How are new members selected for invitation?
Every March, the faculty membership of the Alpha Chapter of West Virginia reviews the most outstanding graduates from the past year, including anticipated May graduates, as well as the previous year’s August and December graduates. Students earning arts and sciences degrees – including economics, inter collegiate biochemistry and education degrees with at least 60 credits of arts and sciences coursework – are all eligible. Per the national Phi Beta Kappa membership requirements, students must have completed at least a 200-level foreign language course in college in order to be eligible for membership. Students who believe they would otherwise be eligible and can demonstrate collegiate level language proficiency in another way should contact the chapter officers prior to March of the year they would be eligible for induction.
Candidates’ files are reviewed based on their performance in academic classroom courses in the arts and sciences (not counting teaching practica, internships, etc.). Depending on the dynamics of a given class, the membership elects between the top 6-10 percent of eligible graduates, usually between 7-8 percent.
Why should I accept the invitation?
Election to Phi Beta Kappa is one of the highest honors available to arts and sciences graduates. It is a testament to your dedication and scholarly insight.
We know that top students are bombarded with invitations to honors societies – some legitimate, some predatory. Phi Beta Kappa is the gold standard of these institutions, and if you select only one, you should consider accepting Phi Beta Kappa membership.
Boasting 17 U.S. Presidents and many current and former Supreme Court Justices, Phi Beta Kappa is the most recognizable honor society nationwide. For more information on the value and benefits of membership, consider visiting the national organization's website.
A 'Supreme' Opportunity
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is proud to be Phi Beta Kappa – but she accepted her invitation only after a friend of hers at Princeton noticed the invitation letter crumpled in her wastebasket. As a first-generation college student, Sotomayor was unfamiliar with Phi Beta Kappa and had assumed the invitation was a scam. Speaking about her experience at a recent higher education conference, she related this anecdote as part of her learning experience, and her message resonated on social media with students who also have struggled as the first members of their families to navigate undergraduate life.
Without the friend’s guidance, the future associate justice would have missed her chance to accept Phi Beta Kappa's invitation and join an organization that could continue to open doors throughout her career. This is a strong reminder of the connections that membership makes possible.
Sotomayor was often questioned about whether she was only accepted to Yale Law School because she is Puerto Rican. Looking back, she commented, "I wasn't sassy enough then to say it might have helped that I was Phi Beta Kappa."