All Students Need to Know About the President’s Volunteer Award

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students picking up trash

All Students Need to Know About the President’s Volunteer Award

The President’s Volunteer Service Award is offered by the President of the United States as a civil award to honor dedicated volunteers that offer hours of personal time to helping others through voluntary means. The President’s Volunteer Award was established in 2003 through executive order by then-president George W. Bush. Although families and entire organizations can be granted the award, we’re only interested in how individual students can obtain such an esteemed award.  Recipients can be granted the Gold, Silver, or Bronze award depending on how many hours of voluntary service are completed.

three medals dangling

The President’s Volunteer Award with the highest prestige is known as the President’s Call to Service Award and has only been awarded to a few worthy Americans who met the stringent requirements of over 4,000 service hours. Zach Bonner, Mark Carman, and S. Truett Cathy are among the celebrated recipients of this highest accolade. Those awarded with the President’s Volunteer Award might receive a medallion, official pin, personalized certificate, or even a letter from the sitting President, depending on what award is earned.

AdmissionSight is always guiding students towards various awards and accolades offered to help bolster their chances of attaining their academic goals. The most esteemed colleges in the US are always looking for indicators that an applicant went above and beyond both in academic and extracurricular settings. With tens of thousands of students competing for limited slots in the incoming freshman class, it behooves you to find ways of standing out. If the President’s Volunteer Award piques your interest, we’ve provided answers to some common questions to help you get the ball rolling.

What can the President’s Volunteer Award do for students?

When making the transition from high school to college, students have to manage their time wisely. Between standardized tests, college applications, extracurricular programs, and high school coursework, it can feel like you’re being pulled in a million directions at once. When you first hear about the President’s Volunteer Award, it’s easy to brush it off as unworthy of your valuable time. As a lesser-known title, it’s understandable why students might not even give it a consideration. However, there are some identifiable benefits to be derived from attempting to earn this award. Here, we’ll outline the advantages of receiving the President’s Volunteer Award to give students a better idea of what can be gained.

a male student doing community work

Your application will stand out amongst the crowd – No matter where you apply for college, there’s a good chance you’ll be competing with thousands – if not tens of thousands – of fellow high school graduates for a limited number of spots. AdmissionSight is always reminding students how important it is to distinguish yourself from others in your application. Having the President’s Volunteer Award listed as one of your personal accomplishments will certainly catch the eyes of admission officers to ensure your application ends up on the top of the pile rather than the bottom.

It’s something you can put on job applications – Official recognition from the President of the United States doesn’t have an impact that fizzles out after college. Receiving the President’s Volunteer Award is something you can keep on your resumes when applying to jobs after college. The prestige and significance behind the award are enough to make any employer give your application another read-through and improve your chances of getting hired.

You’ll be an inspiration to others – The transition into college offers students a unique opportunity to establish themselves as leaders. Whether you want to start a club, lead an extracurricular program, or be influential in an esteemed area of research, you’ll need the ability to connect with and inspire others. Giving up hundreds of hours of your personal time to help others for nothing in return is something that certainly demands respect and puts you on a path to being a college leader.

Students volunteering in a public place.

There’s no barrier of entry – While most college-related awards, titles, and other accolades are reserved for those with excellent course grades and superb standardized test scores or for those that win some competition, the President’s Volunteer Award is open for all. Any student with the willingness to put in the necessary work can immediately be eligible to receive this esteemed and respected award. While it still takes effort to achieve, the PSVA doesn’t contain some of the same barriers that keep students from attaining similar awards.

What kind of award packages are offered for winners of the President’s Volunteer Award?

While other college competitions and awards might offer scholarships or cash prizes to qualified students, recognition is the primary honor for those who receive the President’s Volunteer Award. However, that doesn’t mean that award packages aren’t offered. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that students have more to gain from the prestige that comes along with receiving the award rather than the following prizes:

  • A personalized letter and certificate of achievement signed by the sitting US President
  • The official President’s Volunteer Award medallion, coin, or pin
  • These two award elements together, known as the Complete Package

The award package you receive after qualifying for the President’s Volunteer Award will depend on what the Certifying Organization has chosen to offer recipients. The organizations that are in charge of dispensing the award are encouraged to choose from the aforementioned options to find a prize package that “strongly resonates” with the volunteers. No matter the prizes that are associated with the Certifying Organizations with which you work, you’ll still be a President’s Volunteer Award recipient – which is the most esteemed component of all this. The award packages are simply icing on the cake.

Who is eligible to receive the President’s Volunteer Award?

One of the best parts of the President’s Volunteer Award is that it’s open to any student who is willing to put in the time and energy. Participants simply have to be US Citizens or lawful permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) in order to qualify for receiving the award. Students don’t have to worry about pursuing this award in any particular year of school since the minimum age requirement is just 5 years old. The only true qualifications for the President’s Volunteer Award come in the time allotment. Participants have to complete their voluntary service within a calendar year or 12 months for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards. For those aiming for the Lifetime Achievement Award, there is no time limit.

Students that spent their summer volunteering at their local homeless shelter

What kind of service is counted towards the President’s Volunteer Award?

Before you embark on accumulating service hours in pursuit of the President’s Volunteer Award, it’s important to know what kind of actions are counted towards the overall requirements and which of those aren’t acknowledged. Distilled to its most basic form, services that count towards the President’s Volunteer Award are those actions of voluntary service that benefit others. In other words, there are three important criteria that must be met:

  1. The services must be voluntary (i.e. you’re not being required to do them for any reason).
  2. You can’t be receiving any monetary compensation in return for your actions.
  3. The actions must be benefiting others in a demonstrable way.

