Boys State - to be, or not to be?


5-Year Member
Nov 28, 2017
DS has applied for NASS. We live in an inner city of an upper Midwest state so he may get an NASS invitation this June. He would like to go but has visited USNA last fall & feels Naval officer is who & what he wants. He has a late June commitment as a senior staffer with his Boy Scout Council’s National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) program - this will be his 4th year on staff and it is a huge leadership commitment that involves hundreds of hours over the year in training , planning & prep to train youth leaders in Boy Scout troops & his position is a great achievement & honor - few are selected for his position & many of his predecessors went to SAs. This is non-negotiable & he will meet his commitment. He is an Eagle Scout.

The opportunity to participate in Boys State this June has come up. We live in an inner city and no one from his high school in recent memory has participated but the local American Legion has told him they would love to sponsor him. Truthfully, we had only cursory knowledge of Boys State before this forum (we knew Bill Clinton was a Boys Stater but we didn’t know what that was).

So the question we have is this: would cramming in a week of Boys State in an unbelievably busy June be sufficiently helpful in the “process” to do Boys State instead of NASS? I’m sure DS would likely get some valuable experience from a week of Boys State but, frankly, it pales in comparison to the leadership responsibility, time commitment, & experience that NYLT staffing represents. But DS & I are concerned that USNA will find it more expedient to view Boys State as a leadership experience they understand than the less-common BSA’s NYLT. We have read many admonitions on this forum to not approach application to SA’s as “checking the box”, yet Boys State could be that box for him. Do those with greater perspective than us think Boys State is an important aspect of USNA application? I have read that it carries a lot of water with WP - equal to Eagle Scout. I find that unbelievable but I don’t have the USNA perspective. But is it a better use of time than NASS?

DS will likely be competing with applicants from private schools & a military-oriented hs that draws from our congressional district. His odds of getting a nom are pretty good (MOC’s slate is rarely 10) but it will be a competitive slate.

I don’t want this to turn into a competition of how many boxes we can check. But we don’t want to leave anything on the table, either. With all of the candidates to consider, USNA has to do much of this in a mechanistic way (despite what some may say) & “checking those boxes” cannot do anything but help.

So, to clarify, if DS had to choose between Boys State and NASS, what would make more sense for appointment (given the above, and consideration that ACT, GPA, rank, athletics are highly competitive)?

Please challenge our logic (that’s what I’m asking).
ders_dad. I would highy recommend your son attends Boys State. It is a big deal to all SAs. And I am most certain it will be an experience he will truly enjoy and glad to have went. If your son really have to choose, do the NYLT and Boys State. NASS would be great if he goes but it will have no impact to his WCS. However, it should have an impact to his USNA experience and help him decide if USNA is a right Academy for him. I've been a Scoutmaster and Venture Crew Advisor for 8 years. So I know the programs you are talking about. I too agree that Scouting leadership programs and NYLT are significantly more time consuming and requires much more dedication over long term. However, SAs are looking for leadership and strength in many areas, not just in scouting, academics, and athletics. So covering all the important bases SAs expect their top candidates to have is very important. Also Boys State experience is in a way similar to going to an SA seminar. It is run like a military camp and run by veterans - American Legion. Your son will meet many of his SA competition at the Boys State. Until your son gets his Appointment to one of the SAs, the game is still on. And he should do what ever necessary to make his package strong until the day he get his Appointment letter. Develop a unique story that is his own. So don't stop, don't scale back what he can do as he prepares for his chance at SAs. It is not easy!

My kid grew up in scouting family since age 10. Like your son, my kid's life evolved around scouting and athletics, so had no time for anything else. He had to drop orchestra after Sophomore year because he is involved in 4 Varsity and Club Sports. We lived in a military community overseas for over a decade so the community is very strong with many military family resources from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, very active in scouting. With the type of activities we did, many activities were hard to distinguish between military training and scout training. We were always mindful that Scouting and Military activities should be different. But with the great material, personnel, and funding resources we had for youths in scouting, we used all resources to make the experience very high quality. I mean we did live fires at military ranges with M4s and .22 winchester rifles, shot guns, M9 hand guns, air rifles, rappelling off the 30 meter tower, air assault off training choppers, overnight land navigation camp, overnight historic trail march doing 30 miles over 36 hours, good swimmers did 4 miles swim non stop in a super gym (younger good swimmers did 2 miles swim) as part of their mile swim badge and swim merit badge. These are 12-16 year old kids led by NCOs and Army Captains to Colonels doing the activities together. Aviation merit badges were conducted at the Air Force base using simulators and real F16 cockpit and instruments. Few of these kids applying to SAs have great deal of unique experience to write about in their SA essays.

