Congressional Volunteer Award

September 27, 2020
By AdmissionSight
Congressional Volunteer Award medal

Congressional Volunteer Award

The Congressional Volunteer Award is an award presented by the United States Congress for young Americans. The Congressional Award is the only charity of Congress, and the program is unlike any other award program. 

The Congressional Volunteer Award is non-partisan, it’s a voluntary program and it isn’t a competition. Instead of competing against yourself for an award, you work towards various goals from various categories. 

Some take more time than others, but the overall goal of each program is to advance yourself and in a lot of cases help others as well. Any American student can participate, you can register at 13.5 years old, you just have to complete your task by the time your 24th birthday comes around.

Congressional Volunteer Award attendees gathered for a picture

The Congressional Volunteer Award has various levels, there are bronze, silver, and gold congressional award certificate as well as bronze, silver, and gold congressional medals. Each level of the award includes setting goals in four different areas and allows for students to get involved in new activities or ones they’re already involved in. 

This award is unique because it allows students to navigate the award at their own pace, plus three’s no minimum grade point average needed.

This is also a great opportunity for students to start early, you can begin working towards your goals at 13.5 and your journey can be continued for 10 years, think of all the good that can be done for the community. 

In case you have a low GPA, this is also a great chance to demonstrate your personal qualities, leadership, and community effort to your college applications, there are ways to get into college with a low GPA, and the Congressional Volunteer Award could be a great resource.

If you are a student who wants to compete or participate in competitions while completing the Congressional Volunteer Award, there are so many other opportunities as well. Whether you are interested in research, or humanities. The Congressional Award also has a few STEM initiatives, continue reading to learn more, as well as there are a lot of math and science competitions out there.

The Congressional Volunteer Award offers so much flexibility, now is the perfect time to put your time to use, read how some students aiming to get the Congressional Volunteer Award are working to help during this pandemic. Working towards a Congressional Volunteer Award can be an inspiring, and a self-fulfilling venture.

Congressional Volunteer Award History

The United States Congress began the Congressional Volunteer Award in 1979 for young people in order to recognize their initiative, service, and achievement. It was a bipartisan effort from the Senate and House of Representatives.

Gold medals displayed in the table

The bill was sponsored by Senator Malcolm Wallop from Wyoming and Congressman James Howard of New Jersey. View the entire official public law here. The public law is a private and public partnership meaning it gets all its funding from the private sector. Each President since Jimmy Carter has signed the legislation into law.

About the Congressional Volunteer Award 

The Congressional Volunteer Award has four different program areas:

1.Voluntary Public Service

Voluntary Public Service requires sensitivity, determination, and dedication. Volunteer service acts must be done without compensation or school credit. There has to be a service performed, including activities that help the entire community.

An acceptable goal can sound something like this: “I will provide a minimum of 100 hours of service under the direction of the Volunteer Office of Central Florida.” Volunteer Public Service work must be nonpartisan. The goal of the Voluntary Public Service program area is to have an extended commitment to one’s goals and the work is done is impactful to the community.

The minimum amount of hours for a bronze certificate is 30 hours, and the most to earn a gold medal is 400 hours and 24 months of work.  Activities can include volunteering at an animal shelter, hospital, daycare, the Red Cross, and more. Find activity ideas here.

At AdmissionSight we recommend as much community service as possible and we provide guidance to ensure students know how they can make a difference in their community, it’s also important for the personal statement. A student who worked with AdmissionSight wrote about her volunteer experience in her personal statement and she was accepted to Yale and Princeton, of course, it all depends on how you craft your statement, but volunteering can help take you to the next level. If you’re unsure how to get to that level, contact us.

2. Personal Development

The Personal Development program allows students to work on their own interests, social, and life skills while trying something new or strengthening a passion or talent.  An acceptable activity sounds like this, “I will perform in community theater, work as a stagehand, and learn about lighting, props, and costumes.” 

This goal could be to become a better actor/actress, to learn about behind the scenes of theatre or more. This is a great program because there are so many opportunities to learn about, as well as Personal Development can be done as part of a group, for example, “I will pursue my interest in photography as a member of the school newspaper staff. I intend to produce at least 10 photos, which will be published during the next school year.”

Activities can range from singing to nursing to engineering to floral art, cheek out a suggested list here. The requirements begin at 15 hours for a bronze certificate to 200 hours and a 24-month commitment for a gold medal.

3. Physical Fitness

The Congressional Volunteer Award is for students to set and achieve a goal in physical activity. Team sports and individual participation work, the goal is to improve performance or physical fitness. The goal is not aimed to be competitive with others, for example, “I can presently jog 5 miles in 50 minutes and I intend to improve my time to 8.5 minutes per mile.”

Activities can include all types of physical activity, from fitness walking to tennis to weight training, check out suggestions here. The requirements begin at 15 hours for a bronze certificate to 200 hours and a 24-month commitment for a gold medal. 

When applying to college, it can be very helpful to prove you are well-rounded by being a varsity athlete. We at AdmissionSight can help guide students to get noticed by coaches, completing the Physical Fitness portion of the Congressional Volunteer Award can also be a game-changer and boost your profile considering its non-competitive and for your own improvement.

