First Class-First Year
In 1998, the expected time to make First class was extended to 12 months with the First Class-First Year program. Here is the current version of First Class-First Year
The current Boy Scout Handbook © 1998, Eleventh printing states on page 14: "Though you can advance at your own pace, active Scouts will usually earn First Class within a year of joining a troop."
Through the 1960's the Scout Handbooks typically contained language like this from the 1965 Edition, p. 228:
"The early steps put you on the road-but it is only after you take step after step that you can expect to reach the goal that Scouting is aiming for."
"That's why you should strive to become a First Class Scout at the earliest possible moment."
The earliest possible moment to earn First Class was 3 months.
The 1972 Scout Handbook removed Camping as an Eagle Required Merit Badge. Scouts no longer needed to be able to swim to earn First Class or even Eagle. The time to make First Class was extended to 8 months (p.87-89). For the only time in the history of the Boy Scouts, Eagle required 24 merit badge. The expanded Eagle Project requirement was added for the first time.
The 1976 Handbook declared the uniform to be optional (p.14) but continued the 8-month time-frame for First Class.
Since the 1960's, the expectation for earning First Class has gone from 3 months to 12 months. At the same time, the requirements have also been expanded.
- Tenderfoot: In the 1960's, Tenderfoot had no requirements for physical fitness, camping, cooking, or first aid. Today. the Tenderfoot Rank requires at least basic skills in each of these new areas in addition to the 1960's requirements.
- Second Class: In the 1960's, Second Class had no requirements for camping or swimming. Today, Second Class requires at least 5 activities and 2 campouts, basic swimming skills, and expanded first aid skills,
- First Class: Today's requirements double the the 1960's swimming requirements. Specific strokes are now required. Today's First Class camping requirement is 50% more than the 1960's requirement.
So while the expected time to earn First Class has increased from 3 to 12 months, the requirements have also been expanded. Also since 2001, the requirements for almost every merit badge have been increased. Camping and Swimming Merit Badges are now required again.