College of Arts and Sciences

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria for election and how many students were elected? 

  • Criteria include a very high overall gpa, a very high gpa for all arts and sciences courses taken, and a record of advanced academic work beyond General Education Requirements in an area unrelated to the area of the student’s major.
  • To be elected, you must have demonstrated not only high ability, integrity and achievement, but also an appetite for learning across a range of disciplines.
  • From among the highest achieving undergraduates pursuing College of Arts and Sciences degrees, the Case Western Reserve University chapter, administered by faculty and staff who are members of Phi Beta Kappa, elects no more than 10 juniors and 45-55 seniors and January graduates to membership each year.


What are the benefits of membership in Phi Beta Kappa?

  • Because the majority of student members are seniors elected just prior to graduation, the benefits of membership accrue after graduation.  The one-time membership fee, submitted when you register as a member, covers lifetime membership in Phi Beta Kappa.  Phi Beta Kappa levies no annual dues or mandatory fees beyond the initial membership registration fee.
  • Being elected to Phi Beta Kappa is similar in some ways to winning a prize, but in this case, the prize is public recognition of your outstanding scholarship.   Phi Beta Kappa on a resume, for instance, signals that a student was in the top 10% of liberal arts graduates at a school that has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and is in the top 1% of liberal arts graduates in the US.  Beyond that, each member can determine how much or how little to be involved.
  • At CWRU, students elected as juniors are encouraged to be involved in the chapter activities during their senior year.
  • Both inside and outside of academe, membership in Phi Beta Kappa is recognized as the highest national academic distinction a liberal arts and sciences student can receive.  Because it is so highly regarded, applicants for further education and for professional positions requiring Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s etc. always include Phi Beta Kappa in their CV’s as an indication of their intellectual breadth and accomplishment.
  • Faculty and staff who were elected to Phi Beta Kappa at their undergraduate institutions comprise the resident membership of the college or university at which they are employed, if that school has a chapter.  So if you end up as a faculty member at a college/university with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, you would be a member of that chapter, as well as a member of the CWRU chapter.
  • As a member of Phi Beta Kappa, you join a community of scholars, with the opportunity to engage in social and intellectually oriented events with other accomplished, intellectually curious people through a Phi Beta Kappa Association in the area in which you live.
  • You will also have access to essays, book recommendations and reviews by eminent scholars (including Nobel laureates) who are members of Phi Beta Kappa and who contribute to the society’s Key Reporter, a quarterly newsletter which is sent to all members, and you may choose to subscribe The American Scholar, a scholarly journal of ideas.
  • The benefits persist throughout a member’s life.  (Voluntary, tax-deductible contributions to the Phi Beta Kappa Society are, of course, welcome.)
  • For more, see “Connect with Phi Beta Kappa” on the Phi Beta Kappa Society website


What does the Phi Beta Kappa chapter do at Case Western Reserve University?

  • On college and university campuses, the members of the faculty and staff who were elected to Phi Beta Kappa at their undergraduate institutions are the chapter’s “resident members” and are responsible for the chapter’s activities.
  • Awards: At CWRU, each year we provide modest research grants for undergraduate and graduate students in College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) degree programs and we provide the Phi Beta Kappa awards to the CAS sophomores with the best academic records
  • The chapter at CWRU selects the junior and senior “members in course,” and organizes the initiation ceremony and reception during commencement weekend.
  • In some years, the chapter and an academic department are selected to a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar who, over a two-day period, meets with undergraduates in classes and informal settings, and gives a public lecture.  The chapter and the department of music were honored and pleased to have Prof. Ellen Harris, an eminent musicologist and emerita professor at MIT at CWRU as a Phi  Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in November 2013.  And in Spring 2012, Prof. Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago,  was here as a visiting scholar, hosted by the chapter, the department of anthropology and the Schubert Center for Childhood Studies.
  • At commencement, the names of students elected to Phi Beta Kappa are listed separately in the program book; the only other honor societies having this distinction at CWRU are Tau Beta Pi and Mortar Board.


What does the Phi Beta Kappa Society do on a national level?

  • The Phi Beta Kappa Society is an active public advocate for liberal arts education and scholarship, fostering public debate, providing substantial awards to scholars and authors, and publishing both the Key Reporter (sent to members) and the American Scholar, a journal of essays and creative writing by eminent scholars (available by free online subscription to new members) elected in 2014).   The Key Reporter each year engages juniors and seniors as wiring interns; Derek Reinbold, CWRU class of 2014,  wrote for The Key Reporter in fall 2013.
  • Phi Beta Kappa is partnering with Letterbanc to offer PBK members a free one-year membership package to help students find scholarships, store and request confidential reference letters, and send out completed applications.   Phi Beta Kappa, Letterbanc and Phi Kappa Phi are also co-sponsoring The Mark Twain Awards for travel to students and alumni from all majors.
  • In many areas of the country, there are Phi Beta Kappa Associations with which members may affiliate.  In Cleveland, the Phi Beta Kappa Association recognizes top high school students at an annual luncheon, provides college scholarships, and organizes social/cultural events for Phi Beta Kappa members in the area.
  • The Phi Beta Kappa Society determines which colleges and universities will receive charters for new Phi Beta Kappa chapters.  Unlike other honor societies that elect undergraduates to membership, Phi Beta Kappa is faculty-driven.  Schools that do not have chapters of Phi Beta Kappa may apply for a chapter only if there is a sufficient number of Phi Beta Kappa faculty on the campus.  Applications for new chapters go through a rigorous screening process at the national level; generally every three years there are 15 – 20 application, of which 6 – 10 receive campus evaluations lasting many days, and of these generally 3 – 6 are recommended to the Phi Beta Kappa Triennial Council for approval.

You will find additional information at the Phi Beta Kappa Society web site.