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“Courage, Confidence, and Character”: Becoming a High-Achieving Girl Scout

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Though perhaps best known in pop culture as purveyors of delicious cookies, the Girl Scouts of the USA is an organization with broad goals. It exists to empower girls, teach them valuable practical skills, provide them with community support and friendship, and allow them to develop the ability to be a leader in their communities.


Whether you’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten or you’re a more recent member, high school is the time to assess your participation in Scouting and set goals for what you’d like to achieve through this organization. Your achievements as a Girl Scout can be valuable not only for your development as a person, but for your future plans, including your college applications.


Are you a Girl Scout, or considering becoming one? Below, we’ll go over more information about the Girl Scouts of the USA, what you can expect as a Girl Scout, and how to earn Girl Scouting’s most prestigious honor, the Gold Award.


Who are the Girl Scouts?


The organization originally known as the Girl Guides was developed in the early 20th century as a part of the worldwide scouting movement. In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low brought the group to the United States, where it became known as the Girl Scouts. Many countries and the international organization still use the term “Girl Guides,” but in this post, we’ll be focusing on the American organization, the Girl Scouts of the USA.


The Girl Scouts of the USA includes programming for girls from kindergarten through high school, during which they move up through six different ranks and complete projects to earn badges and awards. Opportunities are available for adult volunteers and Girl Scout alumnae as well. Most Girl Scouts are organized into local troops led by one or more volunteers, but they may also participate in larger gatherings and camps as well as independent projects.


There’s a rich history and tradition surrounding Girl Scouting, which includes celebrations and ceremonies, uniforms with markers of important achievements, and connections to the over 59 million Girl Scout alumnae throughout the world. This tradition is reflected in the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Law, which outline the responsibilities and aspirations of Girl Scout membership, including a commitment to honesty, responsibility, and helpfulness.  


The stated mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Members are encouraged to work on their own personal development and identify their own passions and talents, to develop both independence and the ability to act cooperatively, and to build a sound set of values as they learn new skills and take on new projects.


The traditional outdoor skills involved in the Scouting movement, such as camping and first aid, are still part of the Girl Scout experience, but troop and individual activities now cover a much broader range of topics. Opportunities vary by grade level, and Girl Scouts can earn badges and other awards for their accomplishments in fields from writing to computer programming to car care.


Community service plays a particularly large role in Girl Scouting. Members are encouraged to take on projects that will not only support their own development, but affect their larger communities in a positive way. A substantial independent service project is required in order to reach the highest rank of Girl Scouting, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.


What honors can a Girl Scout can earn?


As a Girl Scout moves up through the various age levels of the Girl Scout program, she’ll have the opportunity to mark her accomplishments by earning badges as well as various types of awards. Badges denote a specific skill learned, such as kayaking, or project completed, such as planting a garden. Different badges are available at each age level, each with its own set of requirements.


Girl Scouts also have the opportunity to earn additional awards for planning and completing larger-scale projects. Some, known as Journeys, involve working as a team on a project chosen from several established options, and culminate in a special award. Others require girls to conceive of and implement plans more independently.


For fourth and fifth grade girls in the program, the Bronze Award is given for completing a substantial community service project, with a team working together to develop the project and address a community need. The Silver Award for sixth through eighth graders is similar, but girls in this age range have the option to work independently.


The highest honor available to Girl Scouts, however, is the Gold Award. The Girl Scout Gold Award is roughly equivalent to the Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout, which is achieved through an intense community service project. The general public is more familiar with the Eagle Scout designation, but the Gold Award is no less prestigious or difficult to achieve.


Only girls in high school are eligible to receive the Gold Award, and before they begin the process, they must have received a number of previous Journey Awards and/or a Silver Award. With the support of an advisor, a Girl Scout working toward a Gold Award then identifies and researches a problem to be solved in her community, and develops a plan to address that problem.


Once a Girl Scout has decided upon her Gold Award project, she must present her plan to her local Girl Scout council and demonstrate that it meets certain requirements. Council members provide feedback and decide whether to approve the project so that it can move forward.


Carrying out Gold Award projects often involves other members of the community, and learning to recruit, manage, and collaborate with volunteers is an important part of the process. However, the time worked by volunteers does not count toward the 80-hour commitment required of the Girl Scout leading the project.