And so my DS did just that. My son attended Boys State, USMA SLE, USAFA Summer Seminar. He didn't get chosen for NASS, so we were very disappointed. But later learned that they normally don't take kids who already have been exposed to the military. But we were still pretty disappointed that he didn't get NASS. However, USNA gave my DS LOA in Sep with a guarantee appointment with a Nom. USNA was the first to recognize my DS accomplishments and desire to attend USNA and other SAs. Like many others on this post, my DS has LOE from USMA, and Early Action Appointment to USCGA in Nov 2017. My DS didn't attend Coast Guard Academy AIM because he ran out of summer schedule. He got a call from his Congressman in mid December that he got Nomination to USNA, so he should get his official Appointment with BFE from USNA once his portal lights up with his Congressional Nom.

My DS like your son is still involved in leadership role in Scouting through Venture Crew. He's done the NYLT at 14 and was a trainer at 16. He made Eagle Scout at 14 and has 11 Eagle Palms. He is also a Venture Summit Scout and made that at 16. I don't want to over dress his accomplishments on this post but he has incredible amount of accomplishments. Also have plan B as many say on the forum. Hopefully, you apply to freshman class only once in your life time. So I asked my DS to take full advantage of his age and his Senior year to apply to other top ROTC schools. We were very humbled when he received all 3 National ROTC Scholarship to Army, Navy, Air Force. He got T3 NROTC and T2 AFROTC. His NROTC is placed at Yale and AROTC is placed at Harvard. If he doesn't get in to these schools, he can transfer the awards to other schools if he enrolls in ROTC Program instead of the SA. Knowing my kid, he will go to SA even if he get accepted into the Ivies. He tells me he likes the conservative, structured, and disciplined military environment that do things around the clock. He loves the SA traditions at each schools. He grew up among many West Point Society members who were his Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters. He just needs to select one SA that his heart desires. We are as a family visiting 2 SAs and 3 Ivies in Feb to determine and narrow down the choice.

I hope your son stays with the SA application to completion. It is a long and difficult road ahead for the family. He needs endurance and dedication. Your family will need endurance as well as the process is a Marathon with Sprints in between. My advise is to attend as many SA summer programs as he can. And then narrow down his options when the apps open up for part 2 in August. Finish all apps by Sep and turn them all in. Finish DoDMERB by Aug/Sep and wait for results. Apply to all the Noms between April 1 - Sep 30, as soon as Nom Portals open up. Then he will have more time to focus on his other college Apps and on his Senior AP classes.

Good luck!
Boys State, all the way.

So glad your son loves training NYLT. My DS trained it as well, then moved on to take and train the next level, too. The leadership skills I've seen become second nature with kids that really learn and teach the program are incredible!
Yes to Boys State.
NASS is not a big deal for candidates who are already committed to USNA.
NYLT (what we used to call White Stag back in the day) is an excellent program, and being on staff shows he knows what he's doing.

If he gets an invite to a CVW in the Fall and can get it into his schedule, he should go.
It's less than three full days (17OO Thursday to 0800 Saturday), but the exposure to Mid life makes for a great experience. If he can't go, that's not a big deal either.
Is your DS certain USNA (or another SA) is what he wants? That wasn't clear to me from the original post. Has he ever visited USNA? If not, NASS can be very helpful in terms of understanding what a SA is about and whether this is what your DS wants.

If your DS is firmly committed to USNA and/or is already familiar with it, agree with above posters that he should do Boy's State and ask for a spring (or fall) CVW.

