/her. However, if after completing all other rank requirements, boys are waiting more than a couple of weeks for a conference, you all need to ask something to change.

We pride ourselves in being responsive to the boys. If they want to talk about anything, we rarely put them off. If they do arrange for an SMC after completing everything, we try to have it early (say, before a meeting) and ask committee to convene a BoR that same day. If we have three committee at summer camp, we convene BoRs on the spot for any prepared scout.


Our only real requirements are that the scout schedule the SM conference and BOR in advance, so we can make sure we have enough adults present to cover those.

I have no information to share.

I have to say that your asking the question is more troublesome to me than how the SM is administering the troop.

Experience says that this is unlikely a singular issue with the SM. My first question is does this bother you or some scout? And if the scout, then why? Scouts should have regular adult conversations with leaders in the troop. And many SM prefer to have an intentional meeting just before a BOR.

If one of my scouts ever has a problem, then I gladly discuss it with them. And if such were a stumbling block then I would wonder if the scout is in the wrong troop, or does the scout have authority issues.


Not sure why asking the question is troublesome. If a Scout requests a Scoutmaster conference it should be granted even if they don’t have all the requirements for the rank signed off. That is how it reads in the BSA Handbook. It doesn’t say “after all the other rank requirements have been completed” so to me it shouldn’t be an issue. If it happened that a Scout got to a Board of Review without everything signed off on, that is on the Scout and would be dealt with. Being in the “wrong” troop or having authority issues doesn’t even enter into the question, it is a simple question about a Scout asking for a Scoutmaster conference and being told that it won’t happen until all the other rank requirements are signed off which isn’t how it reads in the BSA Handbook and thus is adding to the requirement which isn’t allowed.

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I see your point, but I don’t agree that it’s adding a new requirement. At most, it’s setting a schedule for completing a requirement…

Consider another requirement, for example… Jimmy is working on First Class, and has to complete the orienteering requirement. He’s told that he can work on it at an upcoming camp out with two other scouts that need to complete the same requirement. Is telling him to wait for the camp out adding to the requirement? I think it’s obvious that it isn’t…

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My unit discussed this some time back. Historically, our practice was to require that the SMC was the last thing before scheduling the BoR. However, the argument was made that this was specifically not the intent of the SMC, and that any SMC held at any point during the rank tenure counted for this requirement.

Now, we request that scouts plan for their SMC as the last item on their advancement requirements, excepting the BoR, but do not require it. When a scout comes to their SMC without everything else signed-off, he gets reminded that it needs doing, and asked to advise the SM/ASM who conducted the conference when the requirements are complete. The SM/ASM then notifies the BoR coordinator that the scout is ready to schedule a BoR when the remaining requirements are complete.

There’s occasionally been a hiccup where the scout says something is done, and the SM/ASM understands this means it’s been signed-off by one of the other leaders, but the scout just means it’s ready to be signed-off.

Jeanann, I’m going to take a shot at this. First, you can have more than one SM conference if needed. It’s not just about checking of boxes in the back of the book but to speak with the scout to coach, review, guide and advise. If I have a scout that is a “go-getter”, I will probably wait until all requirements are completed for the conference. If we have a scout that’s not progressing as we think he should I may have a conference to see what’s causing the delay.

It is troublesome because there is clearly some disconnect between either you and the SM or your scout and the SM. I would suggest that you also read the Guide to Advancement which provides guidance to how to “read” the requirements. And that document seems to read that as SM I can push it to the end (or near the end). If we were talking about a Life scout getting close to his/her 18th birthday I would agree that it should be given.

Clearly you are unhappy because the SM pushed your scout back on the conference. If this was causing some undo delay you would be right. But if there is no delay then the whole discussion tends to imply to me that checking off boxes has become very important with someone. I will say that I am not the best SM for such a young man. And if a parent came to me with the discussion that I would ask the parent if this is an issue with the scout or the parent. I would attempt to have a discussion about the place of advancement.

