Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following FAQs are derived from actual member questions. The majority of the following questions and answers are for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. FAQs will be updated for other awards if questions arise on those.

Can you certify my volunteer hours if I am not a member of Volunteer Scholars?

No. Volunteer Scholars is not able to review and certify volunteer hours worked by individuals who are not Volunteer Scholars members.

Can you review my volunteer hours first, and then I will join Volunteer Scholars if the hours are approved?

No. Volunteer Scholars is not able to review and certify volunteer hours worked by individuals who are not Volunteer Scholars members.

I just learned about Volunteer Scholars mid-year. Can I count volunteer work that I completed before joining?

Possibly. No matter when you join Volunteer Scholars, you can go back and retroactively log your volunteer work back to September 1. You may not count work completed before September 1 as that was a prior award year.

I just learned about Volunteer Scholars mid-year. There are only 3 months left in the membership year. Can you pro-rate the membership fee for the time remaining?

No. the cost of the Volunteer Scholars membership remains the same whether you join with 365 days or 1 day left in the award cycle.

I paid for a Volunteer Scholars membership for the school year, but I did not do as much volunteer work as I thought. Can I get a refund for the cost of the membership I paid?

No. Volunteer Scholars memberships are not refundable if you change your mind or if you have a schedule change which makes volunteering difficult.

I paid for a Gold level membership, but mid-year I realized I wanted some of the benefits of the Platinum membership. Do I have to buy a whole new membership?

No. Current Volunteer Scholars can upgrade their membership mid-year from gold level to platinum level by paying the additional $100.00.

I volunteered last year, but I did not earn the PVSA award. Can you get me the PVSA award anyway?

No. Volunteer Scholars cannot review and certify volunteer work for a prior award cycle.

I volunteered last summer but was not working with a Certifying Organization and did not earn an award. Can I just order a medal or certificate for myself?

No. Replacement medals and certificates can only be ordered by someone whose past volunteer work was reviewed and certified by Volunteer Scholars or another certifying organization. While someone can technically purchase one of these awards, it will not be shipped without the buyer providing evidence, generally in the form of the certificate, of having earned the award. There is no refund for someone who mistakenly or intentionally orders an award they cannot prove that they earned.

I received an email from Volunteer Scholars questioning some of the volunteer work that I did.

During the audit process, the Volunteer Scholars team may identify activities that are not well explained or were for organizations that do not appear to meet program requirements. Top items that cause questions include, but are not limited to: volunteer reporting more than 8 hours in a day, particularly in the school year; volunteer clearly “lumping” many days together by reporting hours of 40, 50, etc., in a single line item; volunteer abbreviating or shortening the name of the beneficiary organization so our team cannot tell what it is; volunteer seeming to work for a for-profit business; and/or a volunteer doing work for his/her own school, club, or team. Most of these questioned items can be cleared up with a letter or email from the benefitting organization.

I received an email from Volunteer Scholars rejecting some of the volunteer work that I did. Discounting the rejected activities drops me to a lower award level, such as silver instead of gold.

Sometimes Volunteer Scholars identifies activities that cannot be counted toward an award. An example is a student who claimed volunteer work for mowing his own grass or babysitting her own siblings. Rejected hours will be subtracted from a volunteer’s recorded hours, and, yes, it is possible that the reduced hours may correspond to a lower level award. The volunteer should still be honored for the work that they accomplished. Volunteers can avoid this situation by reading the Program Details, particularly the “What Does Not Count as Volunteer Service?” section.

I received an email from Volunteer Scholars rejecting some of the volunteer work that I did. Can I rush out and complete some more volunteer work to get my number of hours back up?

Yes. If some of your itemized work was rejected for not meeting the intent of the program, you can perform some additional volunteer work to make up for the deficit. However, both the review of your Volunteer Activity Log and the additional hours must be completed before August 31. A volunteer who submits his log on/about August 31 may receive notice of rejected hours, but will not have any time to work additional hours.

I completed more hours than I needed for an award. Can I count those extra hours towards next year?

No. Volunteer hours can only be counted in the award cycle in which they were completed. They cannot be “saved” and applied in another year.

Example: Jose, age 15, volunteered in his community hospital’s gift shop during the summer after 9th grade. He averaged 20 hours per week during the 12-week summer break (20 X 12 = 240), and the hospital team thanked him with a pizza party on August 20, right before he went back to school. As a teen, he only “needs” 100 hours for the gold PVSA award. Can he use the “extra” 140 hours for the following award year?

No. In this example, Jose completed all 240 hours in the summer and concluded on August 20, just in time for the August 31 deadline for that award cycle. While he should be commended for his effort, for Jose, he will start the next award cycle on September 1, with 0 hours, like everyone else. Jose may want to investigate other awards that may be available in his community to honor youth service.

I finished all of my volunteer work early (i.e. before August 31, the end of the award year), and I have my hours tracking log completed. Can I turn it in early ?

Members are applauded for completing their volunteer work early in the year for the PVSA and/or the ACA, but documentation received is processed in two phases:

Priority Submissions: Volunteer Scholars can accept documentation as early as March 1 of the Award Year. Documentation received between March 1 through May 31 will be reviewed in early June, and physical awards (certificates and medals/pins) will be mailed by the end of June. Documentation received June 1 or later will be reviewed as a Regular Submission.

Regular Submissions: Documentation received between June 1 and August 31 will be reviewed in September with physical awards (certificates and medals/pins) mailed by mid/late October.