4. Expedition and Exploration

Expedition and Exploration is a one time experience that you can plan, it isn’t something you attend that others plan, but its a first-hand experience in the wilderness or new culture. The goal of this portion is to encourage participants to develop a sense of the spirit of adventure and discovery by organizing, planning, training, and completing the Expedition or Exploration. Planning will be necessary for the Expedition or Exploration, and depending on what you choose aa your activity, three could be expenses so plan for that.

Exploration activities can also a scientific factor, a historical exploration, or more. While an Expedition could be a canoe trip, camping or more. Check out examples here. The requirements for Expedition or Exploration differ from the other due to the length of time. bronze certificates begin at 1 day, whereas a gold medal means 4 consecutive overnights, so 5 days in total.  

The Expedition and Exploration program can be a great way to prove your stand out qualities as well as your leadership qualities. By completing this program you’re proving you can finish a task from beginning to end with learning results.

How Can I Start?

Anyone who is 13.5 years of age can register. It costs $25 to register, and from there you can choose an advisor who helps you study the guidelines, review your record book, create goals, and choose activities. Next, you start to reach your goals. After you’ve completed the hours for a level, it should be completed in your Record Book and signed by your Advisor, and from there submitted to the Congressional Award National Office. After you receive your award, revisions are made if needed, then you can move on to the next level.

If you need somewhere to start, at AdmissionSight we have Pre-High School Consultations where we provide a detailed roadmap so you as a student can be ahead of your peers. This could be a good way to add in the planning of the Congressional Volunteer Award.

The Record book is where you’ll record all of your work, a pdf version can be seen here.

Some important things to note for requirements, various certificate levels have different hourly and time requirements, the specifics can be found here. Minimum month requirements are for the Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, and Physical Fitness programs, months don’t have to be consecutive but they are cumulative. And lastly, months can only be for one activity at a time.


There are various events throughout the year to raise money, there is a Gold Medal Ceremony, Golf Classic, and Poker Tournament. There are also state dinners, receptions, and regional award ceremonies. The award events are great opportunities for students to network and meet new peers.

1. Golf Classic

    • Each year there is a Golf Classic to bring together Member s of Congress, Chiefs of Staff, corporate partners, athletes, business leaders, all current and former, to raise funds for The Congressional Award

2. The Annual Charity Poker Tournament

    • This year is the 16th annual tournament, including prominent guests who play poker for charity

3. Horizon and Leadership Awards

    • The Wallop Howard Leadership Award is for individuals in the public sector who have worked hard to improve the livers of youth in the nation
    • The Horizon Award is from the Joint Leadership Commission of the Congressional Award Foundation, given to individuals in the private sector who have worked to expand opportunities for all Americans through personal work
    • Winning a leadership award is a great way to prove you’ve found direction, as well as winning a leadership award because of your Congressional Volunteer Award work proves you’re a hard worker

4. The Gold Medal Ceremony

    • The Gold Medal Ceremony is for winners of the Congressional Award who have reached logged a minimum of 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, 200 hours of Personal Development, 200 hours of Physical Fitness, and a 5-day, 4-night Expedition or Exploration, this is the pinnacle award of the program.

Student with her gold medal posing for a picture

Congressional Volunteer Internship

The Congressional Award Foundation is offering a virtual summer internship for high school students as a professional and personal opportunity specifically for Congressional award participants. 

The internship allows for high school seniors to learn about non-profit management, communications strategy, you and civic engagement, and event management. Interns will work from 10 to 15 hours a week on projects and they will be able to meet with business and civic leaders virtually.

Congressional Volunteer Award attendees

It takes a lot more than the “Modern Day 4.0” to get into top universities, it’s important that students are aware that there are outside extracurricular activities that can help increase a chance at college acceptance, and it can be too late to get involved once senior year rolls around, it’s important to get started as early as possible. 

If you are looking for an internship, at IvyCollgeAdmit we can help through Private Counseling, we can help you find an internship as well as prepare the application.

You can learn more or apply here.


The Congressional Awards works with participants and communities to help prepare youth for STEM futures, they achieve this through working with corporate leaders and initiatives like STEM Stars Initiative and the Women in STEM Challenge.

If you want to share how you’re adding STEM into your venture for the Congressional Volunteer Award, do so here.

  1. STEM Stars
      • The STEM Stars initiative is presented by corporate partners, it works to involve science and math in the Congressional Award to provoke interest in math and science
      • The goal is to have every Congressional Award participant include STEM in one of their activities, to create 2.25 million hours of STEM projects
  2. Women in STEM Challenge
      • The Women in STEM challenge aimed to encourage young women to involve themselves in STEM while working towards the Congressional Award
      • The winner received a polo and was awarded the title of STEM Ambassador
      • Read about the winners here

If you have a passion for STEM, there are various competitions as well as summer programs specifically focused on math and science, such as the Michigan State High School Honors Science, Math, and Engineering, or the Summer Science Program, more information can be found here.

Congressional Volunteer Award

There is no reason to not attempt to complete at least one portion of the Congressional Volunteer Award, not only do you have the chance to win a certificate or medal, but just participating can teach you about yourself, provide you with a new expedition, help your community and maybe even strengthen your arm muscles. 

For more information on the Congressional Volunteer Award and to keep up to date with their ideas, posts, and more, visit their website here and if you need any help getting started with activity ideas, planning your extracurriculars or academics around the Congressional Volunteer Award, contact us at AdmissionSight for guidance.

College Admissions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.