Scouting FAQ: Merit badge blue cards

One of the most important documents in the Scouts BSA advancement program is the venerable “blue card” — officially known as the Application for Merit Badge. It’s available in packs of 25 or 100, or in a specially designed template for printing from Scoutbook. The document serves as a sort of passport while a Scout is working on a badge and then later as a permanent record. There are two official ways to complete blue cards: on paper and online.

What does the paper blue card consist of?

It is a perforated trifold card with three distinct parts: the actual application, the applicant’s (Scout’s) record and the counselor’s record.

How is the blue card used?

First, the Scout meets with the unit leader (or other designated adult leader) to get the names of one or more registered merit badge counselors who are approved to counsel the badge in question. At this meeting, the unit leader signs the front of the card. Next, the Scout (along with a buddy) meets with the counselor he or she selects to work on the requirements. When the counselor is satisfied that all requirements have been completed, he or she signs both the applicant’s and counselor’s records, keeping the counselor’s record. Finally, the Scout brings the rest of the card back to the unit leader, who signs the applicant’s record and retains the application itself.

What about the chart on the back?

The back of the applicant’s record has space for the counselor to initial requirements as the Scout completes them. This is especially helpful if completion takes a long time or if the Scout ends up working with more than one counselor. (For example, a Scout might start a badge at summer camp and then finish it back home.)

Why are the applicant’s and counselor’s records important?

They provide a hard-copy backup in case there are problems later, perhaps when the Scout is completing the Eagle Scout Application. Also, keeping up with the applicant’s record helps the Scout learn personal responsibility.

What about recording progress in Scoutbook?

Scoutbook simplifies the blue card process, something that has been especially helpful with virtual advancement during the pandemic. A designated adult leader in the unit must first connect the Scout to the counselor for the specific merit badge on Scoutbook. The counselor can then record the Scout’s progress online. Scoutbook also allows you to print blue cards.

Where can I learn more?

See the Guide to Advancement and the Scoutbook knowledge base. For an overview of the merit badge process, check out this video.


  1. Everything should be digital via Scoutbook. Use of paper-based forms (millions each year) … and dyed with blue ink to boot! … is a disgraceful practice for any serious Scouter. I made the point of emphasizing to my Troops that by creating such paper waste for a merit badge like ‘Environmental Science’ is to fly in the face of all its teachings. DO NOT USE BLUE CARDS!!

    • Good point. My son and I are new to this but one would think that if the scout wants a backup for the online system, he could print this as a pdf and back it up.

  2. So the way I understand this article is that a unit leader signs a blue card simply because a Scout asks for one? As a matter of course. I’m not seeing where the leader assesses a Scouts ability, skills or inclination before approving. Is there a more formal process available in any guide to advancement or…. ? I consider Scouting magazine to be a reliable resource but not necessarily the solid policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.