After the Gold Award project is complete, the Girl Scout must undertake a final step of sharing her experience. A final report must be submitted to the local Girl Scout council, and Girl Scouts are additionally encouraged to publicly reflect on their projects in order to inspire others. Ideally, Gold Award projects address issues important to the community in a way that will have an impact well into the future.


What are the benefits of earning the Girl Scout Gold Award?


If you’re a Girl Scout, there are a number of significant advantages to undertaking a Gold Award project. First and foremost is that the Gold Award project represents the culmination of all your time spent as a Girl Scout and the fulfillment of the qualities that the Girl Scouts exist to instill. Receiving a Gold Award indicates, both to you and to your community, that you’ve made the most of your Girl Scouting experience.


The Gold Award is a prestigious and recognizable award from a national organization with a rigorous, nationally standardized set of requirements, meaning that it will be a valuable part of your resume moving forward. Receiving this award sets you apart for your hard work and dedication to a goal, and if you receive this award, you’ll be among only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts who do so.


The research, planning, leadership, and dedication involved in putting together a successful Gold Award project are invaluable qualities for your future, and the colleges to which you apply will appreciate that you’ve demonstrated your personal qualities in such a recognizable way. The community-service element of the Gold Award also lets future college admissions committees know that you’ve built a connection to the people around you and that you have concerns that extend into the larger world.


The passions you’ve exhibited in your project may provide a glimpse of how you could contribute to a college campus and beyond. In college, you’ll have many opportunities to pursue independent projects, lead group activities, and delve deeply into particular topics of interests, and if you’ve completed a Gold Award project, your future college will know that you have the skills to take advantage of these opportunities.


Receiving a Gold Award opens the door for additional recognition and other benefits, one of which is the National Young Women of Distinction (NYWD) program. Each year, only ten Girl Scout Gold Award recipients are selected for this program, which honors Girl Scouts whose Gold Award projects were particularly extraordinary in planning, execution, and impact upon a nationally or internationally significant issue or problem.


Girl Scouts who become part of the NYWD program receive professional training in public speaking and the opportunity to speak to and for young women on a national level. Their Gold Award projects are awarded additional resources and recognition, improving awareness of the issues that these Girl Scouts have chosen to work on. NYWD program participants also receive college scholarships, as well as a particularly prestigious award for their resumes.


More broadly, your success in the Girl Scouts will not only help your college application shine, but will also make you eligible for other college scholarship programs administered by the central Girl Scouts organization as well as other sources. Having a Gold Award on your record, of course, can only help your applications for these scholarships. Last but not least, if you eventually join the U.S. military, you may be awarded more advanced rank on the basis of the service and commitment you’ve shown through your Gold Award project.


What role can Girl Scouts play in the admissions process?


As we mentioned, the Girl Scout Gold Award is generally not as well known to the public as the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout designation, so you may have to do a little additional explaining in order to make sure others understand the meaning of this award. Your Gold Award represents a serious commitment and a major achievement, and you don’t want that success to be downplayed.


However, regardless of public notoriety, the Gold Award is a prestigious accolade that speaks highly of your character, your leadership skills, and the work you’ve put in to reach this point. Rest assured that college admissions officers and others in the know will appreciate what your Gold Award says about you as a leader, a planner, and a person. Working toward such a prestigious award speaks volumes about your potential for future success.


As you map out your path through high school and, eventually, the college application process, you’ll come across many additional opportunities to learn new skills, demonstrate leadership, and help your community through extracurricular activities. Participating in Girl Scouts can be a great way to grow as a person and show off your skills, but of course, you’ll need to supplement your involvement with other activities outside the classroom.


Are you still considering which extracurriculars to join or how to manage your schedule? CollegeVine is here to guide you in choosing extracurriculars that will not only match up with your passions, but give you valuable skills and experience that can be essential for your future in college and beyond.


Check out our blog posts on individual extracurricular activities, from creative writing to athletics to National Honor Society, as well as our recent and upcoming posts on how to manage your extracurriculars during each year of high school.


If you’re thinking more about extracurriculars because college applications are drawing near, we can help with that as well. Our experienced advisors can assist with crafting your application, editing your essay, and mentoring you through the application process—all more affordably than our competitors. Fill out the form below for a free initial consultation!


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Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.