Finally, consider what your DS really wants to do. All of the options are great. IMHO, life is too short to spend time doing things that may "look good" at the expense of equally challenging/interesting/productive things that you really want to do. IOW, if his heart is set on NASS, he will probably get more out of it. Ditto with Boy's State.
My DS was a NYLT trainer, summer leader at Philmont, SPL, multiple varsity team captain, etc. He didn't complete his Eagle Scout until after he submitted his service academy applications. He did go to Boys State. He receive an LOA to USNA and when he had a sit-down with his USMA regional representative, she told him he had already maxed out the leadership points for their WCS and when he got the Eagle Scout, he would not get additional points. So, he may wish to discuss this with his USNA representative to determine if he "should/needs to" go to Boys State. Normally, I would say to always go after any activity, like Boys State, that would provide points to WCS. Everybody states that NASS does not provide "points" to the application. I will say that on my DS's LOA, there was a hand written note from Admissions, commenting about his performance at NASS.
@ders_dad & @CrewDad...Wow!!! Man, your kids sound like amazing young men!!! The caliber of young people connected to this forum is incredibly impressive, but sometimes misleading of the total population of SA students. I think the overachievers find this forum, so it incorrectly feels like each applicant can walk-on-water. My son is a Plebe at USMA. I recently asked him to ask his Plebe friends, a small sample of 8, how many of them went to Boys State and only 3 of the 8 had gone.
You obviously don’t have to have the Boys State box checked off, but you both will rest easier knowing you did everything you could to submit the best application possible.
I know i’s crazy watching the June calendar fill up with all these events but just do it! His world will grow immensely and whichever school he lands at next year he will already have acquaintances thanks to the summer camps and Boys State.
My son played football and his team had 7on7 plus conditioning in June, so as a senior and Captain, he could not be gone the whole month. Anyway, he was not accepted to SLE and I was devastated for him, but he was in the first round of appointments last Jan, so that made up for the sting of rejection. His observation was many of his fellow Plebe classmates already knew each other from the summer camps which from his perspective, was a huge bonus
My advice? Do it ALL if you can and they are willing.
I have no doubt your boys will have several great college acceptances next year and the more experience they receive this summer, the more perspective and wisdom they will have to make the selection that is best for them. Good luck and keep us posted!
Great perspectives from all! Thanks.

To clarify, he visited USNA in the fall with my wife. They visited because of his enthusiasm for USNA & came back even more excited. He bought a USNA sport pullover that he wears so much that his classmates ask if he ever washes it. The BGO & a mid visited the high school in early Dec. & DS’s guidance counselor made sure he met with them (he was the only one they met with). Since October he’s been getting up at 6:00 am every day to run 3 miles, weight training (which he has been doing for some time) & joined the wrestling team to get more contact sports. It’s tough because he works 3 days a week & missed some practices (so he won’t letter - but he will letter in baseball this spring). So he seems very committed but he freely admits that he doesn’t know for sure what life as a mid will be like.

He’s less enthused about applying to USAFA - he hasn’t been to CS & has not applied to SS there, although he plans on applying there for appointment too. We will visit there this summer.

He really wants to go to NASS if offered but would reluctantly rethink it if Boys State would improve his chance at USNA.

If he has already “maxed out” his leadership for WCS w/r to Boys State then the decision would be easier (but one never knows).

Does “successful” participation in NASS help?
I don’t think “successful” participation (great phrase btw!) is recognized as being a true difference maker within this forum...
Remind me why you don’t want him to attend Boys State...
If he has already “maxed out” his leadership for WCS w/r to Boys State then the decision would be easier (but one never knows).
> Exactly..USNA does not publish the WCS formula, and I would not make any decisions based upon what you think each program adds to the score. DS has a good problem -- several good options, and none will hurt him.

Does “successful” participation in NASS help?
> It can, first, you get the CFA out of the way. Second, I understand that the Midshipman in charge of each squad does an eval --If its a good eval, it "might" give a slight boost when Admissions is deciding on who to appoint. I've got no inside knowledge on the issue, but really suspect that the this would really only have an effect only if the eval is really stellar, and probably has a bigger impact if the eval is really poor (ie. no interest or aptitude).On the other hand, we know that NOT attending NASS really has no impact on the application. (The one exception would be if someone applies for NASS and declines ---but I wouldn't expect that declining with an explanation that DS was selected for Boys State would have any impact).
I don’t think “successful” participation (great phrase btw!) is recognized as being a true difference maker within this forum...
Remind me why you don’t want him to attend Boys State...