I suspect I am very different than many. If this is a problem, then my troop might not be the best and I would gladly assist a family in exploring their opportunities.

I agree with you, but I would also extend it to other ranks - not just Life, depending on the Scout’s age and advancement goals.

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I would never slow a scout’s advancement down due to a conference. I have enough conversations with my scouts I can legitimately say that I have had a conference with any of my scouts. Taking a hypothetical situation where a scout completes all others and would miss a board but I am absent I would log on and complete the requirement based on my previous requirements.

I don’t slow scouts down. I do encourage them to keep advancement in perspective.


It seems like the question ultimately comes down to what is and isn’t an unnecessary delay, and when does that become a denial of a conference. We’re explicitly not allowed to deny a conference per the G2A. I read the section below regarding unnecessary delay of advancement in a larger unit to suggest that delaying any SMC until all other rank requirements have been completed could be understood to be an unnecessary delay of rank advancement, and potentially become a denial of a conference necessary to meet the requirements.

Personally, I hate “lawyering at” the regs & requirements, because it seldom leads to good feelings all around. At the same time, I try to understand how someone else might read the same words and understand them differently. I try to resolve things in a way that maximizes the benefit to the scout. Maximized benefit, however, isn’t always the same thing as fastest rank advancement, IMHO.

From the Guide to Advancement: Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference

The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Troop Leader Guidebook (volume 1). Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say the Scout must “pass” a conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review. This is an important consideration for Scouts on a tight schedule to meet requirements before age 18. Last-minute work can sometimes make it impossible to fit the conference in before that time. Scheduling it earlier can avoid unnecessary extension requests.

The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for discussing topics such as ambitions, life purpose, and goals for future achievement, for counseling, and also for obtaining feedback on the unit’s program. In some cases, work left to be completed—and perhaps why it has not been completed—may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. Ultimately, conference timing is up to the unit. Some leaders hold more than one along the way, and the Scout must be allowed to count any of them toward the requirement.

Scoutmaster conferences are meant to be face-to-face, personal experiences. They relate not only to the Scouting method of advancement, but also to that of adult association. Scoutmaster conferences should be held with a level of privacy acceptable under the BSA’s rules regarding Youth Protection. Parents or guardians and other Scouts within hearing range of the conversation may influence the Scout’s participation. For this reason, the conferences should not be held in an online setting.

While it is intended that the conference be conducted between the unit leader and the Scout, it may sometimes be necessary for the unit leader to designate an assistant unit leader to conduct the conference. For example, if the Scoutmaster is unavailable for an extended period of time or in larger troops where a Scout’s advancement would be delayed unnecessarily, then it would be appropriate for an assistant Scoutmaster (21 years old or older) to be designated to conduct the conference.

Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a conference that is necessary to meet the requirements for the rank. Unit leaders must not require the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, the Eagle Scout Rank Application, statement of ambitions and life purpose, or list of positions, honors, and awards as a prerequisite to holding a unit leader conference for the Eagle Scout rank. If a unit leader conference is denied, a Scout who believes all the other requirements have been completed may still request a board of review. See “Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met,” If an Eagle Scout candidate is denied a conference, it may become grounds for a board of review under disputed circumstances. See “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,”
[Emphasis added]

This issue isn’t about my child. He is already an Eagle Scout. It is a question that has been brought to my attention by more than 1 parent and Scout in our troop. I truly wanted to get opinions and thank those who have given them.

And the whole “I don’t know the whole story” comes alive. If you are on the committee I would encourage you to explore general feelings about the SM in the BORs. Fortunately I haven’t had any scouts who are pushing hard to advance. And I while I would advise a scout to slow the roll, it would be advice that is left to the scout. My life experience is would suggest that either this is being used to slow advancement (problem), or there might be more going on and this is the (or one of the) tip(s).

I also hate the approaching the books as a lawyer as that approach doesn’t lend itself to great relationships.One of the biggest gifts I received from scouting is the right relationship with my SM and his wife.