So, you just received an invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa (PBK).
You asked around if someone else from your class also received one, but none of them seem to have any idea of what you are talking about.
Does this mean you should discard the invite or grab it immediately because it seems like it’s a selective organization?
Because of the prestige attached to the honor society, being a member of Phi Beta Kappa is advantageous, especially for those who want an advantage when applying to graduate schools or jobs. In exchange for the $130 membership fee, which is good for life, are benefits such as scholarships and networking opportunities.
Read on before you take any steps after getting an offer to be a PBK member.
In this post, I will give you an idea of just how prestigious this academic honor society is, which, to date, has more than 500,000 members from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences.
Who Gets Invited to Join Phi Beta Kappa?
Students who demonstrate superior academic achievement of study across the liberal arts get an invitation to become members of Phi Beta Kappa. PBK local chapters submit the transcript of the students they wish to nominate to the Chapter Membership Committee for review, usually in November of each year.
Like many other prestigious honor societies, membership to Phi Beta Kappa is on an invitation-only basis.
So, in other words, you will have to do your part as a liberal arts student to shine on campus and wait for the chapter adviser to nominate you and the honor society itself to send an invite your way.
But be warned: if you want to be a proud member of PBK, you will have to be an outstanding student.
And it’s exactly because of this why those who are looking forward to getting nominated are recommended to approach the PBK chapter adviser early in their academic careers in order to obtain guidance on what they will have to do to be asked to join.
Here are some of the eligibility requirements:
- Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.8
- Average course load of 12 credits per semester
- College-level math, statistics or logic course (or AP calculus or AP statistics)
- Foreign language competence
It’s also important for hopefuls to demonstrate academic achievement in breadth and depth of study across the liberal arts. This means that they should have proof of excellence in the following subject areas:
- Biological science
- Natural science
- Social science
- Physical sciences
Further, they should have taken not less than 3 courses outside their major field of study.
Since Phi Beta Kappa is arguably the most popular honor society in the land, it isn’t surprising that it has numerous high-profile members.
Some of them include Ben Bernanke, Jeff Bezos, Condoleezza Rice, Benazir Bhutto and Glenn Close.
Also, PBK members are a total of 38 US Supreme Court Justices and as many as 17 former US Presidents, such as:
- John Quincy Adams
- Chester A. Arthur
- William Howard Taft
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Jimmy Carter
- George HW Bush
- Bill Clinton
- Barack Obama
It’s important to note that the majority of undergraduates invited to join Phi Beta Kappa are senior students. As a result of this, they get to enjoy the many different perks of being a PBK member, which we will talk about in a few, after graduation.
Membership to PBL is lifetime anyway, which makes it fine to be elected right before graduation.
Cost to Be a Member of Phi Beta Kappa
Membership fee to Phi Beta Kappa amounts to $130. However, it’s a one-time fee that’s equivalent to membership for life. Unlike other honor societies, PBK chapters do not require local members to pay dues. The $130 membership fee takes care of all associated costs and allows members to enjoy various lifetime benefits.
Students who get invited to become a part of the roster of Phi Beta Kappa receive a letter from their PBK chapter’s president, usually within a week after their nomination for membership.
Paying the membership fee is the next step to take for students who want to accept the invitation.
What follows is the Induction Ceremony, which is a formal event where the initiation of new members takes place. An important part of the program is the conveying of the history of Phi Beta Kappa and the meaning of this high honor to the members and guests. Some other highlights of the formal ceremony include:
- Procession with individual recognition
- Student speaker
- Presentation of the Teaching Award
New members will not lose their membership for failure to attend the Induction Ceremony. While attendance is not mandatory, it’s strongly advised by PBK for them to attend as much as they possibly can.
As mentioned earlier, members need not shell out money for dues other than the one-time membership fee.
So, in other words, there are no annual fees to deal with for keeping their membership intact.
By the way, those whose reason for declining their membership invitation is due to financial hardship may get in touch with their PBK chapter secretary.
Benefits Phi Beta Kappa Members Can Enjoy
One of the biggest benefits of being a member of Phi Beta Kappa is the prestige and recognition that comes with it. As a result of this, it’s not uncommon for members to include PBK in their resumes when applying to graduate schools or professional positions. Other perks include access to exclusive scholarships, resources and events.
Because Phi Beta Kappa is not only the oldest honor society in the land but also the most popular, perhaps no other benefits can come close to the bragging rights that come with being a member of it.
When admissions officers or employers see that you’re a PBK member, your CV will stand out instantly.
Not everyone gets an invitation to join the organization — based on the pieces of membership-related information given above, it’s apparent that PBK is reserved for the brightest undergraduate liberal arts students only.
Needless to say, being a member can speak volumes about your academic achievements and professional potential.
While still working on your bachelor’s degree, membership to Phi Beta Kappa can help you succeed better not only throughout your postsecondary career but also beyond it.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the perks that come with being a member of PBK:
Once you agree to become a member of the honor society, you will be indoctrinated into a community consisting of students, professors and researchers who are pursuing bigger knowledge and understanding via the liberal arts.
Similar to many other prestigious honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa also gives scholarship awards to members, which can range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
At some colleges and universities with PBK chapters, in some instances, eligible students may apply for PBK scholarships and still qualify even if they are not a member of the organization.
There are also internship and employment opportunities available for PBK members.
Just Before You Decide to Join Phi Beta Kappa
It’s no secret that Phi Beta Kappa is a legitimate and prestigious honor society, which celebrates the achievement of liberal arts students.
The organization is highly selective, too, which means that you are the best of the best if you receive an invitation from it to become a member.
But because membership to it isn’t free, make sure that you carefully think about the pros and cons of joining. But given PBK’s reputation, declining an invitation could prove to be a wrong move.
When was Phi Beta Kappa founded?
It was in 1776 when Phi Beta Kappa was established at the College of William and Mary, which is a selective public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia with an acceptance rate of 37%. This makes PBK not only the oldest undergraduate academic honor society in the land but also the very first collegiate Greek-letter fraternity.
How many chapters does Phi Beta Kappa have?
As of this writing, Phi Beta Kappa has a total of 293 chapters at various colleges and universities in the US. Unfortunately, only around 10% of all degree-granting institutions in the country have PBK local chapters, which makes membership to the prestigious honor society even more highly selective and thus desired.
Read Next: Is Joining Alpha Chi Worth It?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.