Phi Beta Kappa is the key that opens doors to lifelong opportunity.
Since our founding in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa has celebrated excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and championed freedom of thought. As America’s most prestigious academic honor society, we are uniquely equipped to advocate for the value and benefits of liberal arts and sciences education.
We do this because we believe the curiosity and creativity cultivated by a liberal arts and sciences education are essential to making the most of life’s experiences. This is why we:
- Honor the best and brightest liberal arts and sciences undergraduates from 286 top schools across the nation.
- Grant lifelong membership through a highly selective, merit-based invitation process that takes into consideration academic success and breadth of study.
- Connect members to a diverse network of high achievers who are active in science and health care, business and technology, the arts and humanities, and law and philanthropy.
- Advocate for the importance of liberal arts and sciences education to the individual and to society through our National Arts & Sciences Initiative.
- Provide opportunities to participate in engaging events, programs, and community service projects offered by the national office, our local chapters, and alumni associations.
- Equip members with information and tools to thoughtfully engage in American society as leaders, volunteers, and citizens.
- Offer members quarterly publications and monthly newsletters, which provide perspectives on public affairs, literature, science, history, culture, and career development.
- Recognize the exceptional achievement of writers and scholars in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics.
A Rare Honor
10% of U.S. colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. These chapters select only 10% of their arts and sciences graduates to join.
Five students at the College of William and Mary founded The Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1776, during the American Revolution. For more than two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης in Greek (Philosophia Biou Cybernētēs in Latin letters), which means “Love of learning is the guide of life,” the motto of the Society. These ideas, symbolized on Phi Beta Kappa’s distinctive gold key, still lay the foundations of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, and creative endeavor.
Today, the Phi Beta Kappa Society celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Phi Beta Kappa chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at 286 leading U.S. colleges and universities. The ideal Phi Beta Kappa member has demonstrated intellectual integrity, tolerance for other views, and a broad range of academic interests. Since the Society’s founding in 1776, 17 U.S. Presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and more than 130 Nobel Laureates have been inducted as members, along with countless authors, diplomats, athletes, researchers, actors, and business leaders. Click here to see some of our members. Famous or not, all of our members have one thing in common – their rigorous pursuit of excellence in the arts and sciences.