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Home » awards » societies » pbk » Common Questions

Common Questions

What is Phi Beta Kappa (PBK)? How is it different from other honors societies?

Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most prestigious collegiate honor society in the U.S. Originally founded in 1776, at the College of William and Mary as a society of scholars and letters, it focuses on honoring students with a traditional liberal education—a broad core curriculum in the arts and sciences. PBK is among the most competitive honor societies in that it has some of the highest academic standards.

What does the society do?

At the national level, PBK supports activities promoting the value of a liberal education. The national society has a partnership with the National Honor Society to encourage student achievement in high school. Also, the national PBK distributes quarterly The American Scholar, an award-winning publication of essays. The Alumni chapters of the association are active in raising money for scholarships and fellowships. Locally, the Alpha of Texas chapter sponsors annual awards for outstanding students and teachers.

What is the Alpha of Texas?

Every state has an original chapter, an “alpha chapter.” In order to be the Alpha, in our case of Texas, UT Austin applied to the national organization in Washington, D.C. After a thorough evaluation of the academic rigor and achievements of the university and its students in the liberal arts and sciences, in February of 1905 The University of Texas was granted a chapter and given the right to elect its best students to membership. There are ten chapters in the state of Texas of which the Kappa of Texas at Texas A&M University (granted in 2004) is the most recent.

Can I apply to join?

No. Membership to Phi Beta Kappa is by invitation only.

What are the minimum membership eligibility requirements?

Students must be enrolled in a major recognized by Phi Beta Kappa in the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Fine Arts or the Jackson School of Geosciences. The minimum eligibility requirements for Phi Beta Kappa depend on one’s hours and GPA at The University of Texas at Austin. Election to PBK, Alpha of Texas is limited to no more than the top 8% of each class, so the exact GPA cutoff will vary year to year. The minimum criteria are guidelines, not entitlements to membership. For example, in 2021 students from that graduating class and recent graduates were elected with at least a 3.94 GPA.

Students eligible for early membership must have at least 60 hours of credit in residence at The University of Texas at Austin and a 4.0 GPA at the time of the election.

Students eligible for regular membership as a degree candidate must have at least 60 in residence hours at The University of Texas at Austin and have applied for graduation. The exact GPA cutoff varies year to year because this chapter of PBK seeks to elect no more than the top 8% of students graduating. For example, the minimum qualifying GPA for election was 3.95 in 2020 and 3.94 in 2021. Based on the performance of UT students over the last decade, it is expected that the cutoff will be above 3.90.

Students eligible for regular membership as a recent graduate must have at least 60 in residence hours at The University of Texas at Austin and graduated from UT immediately prior to the most recent election eligibility period. The exact GPA cutoff varies year to year because PBK seeks to elect no more than the top 8% of students graduating. For example, the minimum qualifying GPA for election was 3.95 in 2020 and 3.94 in 2021.Based on the performance of UT students over the last decade, it is expected that the cutoff will be above 3.90.

These are only the minimum standards for eligibility. Final selection for membership is determined by the election committee of the Alpha of Texas chapter.

Can you tell me if I am eligible for membership?

Students can only be notified of eligibility by receiving an invitation. Students may evaluate for themselves whether they think they meet the eligibility requirements. If invitations have been distributed and you believe you should have been notified, please check here for more instructions.

When are elections held?

Elections for Phi Beta Kappa are held once a year between late February and early March.

How am I notified that I have been elected?

Students who have been elected to join will receive an email to student addresses on file with The University of Texas at Austin. To ensure that you receive a notification, please make sure your contact information is current on UT direct.

If you have restricted your directory information you may not appear on eligibility ballots. If you wish to be considered, you will need to petition for membership in a given election period.

How do I join?

Instructions for joining are included in the invitation for membership.

I am currently studying abroad. Can I still join?

Yes. Students who are studying abroad may still join by following the instructions provided in their invitation letter. Students are not required to attend the induction ceremony. Members who are unable to attend and collect their membership certificate and materials will be notified by email about how to obtain them. Members who wish to attend a later induction ceremony due to study abroad should still join and contact the chapter when they return to make arrangements.

How much does it cost to join?

Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is $120. This is a one-time membership fee, for life, and covers all national and local chapter dues. Phi Beta Kappa election is also an honor for Departments whose majors are elected, therefore, some departments will subsidize the cost of this fee. Check with your the chair or director of undergraduate studies for your concentration for possible assistance. Many departments do not have sufficient funds for this purpose, but many do.

How do I pay?

Instructions for payment are included in the invitation for membership. Students may pay online by credit or debit card when they register their membership.

What level of participation is required of members? How much time will I need to devote to this organization?

Phi Beta Kappa has no participation requirements for new members.

Do I have to attend the induction ceremony to join?

No. Although new members are encouraged to attend their induction ceremony, attendance is not required for membership.

How do I collect my certificate if I am unable to attend the induction ceremony?

Members who are unable to collect their membership certificate at the induction ceremony will be notified by email on how to obtain it. Please ensure that your email address is current.

Does the chapter provide honors cords or other graduation materials?

When the budget allows, yes. In recent years the UT chapter has supplied honors cords to those students who attended the PBK induction. Members are also eligible to purchase these and other items directly from Hand & Hammer. Please review shipping times and policies to ensure your materials reach you in time for graduation.

I think I am eligible to join, but I have not received an invitation. What should I do?

Check the contact information you have on file with the university. If you believe your invitation has been sent to the wrong email address, contact the chapter.