What Does It Mean to Be Elected to Phi Beta Kappa?
In 2022, there are lots of different prestigious honor societies that college students can join by getting good grades in their courses. But Phi Beta-Kappa is widely regarded as the oldest honor society in the entire country.
The Phi Beta-Kappa honor society was created by a small group of College of William & Mary students way back in 1776. And today, there are Phi Beta-Kappa chapters at about 10% of all U.S. colleges and universities.
So, what is Phi Beta-Kappa? Well, it’s an invitation-only honor society that is designed to recognize those who excel in the arts and sciences. Only about 10% of the arts and sciences graduates who attend the U.S. colleges and universities that we just mentioned are selected to be a part of Phi Beta-Kappa.
We’re going to run through some of the different Phi Beta-Kappa requirements that a college student must meet to be considered for an invitation to the honor society. Learn all about them below.
- 0.1 You Must Be Working Your Way Through College in an Effort to Get a Bachelor’s Degree
- 0.2 You Must Be Taking a Large Number of Liberal Arts and Science Courses
- 0.3 You Must Be Pushing Yourself to Take Advanced Liberal Arts and Science Courses (and Advanced Electives!)
- 0.4 You Must Have a Working Knowledge of a Second Language
- 0.5 You Must Take At Least One College-Level Mathematics Course
- 0.6 This course must involve one of the following areas of study:
- 0.7 You Must Be a Person of Good Moral Character
- 0.8 You Must Attend a College or University With a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter
- 0.9 You Must Be Inducted to Phi Beta Kappa by Your College or University’s Chapter
- 0.10 You Must Accept an Induction to Join Phi Beta Kappa
- 0.11 You Must Be Willing to Uphold the Values and Beliefs of Phi Beta Kappa
- 1 Being Elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society Is a Great Honor
You Must Be Working Your Way Through College in an Effort to Get a Bachelor’s Degree
First things first: If you’re going to be asked to join the Phi Beta-Kappa honor society, you’re going to need to be a junior or senior enrolled in a college or university right now and working your way towards a Bachelor’s degree. Of all the Phi Beta-Kappa requirements, this one is easily the most basic of the bunch.
If you aren’t trying to obtain a Bachelor’s degree at this time, you are unfortunately not going to be able to earn an invitation to become a part of Phi Beta-Kappa. This is the same requirement that you’re also going to find when it comes to joining other great honor societies like beta kappa chi.
You Must Be Taking a Large Number of Liberal Arts and Science Courses
As we mentioned, Phi Beta-Kappa is an honor society that was set up to honor those who are actively involved in the arts and sciences. As a result, you’re going to need to take liberal arts and science courses in college to receive consideration for Phi Beta-Kappa.
And you can’t just sign up for a few liberal arts and sciences courses in college and expect to get an invitation to Phi Beta-Kappa. Instead, about three-fourths of your courses are going to need to fall into the arts and science categories.
This means that, if you’re signed up for 120 hours worth of courses in a semester, 90 of those hours must come from liberal arts and science courses. These courses will touch on topics like:
- Natural sciences
- Social sciences
You might also be able to shoehorn some other types of courses into the liberal arts and science category if they deal directly with topics that embody everything that the arts and sciences are about. But it’ll be up to your Phi Beta-Kappa chapter to determine if these kinds of courses will count for you.
You Must Be Pushing Yourself to Take Advanced Liberal Arts and Science Courses (and Advanced Electives!)
An invitation to Phi Beta-Kappa isn’t going to be sent to everyone who majors in the liberal arts or the sciences and takes a bunch of liberal arts and science courses. That would make it far too easy for the average student to get in.
To be considered for Phi Beta-Kappa, you’re going to have to push yourself to take more than just introductory courses that fall into the liberal arts and science categories. Your induction into Phi Beta-Kappa will depend heavily on how deep you dig when it comes to taking more advanced courses.
First and foremost, your Phi Beta-Kappa chapter will take a look at which specific liberal arts and science courses that you sign up for. They’ll want to see you truly immersing yourself in the liberal arts and sciences by going as far as you can when taking more advanced courses.
But they’ll also want to see you taking this same approach to any elective courses that you’re allowed to take. In addition to introductory courses, they’ll want to find that you pursued electives that you were passionate about by taking higher-level courses than you were required to take.
You Must Have a Working Knowledge of a Second Language
You don’t necessarily need to become an expert in a second language to get an invitation to Phi Beta-Kappa. But those who are elected to Phi Beta-Kappa should have a working knowledge of a second language
They should be able to utilize this second language in order to complete college coursework. They should take at least intermediate-level courses that involve the use of this second language.
You Must Take At Least One College-Level Mathematics Course
When people hear that Phi Beta-Kappa is so closely associated with the arts and sciences, they often make the mistake of thinking that they won’t have to take any mathematics courses to gain acceptance into the honor society. And while it’s true that mathematics isn’t always put on the same pedestal as the arts and sciences, Phi Beta-Kappa inductees must take at least one college-level mathematics course to earn consideration for Phi Beta-Kappa.
