Five students at the College of William and Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa in 1776, during the American Revolution. For over two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. Laptops have replaced quill pens, but 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.

Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America’s leading colleges and universities. The Society sponsors activities to advance these studies — the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences — in higher education and in society at large.

Quick Facts

ΦBK — Greek initials of the motto “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Phi Beta Kappa is a leading advocate for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.

We have over half a million members and chapters at 283 American colleges and universities.

Invitation to membership in Phi Beta Kappa is a reflection of outstanding achievement.

An Emblem of High Achievement and Strong Potential

Only about 10 percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.

Only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are selected for Phi Beta Kappa membership.

The ideal Phi Beta Kappan has demonstrated intellectual integrity, tolerance for other views, and a broad range of academic interests. Each year, about one college senior in a hundred, nationwide, is invited to join Phi Beta Kappa.

Membership in Phi Beta Kappa shows commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, and to freedom of inquiry and expression — and it provides a competitive edge in the marketplace. Potential employers regularly contact the national office of Phi Beta Kappa to confirm the membership of job seekers who have listed Phi Beta Kappa among their credentials.

For more about becoming a member, see Stipulations Concerning Eligibility for Membership in Course.

ΦBK After Graduation

Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is for life.

All Phi Beta Kappans for whom the Society has an address receive a lifetime subscription to The Key Reporter, the Society’s publication for members. The Key Reporter includes news about prominent ΦBK members and about the Society’s various programs, projects, and activities, as well as information about benefits and other resources for members.

After graduation, members may join a ΦBK Alumni Association in their community. Associations bring together members of all ages. They foster friendship and lifelong learning through social, cultural, and educational programs, and community service projects. Many associations raise money for college scholarships to perpetuate the legacy of Phi Beta Kappa.