Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in the United States. It is widely recognized as the most distinguished academic honor society for the liberal arts and sciences. Of the approximately 3000 four year colleges in the United States, fewer than ten percent have Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) chapters and together the chapters admit less than one percent of college graduates nationwide each year.
Election to Phi Beta Kappa is a great academic honor. The single most important criterion for election is the student’s academic record. Students cannot apply for membership in PBK. Their selection is carried out by a group of faculty, themselves members of Phi Beta Kappa, carefully examining student transcripts and recommending to the full membership of the local chapter those students deemed deserving of membership. The number of undergraduates elected in a class cannot exceed ten percent of the number expected to receive a bachelor’s degree in that class.
The University of Notre Dame chapter, Epilson of Indiana, each year invites approximately 100 outstanding seniors from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters and College of Science to membership in Phi Beta Kappa through election as “Members in Course.” Those who accept membership sign the chapter log book and are inducted into the society on Saturday of Commencement Weekend.
In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of graduating seniors, the Notre Dame chapter of Phi Beta Kappa brings eminent speakers to campus for talks and interaction with undergraduate students.