The issue would be conflict - Boys State would occur during the only open week he would have to attend NASS (his school lets out second week in June and last NASS session would be spoken for by his NYLT staffing). It boils down to NASS (if offered) or Boys State.
I think, if you look at the statistics, that all of the summer sessions are used as a recruiting tool for underrepresented areas, whether that be geographic, economic, heritage, ethnicity, gender, etc. There are more people who are offered appointments who did not attend the summer sessions than who did. There are also numerous posts, as well as other information floating out there, that indicate the summer sessions are not a factor in the admission process. Boys State is a factor in the Admission process, just like eagle Scout is, just like Captain of the Football team is worth more than Captain of the tennis team. While it may be checking boxes, points are points, and I don't see any reason for not checking the box.
ders_dad. I think the general consensus is attend Boys State if you have to choose btw NASS and Boys State. Boys State is a neutral selective leadership program to all colleges and SAs. NASS is a recruiting program by USNA, although you do have to qualify to attend via application review. If you can attend all, attend all, including other SA summer programs. It will open doors to many dimensions for your son. My son's assessment after attending SLE, SS, and Boys State, he said he was so well prepared at Boys State because of his training - scouting and SLE/Summer Seminar - prior to attending the program. He also liked Boys State because it had more diverse student body who had either the SA and other summer programs. Not all who attend Boys State want to attend SAs. And not all who attend NASS and SLE will apply to SAs. USNA accepted about 2000-2500 to NASS in 2016 and other SAs accept 700-1000 to their 2 sessions. Based on evaluating data from 2016, only about 500 out of 700 Air Force and up to 2500 USNA who attended summer program got appointments. So you don't have to be at NASS to get an Appointment. You can always apply for CVW (Cadet Visiting Weekend) now. USNA is taking application now for their Jan and Feb intake. Most are for Juniors in high school. Good luck!
FWIW: when my son attended NASS in 2016, one of the kids went home with his LOA. I know Boys State is considered in some ways 'equivalent' to an Eagle, although I find that problematic since an Eagle is years in the achieving and being chosen for Boys state seems less involved. If it does require a significant input of time and energy, will your son have time to do it right?
There are also numerous posts, as well as other information floating out there, that indicate the summer sessions are not a factor in the admission process.

This isn't exactly accurate for USNA -- might be for other SAs. At the risk of a double negative, not attending NASS won't hurt your chances for a USNA appointment -- IOW, no downside in not attending from an admissions standpoint. However, if you do attend and do really well, it can help you slightly. More or less than Boy's State? Don't have that answer as I know Boy's State is viewed very favorably by USNA.

Here's what I would do. First apply for both. You may not be accepted to one or the other and then the decision is made. If you are accepted to both, pick the one you want the most. If you still can't decide, you might email the Regional Director for your area and indicate you've been accepted to both, want to attend both but the timing conflicts, and you'd like to know if USNA views participation in one or the other more favorably. Not sure if you'll get a definitive reply, but worth asking.
If you are accepted in NASS, do you have a choice with regard to which of the three sessions? In doing some "what ifs", it might be possible to get both Boys State and NASS in this June (assuming, of course, he is accepted to one or both) but it would involve probably skipping the last week of school. DS said he is pretty sure provisions would be made for taking early exams to allow him to leave for NASS (provided he could get the first session).
NASS doesn't help towards admission, only for the candidate's mindset.

I do think Boys State provides another leadership opportunity outside the Scouting Bubble and can help expose young men to new team development techniques that will come in handy!
DS staffed NYLT for 3 years (including ASPL), got elected Lt. Gov at Boys State and attended NASS. For NYL it was his favorite BSA experience and it is one thing he will miss dearly. Enjoyed more than Philmont, Sea Base and NT. Can completely understand why he would not want to miss NYLT. Teaching outdoor leadership is a great skill that he can speak to on his essays and in his BGO plus MoC interviews. Boys State was also a great experience. There is a box to check on the USNA application for attending Boys State and an additional box for being elected Gov and Lt. Gov. USMA is a box to check for attending and you can explain in the notes what leadership if any you earned. DS absolutely loved Boys State also -- the schedule is demanding but he loved the interaction and opportunity to build friendships across the state. So too valuable to understand local through state political systems and how you can be a productive member of society by serving your fellow citizens. DS attended NASS, SLE and USMC SLCDA (do not overlook this great opportunity at Quantico!). Loved all of them also. Even though it doesn't count for your application, it gives you good insight and can create a passion and experience to speak from the heart in the essays for the SAs, in the BGO (FFO, or ALO) interviews and MoC interviews. NASS, SLE, etc. do not, as mentioned above, count for or against. But they do provide intangibles for the rest. Long way to get to this point: you have no bad choices and an abundance of good choices, each one of which will provide something unique for your DS application. If you consider USMC SLCDA, DS thought it very much like SLE and NASS with the trip to the Holocaust Museum very impactful for the point of you have to stand up for what's right no matter the consequences.
Boys State. Both of our boys went and enjoyed the experience. One is at USAFA and the other is at USMA. Neither got a spot at the respective summer seminar. The experience gave them something to discuss at their nomination interviews.