Submissions will not be reviewed prior to March 1 of the award year.

I thought I was done volunteering and turned my tracking log in early (i.e. before August 31, the end of the award year.) Now I have some additional volunteer hours. Can I add them on?

Yes. A volunteer who submitted their Volunteer Activity Log early can send in an addendum in the form of an additional Volunteer Activity log. Clearly mark on the top of the log and in the accompanying email this you are submitting an addendum. Please do not repeat hours/activities submitted on the first log.

I finished all of my volunteer work early (i.e. before August 31, the end of the award year), can I receive the physical award (certificate, medallion, and optional pin or coin) early for my graduation ceremony/ year-end awards ceremony/ scout honor court, etc?

Probably not. The physical awards (certificate, medallion, and optional pin or coin, if ordered) are ordered in a single, large order at the end of the award cycle. For a special circumstance, contact us by email at info@volunteerscholars.org to see if we can work something out.

My volunteer organization has its own time-tracking system. Can I just print that out and submit it instead of filling out the Volunteer Scholars Activity Log?

No. Everyone seeking a PVSA award is required to fill out the Volunteer Scholars Activity Log. They may include their organization’s time tracking report as a back-up to justify their reported time.

Do I need to get a letter from the organization I volunteered for?

Yes. A letter or email from each organization you volunteered for will speed up the review process. Since we have Volunteer Scholars members all over the country, we do not know every civic organization or volunteer opportunity available, and many have similar names. A letter, email, or time-tracking log prevents us from having to research and call each organization.

Do I need to get a signature for each shift that I worked?

No. Volunteers do not need a signature for each shift work unless that is the practice of the benefitting organization. Volunteer Scholars prefers to get a letter or email summarizing the volunteer’s time for the award year or other term (summer, camp session, etc.)

Can I wear the medallion with my graduation cap/gown?

A graduating senior should confirm with his/her own school principal about what regalia may be worn with graduation gowns. In addition to the medallions and pins that can be earned through Volunteer Scholars, a graduation honor cord is available to Platinum members who are seniors in high school.

Can I wear the pin on my Girl Scout/Boy Scout uniform?

Members can wear an award pin on their scout uniform if permitted by the scout leader and/or council. In some cases, non-official scout insignia must be worn on the back of the uniform vest or sash.

I spent 30 minutes in the car each way driving to my volunteer role. Once there, I volunteered for 4 hours shifts. Is it OK to count each day worked as 5 hours? (4 hours working and 1 hour driving)

No, Volunteer Scholars does not recognize the travel time getting to and from a volunteer position as volunteer time. If driving is performed as part of the volunteer shift, such as delivering meals to the elderly or taking senior citizens to doctor’s appointments, then it may be counted. Volunteers may want to check with their tax preparers, as the mileage to and from a volunteer role may be a tax deductible.

How long does it take Volunteer Scholars to certify completed Activity Logs and back-up documentation?

The review time varies based on when the member submits his/her documentation. For the 2022-23 award year, those who submitted documentation in July and early August received a determination or follow-up questions within 5-7 days. Because the majority of members waited until late August to submit, there was a substantial backlog, and the review and follow-up took 30 days. At the Volunteer Scholars member “class” grows, review times might extend.

What kind of communincation and confirmation will I receive once I submit materials to Volunteer Scholars?

Members will receive a very simple message of “Received and entered in our queue to review” when a Volunteer Activity Log, back-up documentation, and/or ACA application is opened and filed by a Volunteer Scholars team member. This acknowlegement could be as as quick as 1-3 days for a July/early August submittal, but could be as slow as 2 weeks at the end of August for those who wait close to the deadline. This brief message is to let you know we have the information; it is not an approval. You do not need to continue to email us inquiries. Further message from the members and/or their parents only further backlog the number of communication and delay our review process.

Once my information has been received and approved, what communication can I expect to receive?

If the Volunteer Scholars audit team has any questions about your submission, you will receive a detailed, personal email outling the questions. The member is expect to respond to any open issues and provide any clarifying information. If there are no questions, the member should expect a short message in 2-4 weeks indicating that he/she has been approved for the award and at what level (gold, silver, bronze.)

How long does it take to receive my certificate and medal/pin/coin?

Shipping times very depending on whether or not materials are in stock at Volunteer Scholars (replacement PVSA medals, pins, coins, ACA pins, ACA certificates) or in-stock at Points of Light, the parent organization of PVSA. Points of Light can ship to Volunteer Scholars in one week for in-stock items. Out-of-stock items during pandemic-driven supply chain issues took up to 3 months to resolve.

My award year was printed wrong on my certificate. The Volunteer Scholars award year was 2021-22. My PVSA certificate says “2021” but I want it to say “2022.”

The Volunteer Scholars award year roughly follows a school year and the following summer, from September 1 through August 31. This term spans portions of two calendar years each cycle such as 2021 (4 months) and 2022 (8 months) in this example. When Volunteer Scholars uploads volunteers’ data into their order system, we have to designate one year, so by convention, Volunteer Scholars uses the beginning year, not the ending year. A student who submitted her activity log and back-up documentation on August 25, 2022 did so for the 2021-22 award year. Her certificate will say “2021.” This cycle may be out-of-sync for members who previously worked with another Certifying Organization (CO).

For those who are concerned about the continuity of the award for purposes of a college application, this is minor detail. Most members associate their awards with their year in school. For example, the Common App allows an applicant to select PVSA for 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, etc., and it does not ask for the printed dates.