Choosing a College: Why Phi Beta Kappa Matters

Phi Beta Kappa is America’s oldest and most widely recognized collegiate honor society. It was founded in 1776, at the College of William and Mary. There are now 280 chapters at the strongest and best respected colleges and universities in the country. In selecting a college, prospective students will find the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter to be a reliable indicator of institutional merit. Consult the Chapter Locator on our website to find institutions with a chapter.

Fewer than ten percent of America’s colleges and universities have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Those that do have earned the right by demonstrating that the liberal arts and sciences ─ the traditional core of higher learning ─ are at the center of their educational program, and by showing that excellence in these enduring studies is achieved, maintained, and celebrated. Phi Beta Kappa joins with its host institutions in affirming the value of liberal arts education as the best preparation for professional success, responsible citizenship, and personal fulfillment. 

Only by choosing to attend a Phi Beta Kappa college or university can you aspire to membership in this selective organization. Each chapter elects about ten percent of eligible liberal arts and sciences students in each class. You could join seven of the nine current justices of the United States Supreme Court, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, actor Glenn Close, and many leaders in business, the professions, government, and academe, as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. To see the names of other distinguished members, click here.

With about 600,000 living members, Phi Beta Kappa offers ample opportunities for networking with other ΦBK key holders in the United States and abroad. There are alumni associations in many parts of the country and activities designed to keep members engaged with their liberal arts education.

Perhaps most important, Phi Beta Kappa is an advocacy group for the liberal arts and sciences, and the values inherent in those studies. By attending a Phi Beta Kappa college and being elected to membership in the Society, you can become associated with a group that fosters freedom of inquiry and expression, disciplinary rigor in learning, breadth of perspective, diversity of opinion, and the application of the skills of deliberation in the pursuit of more just and peaceful world.

Top left: Colorado College students entering Palmer Hall, one of the campus’ historic buildings. The Colorado College chapter, Delta of Colorado, was chartered in 1904.