If you decide to participate in a National Service Program such as AmeriCorps or Peace Corps that provides a stipend, you can only count the service towards the Lifetime Achievement Award and not the annual Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards. High schoolers won’t have to worry about this since you often have to be 18 to participate in these programs. It’s also important to note that expense reimbursements, membership passes, parking or transit passes, travel stipends, and other typical volunteer support don’t go against the requirement for no monetary compensation.

What kind of service is not counted towards the President’s Volunteer Award?

While it’s critical to understand the criteria for eligible service hours, it’s just as important to know what kind of services don’t count towards the President’s Volunteer Award. You’d hate to put in countless hours in one activity towards the award only to realize that particular service doesn’t count. With that in mind, here are some services that are not eligible to be counted towards the President’s Volunteer Award:

  • The donation of funds to any organization or service
  • Lobbying for a particular political group (although voter registration in a non-partisan fashion is eligible)
  • Instructing others within a religious context
  • Conducting a worship-related service
  • Proselytizing to others
  • Fulfilling community service required by a court
  • Services which only benefit your family members

What amount of service is required to receive the President’s Volunteer Award?

There are four different awards associated with the President’s Volunteer Award: Gold,  Silver, Bronze, and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Each requires a specific number of hours to be obtained. The exact number will depend on a student’s age. If you qualify for any of the following accolades, you technically have received the President’s Volunteer Award. Therefore, the Bronze award can be seen as the minimum. Anything you want to achieve beyond that is entirely up to you. Here’s a clear outline of the amount of service that’s required for each award:

Age Bronze Award Silver Award Bronze Award Lifetime Achievement Award
5 to 10 years old 26 – 49 hrs 50 – 74 hrs 75 hrs or more 4,000 hrs or more
11 to 15 years old 50 – 74 hrs 75 – 99 hrs 100 hrs or more 4,000 hrs or more
16 – 25 years old 100 – 174 hrs 175 – 249 hrs 250 hrs or more 4,000 hrs or more
26 years old and older 100 – 249 hrs 250 – 499 hrs 500 hrs or more 4,000 hrs or more

How do I qualify my services for the President’s Volunteer Award?

In order to have your volunteer services count towards the President’s Volunteer Award, there are various Certifying organizations that are certified to award volunteers directly. There are thousands of such organizations throughout the country that recognize volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Award annually. The program behind this award groups organizations into two different categories to certify the awards: certifying organizations and leadership organizations.

Certifying Organizations

Certifying organizations play a critical role in the release of the President’s Volunteer Award. A CO is an organization that has been deemed authority by applying and undergoing a review process in order to administer the President’s Volunteer Award to volunteers. If you’re interested in learning about the specific requirements that organizations must reach in order to be considered as an official CO, you can visit the Presidential Service Awards website.

Leadership Organizations

Leadership organizations, on the other hand, are normally the headquarters or governing body for a nonprofit or company that have several affiliates, business units, or sub-organizations associated with them. Just like COs, leadership organizations have to adhere to certain criteria set forth by the program. The primary difference is that LOs have to commit to acknowledging 1,000 volunteers – at a minimum – each year, agree to a central billing format, and must promote the program through various communication channels. As an incentive, LOs can customize certain certificates for distribution internally. Some examples of LOs currently administering the President’s Volunteer Award include Morgan Stanley, AT&T, Bank of America, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Here are some types of organizations that fall under these categories:

  • Non-profits
  • Faith-based or community organizations
  • Colleges or schools
  • National service programs (i.e. AmeriCorps)
  • Fraternal, civic, or service organizations
  • Trade or membership associations
  • Local, state, or federal government agencies

Tips for obtaining the President’s Volunteer Award

  1. Plan ahead – Even if you aim for the Bronze Award, you’ll still need to rack up an impressive amount of voluntary service hours. No matter when you start, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Get a rough idea for how many hours you’d like to complete each year and further break that down by semester to better manage the time.
  2. Spread it out – While it might be tempting to put off your service hours until the last minute, it’s much more efficient to spread them out. This way, you won’t end up burning out and giving up before you reach the required amount of volunteer hours. You might even have to choose the organizations you work with based on their available hours. Finding something that aligns with your schedule is key.
  3. Find fulfilling work – There’s no doubt that volunteering for an organization or project you believe in will make this process much more enjoyable. Instead of rushing into your service and trying to knock out your hours as quickly as possible, it’s smarter to find work that is personally fulfilling. This will make it much easier to fulfill the requirements of the President’s Volunteer Award.
  4. Keep track of your hours – It’s easy to get into a rhythm with your service work and forget to keep track of your hours. For this reason, it’s important to have some system of tracking the time you volunteer to make sure you’re credited for every minute you’re offering. You can track your hours directly at the Presidential Service Awards site, although we also recommend keeping your own records – just to be safe.

AdmissionSight is here to help

The AdmissionSight team has accumulated decades of experience helping students gain admittance into some of the best schools in the country, making us experts in all things college admissions-related. We understand how stressful it can be to decide what kinds of awards, scholarships, and programs are worth investing valuable time into obtaining. That’s why we’ve tailored our services to offer students the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their academic aspirations. Whether you want to receive an undergraduate degree and head straight into the workforce or pursue a doctorate at an Ivy League College, we can help. Feel free to contact us today to learn more about what we offer.

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