This course must involve one of the following areas of study:
- College-level mathematics
Regardless of which course you choose to take to fulfill this Phi Beta-Kappa requirement, it should introduce you to things like mathematical ideas, proofs, and abstract thinking. It should also touch on the axiomatic method.
You Must Be a Person of Good Moral Character
When Phi Beta-Kappa was originally formed, it was obviously created to help shine a spotlight on those who excel within the world of the arts and sciences. But the founders of Phi Beta Kapa were also all friends with good character who wanted to include others who were like them in their honor society.
This means that you’re also going to have to have good moral character if you want to earn a place in Phi Beta-Kappa. No matter how many liberal arts and science courses that you take or how high your grades are in those courses, you won’t be able to get into Phi Beta-Kappa without demonstrating that you have the good character that the honor society is searching for.
You Must Attend a College or University With a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter
If you think that you might want to become a part of Phi Beta-Kappa, it would be a good idea to begin thinking about this before you choose which college or university you would like to attend.
Why? Well, the good news is that there are almost 300 Phi Beta Kappa chapters throughout the country right now. But the bad news is that there are more than 5,000 colleges and universities in total.
Because of this, you might end up at a college or university that doesn’t have a Phi Beta-Kappa chapter. It could prevent you from living out your dream of earning a Phi Beta-Kappa invitation.
With this in mind, you should aim to try to attend a college or university that has a Phi Beta-Kappa chapter. Otherwise, you might have to attempt to start your own Phi Beta-Kappa chapter at your school, and that could potentially prove to be too much work for one person.
You Must Be Inducted to Phi Beta Kappa by Your College or University’s Chapter
In the event that you are able to attend a college or university that has a Phi Beta-Kappa chapter, you should familiarize yourself with the chapter pretty much as soon as you arrive on campus as a freshman. Even though you won’t be eligible to join Phi Beta-Kappa until you’re a junior or senior, it’s never too early to get in good with your specific chapter.
You should do your best to get in good with your school’s Phi Beta-Kappa chapter by meeting some of its leaders and its other members. You should let it be known that you would be interested in joining Phi Beta-Kappa one day and let your chapter know that you’re going to work hard to try to prove it.
Getting yourself on your Phi Beta-Kappa chapter’s radar will be of the utmost importance. It’ll indicate that you would love to be considered for an induction into Phi Beta-Kappa in the not-too-distant future.
You Must Accept an Induction to Join Phi Beta Kappa
As long as everything goes according to plan for you while you’re pursuing an invitation to Phi Beta-Kappa, you should get a notice sometime during your junior or senior year letting you know that you’re being inducted into the honor society. It will be such an exciting time in your life!
It might actually be so exciting that you could forget to take the final step when it comes to joining Phi Beta-Kappa. You will need to formally accept the invitation that you receive.
It’s very easy to do this through the Phi Beta-Kappa website. There is a section on the site that is devoted to those who would like to accept an invitation to Phi Beta-Kappa and register for the honor society.
You will receive a passcode from your school’s Phi Beta-Kappa and other information that will make it possible for you to get signed up for Phi Beta-Kappa. It will complete the process and make you a new member of Phi Beta-Kappa in the end.
You Must Be Willing to Uphold the Values and Beliefs of Phi Beta Kappa
Over the course of time, there have been some very, very, very important people who have been invited to join Phi Beta-Kappa. This includes 17 U.S. presidents, 42 Supreme Court Justices, and well over 100 Nobel Laureates.
Here are just a few of the people who have been asked to be a part of Phi Beta-Kappa:
- Bill Clinton
- Jeff Bezos
- Condoleeza Rice
- Mark Twain
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Sheryl Sandberg
As you can see, you’re going to be in some absolutely great company when you’re invited to Phi Beta-Kappa. This makes the answer to the question, “Is Phi Beta Kppa worth it?”, a resounding “YES!”
You’re going to be ecstatic when you join such an amazing group of people. But you’re also going to be under a lot of pressure to live up to the standards that these people have set.
To remain a member of Phi Beta Kapa, you’ll need to uphold all of the values and beliefs of Phi Beta Kapa at all times. This will mean advocating for the arts and sciences when you can, pursuing professional paths that allow you to put the arts and sciences first, and maybe most importantly, showing others that you’re a good person.
This will be a big responsibility overall! But it will come with the territory when you’re an official Phi Beta Kap-pa member.
Being Elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society Is a Great Honor
Not just anyone is going to get an invitation to the Phi Beta Kapa honor society. The Phi Beta Kapa chapters that are scattered throughout the country at different colleges and universities are very selective when it comes to giving out invitations.
So if you’re lucky enough to get invited to Phi Beta Kppa, you should make the most of the opportunity. You should graciously accept the invitation that you’re given and do what you can to show your Phi Beta-Kappa chapter that they made the right decision by extending an invitation to you.
Learn more about the other wonderful honor societies that are out there by reading through some more of our blog articles.