Frequently Asked Questions

General/Registration

What are the age requirements?
The Congressional Award program is for youth ages 14-23 years of age. Participants can register when they are 13 ½ years old. However, they cannot earn their first Award until they are 14. All goals must be completed by their 24th birthday. Any young people below the age of 13 ½ do not yet qualify for the Congressional program. We encourage those youth to register once they become eligible.

When can I begin counting hours toward my goals?
You may begin counting hours once you have submitted your Registration Form and your goals have been approved by your advisor.

Are hours accepted for work I’ve already completed?
No. Hours completed before you register for the Congressional Award cannot be submitted for the Award. However, once you register, hours can be counted and carried to each level of the program.

What if I can complete the hours in less months than required?
When earning an award, goals achieved by activities requiring intense hours over a short period of time, e.g. 100 hours in 14 days, should be extended over the requirement for the level (for example, 7 months at the Bronze Medal level), either with follow up activities or by choosing a second goal. Part of earning a Congressional Award is making a commitment to your activities over a period of time. In order to earn an award, you must demonstrate that you have completed activities during at least the number of months required at your current level.

Can I skip levels?
You may begin with any level that you choose. We consider every participant to be on the road to the Gold Medal, and we’ll give you everything you earn along the way. Simply submit a Congressional Award Record Book for the level that you’d like to pursue once you fulfill those requirements. Once you’re approved, we’ll be sure to also send you any lower levels that you qualify for. For instance, if you choose to start with the Silver Medal level, we’ll send you the Bronze Medal and all three Certificates as well. However, we strongly recommend that participants start at one of the lower levels. As the work is cumulative, the only cost will be the short time taken to fill out a Record Book and the money for postage. Plus, if you submit at a lower level, you can be sure that you understand the Congressional Award’s program requirements.

Can I pursue just one of the four Program Areas?
In order to earn a Congressional Award, participants must complete hours for all four of the Program Areas. You cannot choose to pursue only certain ones. The Congressional Award program is about exploring new and different activities, thus becoming a well-rounded and balanced individual.

What if I go over the required number of hours?
Please submit a complete Record Book that includes all of your hours for each of the Program Areas – even if you go over the minimum hour and time requirements. Remember that the minimum program requirements are just that – a minimum. All hours carry over from one level to the next, and we add them up in our database at the National Office. We want to be sure that you get credit for all hours that you accumulate throughout the program. Just remember to only list your new hours – not your total number that includes previous levels. We’ll already have that information in our database.

Can my activities with other organizations count toward the Congressional Award?
Often, they do. If you belong to groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturing, 4-H, etc., your activities may often by used to achieve a particular goal. The activities used for The Congressional Award program, however, are to be consistent with the guidelines of the Award program.

Can the time I spend at regular club meetings count toward an award?
Not usually. Hours accumulated by attending regular club meetings where regular business is discussed are unacceptable. It is the activities the club undertakes, not the meetings it holds that count toward the Award. For some goals, time invested in gaining leadership skills or planning award activities might be allowable.

Are adjustments made for persons with disabilities?
Yes. Adjustments to the requirements can be made to suit the individual needs of participants with physical or mental disabilities. However, the degree of challenge and effort required to earn the Award is not diminished.

Can a participant use the same activity in different program areas?
No. When earning the award we encourage participants to complete activities that will challenge and push them. These activities, although challenging, must be different in every area. The participant cannot complete an activity in one area and use the same activity and hours to complete in another.

Advisors & Validators

Can an Advisor also serve as a Validator?
Yes, but to do so he or she must be knowledgeable in the particular activity.

Who would make a good Advisor or Validator?
Teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, club leaders and Scout Masters would all make excellent Advisors and Validators.  The only guideline in choosing an Advisor or Validator is that they cannot be your parent, relative or peer.

Can I change my Advisor?

Yes, you can change your Advisor if schedules change or you need to for some other reason.  All you have to do is note the change of Advisor on your next Record Book submission.

Voluntary Public Service

How many hours of planning and training may be counted towards Voluntary Public Service?
Training and planning hours for Voluntary Public Service work for the Congressional Award must consist of less than 25% of the total hours completed. All other Voluntary Public Service hours must consist of a direct service to the community at large.

Expedition/Exploration

Are the days and nights for the Expeditions cumulative? Do they have to be consecutive?
At the Certificate levels, the Expedition activities are cumulative and carry over from one level to the next. However, for the Medal levels, please note that the required overnights must be consecutive. Therefore, you can not add your overnights together from previous levels.

What is the Difference between an Expedition and an Exploration?
Expeditions are typically outdoor excursions that include camping, hiking, and wilderness activities. This usually forces the participant to forgo the comforts of home and learn to pack and prepare equipment, set up a tent, and cook food over an open fire. Participants should always take safety precautions and consult an adult when necessary.

Explorations are trips that provide the participant with a new cultural experience. These may include living on a farm, traveling to a foreign country, or exploring a new environment. Explorations involve preliminary research and preparation. Challenges may include language barriers, traveling great distances, or learning new tasks. You may want to consider an overnight stay with a local family if possible.

Whether alone, or as part of a group, everyone’s personal Challenge Level is different. Be sure to plan an Expedition or Exploration that’s right for you.

What should I include in the write-up of my Expedition or Exploration?
The presentation of your Record Book is very important. Be sure to provide as many details as you can, and be specific. There are three questions to consider when you are writing-up your Expedition or Exploration in the Congressional Award Record Book.

1) How did you prepare or plan?
2) How is this different from anything you have ever done before?
3) How were you self-reliant? Include details of how you were able to think on your feet and provide examples of how you took initiative.

The National Office Review Committee will look for this information, especially at the medal levels.

What qualifies as an Expedition or Exploration?
Expeditions and Explorations are all about adventure and discovery. Participants should plan, prepare, and be responsible. Pre-planned activities, or “Sign Up and Go” type trips would not qualify as a Congressional Award Expedition. School band trips, sport camps, conferences, cruises, leadership workshops or competitions are examples of these pre-planned type trips that will not qualify. There are three exceptions to this rule that may be acceptable due to the time commitment, total immersion into a new environment and the level of physical and mental challenge required. These include:

Philmont Scout Ranch, BSA
Outward Bound
People to People Student Ambassador Trips

Also note that family vacations are fun and relaxing, but there must be a level of challenge and discovery involved with the trip to count as an Expedition or Exploration. All Expedition/Exploration activities are reviewed as submitted.

Submission & Approval

How long does it take for a Record Book to be approved?
It may take several weeks to approve Record Books. Please be patient. Participants should hear back from their Program Manager regarding their Record Book within 4-6 weeks. Gold Medal Record Books are reviewed by a committee and take about 8 weeks for approval.  Note – these timelines do not include turn around time if your submission needs revisions.

When is my Record Book due?
Record Books are accepted all year. There are no deadlines. Work at your own pace. Just make sure you achieve your goals by your 24th birthday. If you are interested in attending the annual Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, DC you must submit your Gold Medal Record Book by February 1st each year.

How do I submit my Record Book?
You can send your completed Record Book to our mailing address:

The Congressional Award
PO Box 77440
Washington, DC 20013

We do not recommend sending anything certified, requiring signature, etc.  This often causes a delay in the process as the Post Office has to pull these items and log them in their system.

You may also submit your Record Book via fax at (202) 226-0131. Please include a cover sheet indicating the total number of pages.

You may submit your Record Book via email to your Program Manager. Be sure to include your submission as an attachment and do no submit in separate emails. If you would like to check on a submission, please allow at least a week for delivery and then processing. We do not send unsolicited notifications when Record Books are received.

What if my Record Book needed revisions?
If we have any questions or need additional information, you will receive a revision letter in the mail (and sometimes via email).  Simply respond to the revision, addressing all of the points.  Revisions can be submitted directly to the Program Manager who sent the letter via email, fax or mail.  If you add activities or hours, please make sure to have the activities approved by the Validator or Advisor.  If the revision is simply clarifying something, please feel free to send in your response via email or letter.   If you do not address all of the points in a revision letter or your responses lead to additional questions, you may receive additional questions from the office.  Please make sure to be as detailed as possible and re-review the guidelines in the Program Book to make sure you understand why you are receiving the request for additional information.

Can activities for one level of the Award be used for another level?
Yes. Everyone is on the road to the Gold Medal. Hours are carried from one level to the next. Additional hours required at each level may be spent achieving your current goals or pursuing new goals. As you move from one award level to the next, you will work with your advisor to determine the best approach for exploring your potential.

Can the National Office notify my school and/or local press that I have earned the Award?
Yes. If you fill out the School & Press Notification Form and submit it with your record book, we will notify your school and local press  once approved.

What will my medal presentation be like? When will it be scheduled?
Please take a look at our Preparing for Your Medal Presentation guide for tips on how to prepare for and what to expect from your presentation.

If I have an older Record Book, which one should I work from?
We re-print the Record Book every two years in order to address common questions, make clarifications that may assist participants in filling out the record book and make general updates. We always provide the new Program Book and the record book pages online. If you have been enrolled in the program for a while, you may notice that your version of the record book is different. While we will accept older record book pages, we do ask that if possible, you switch your goals and activities over to the newest version. We only make updates that we feel will help participants and reduce the number of revision requests. If you use an older record book page, you may be asked for revisions that may have been avoided with the use of the newer pages. Please note that we do not change the requirements of the program – we simply clarify and address common questions or concerns.

I served in AmeriCorps NCCC and would like to continue in the program. How do I do this?
In AmeriCorps NCCC, you accumulated a lot of hours. We need to see you continue working on the three main program areas in order to meet the higher months requirements. The first thing we recommend doing is contacting us to check in and see what you need to move forward. Note – you do not need to re-register if you have already done so through your Corps term.  Next, begin working on your new goals.  Again, we know you accumulated a lot of hours in AmeriCorps NCCC, we need to see the continued work on your goals for the months requirement.  You can find the Program Book here and should plan on completing a detailed Record Book for your next submission.  You may also need to complete a new Expedition/Exploration, especially if you are aiming for the Gold Medal and you are not able to show a high level of immersion, challenge and planning from your SPIKE submission at lower levels.