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Information for Nominees

What's the big deal about Phi Beta Kappa?

As the oldest and most demanding undergraduate academic honor society in the United States, your membership in Phi Beta Kappa will be recognized by the largest number of people worldwide as a sign of your academic excellence. From its founding in 1776, members of Phi Beta Kappa have included many U.S. presidents, supreme court justices, legislators, Nobel prize winners, and leaders in academia, business, science, and the law. Membership in PBK recognizes a student's excellent performance in a broad range of subjects. Fewer than 10% of colleges and universities in the entire United States have been approved to have their own Phi Beta Kappa chapters.

I'm just not interested in joining a fraternity or sorority

Don't be fooled by its Greek-letter name; Phi Beta Kappa is not a social fraternity. Your invitation offers you an award recognizing the excellence of your academic performance at UCSD. Your membership in Phi Beta Kappa will be recorded on your official transcript; of all honor societies, only PBK has this distinction at UCSD.

I've been invited into other honor societies; isn't Phi Beta Kappa just more of the same?

Membership in Phi Beta Kappa indicates to graduate schools, professional schools, and future employers that you were an outstanding and broadly educated undergraduate student at an outstanding university. Even people who don't recognize the excellence of UCSD will understand the meaning of your membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Here's what the editor of a major newspaper says: "When I am looking at resumes, one line always catches my attention: membership in Phi Beta Kappa. I know it signifies that the person can think and that he or she is willing to work hard. There is no better credential for a career in a field like journalism...."

Here's another example from Dr. Kathy French: When I told my father (a member of Tau Beta Pi) - whose career was in aeronautical engineering and who was in management most of that time - that some students were uninterested in joining Phi Beta Kappa, he couldn't believe it. As a supervisor with hiring power, he always looked for membership in Phi Beta Kappa on resumes (along with membership in Tau Beta Pi). He said, "It often made the difference between a job offer and no offer." Why? Because it is a strong message to someone who does not know you personally that you are especially smart, hard-working very well-educated, and able to think clearly.

You've invited me; can't you just sign me up?

No, we're sorry, but we can't. The National Society of Phi Beta Kappa requires that you register on-line and pay the initiation fee just once. Once you join PBK, you will be a member for life, wherever you go; no further effort or money are required unless you want to broaden your commitment.

I'm pretty busy right now. Can't I just wait and do this later?

You can wait a little while, but your invitation expires at the end of August in the year you were invited.

OK, you've made some good points, but $70 is a lot of money to me.

We think it's a pretty reasonable price for a membership that lasts your lifetime. But if it poses a serious problem for you, we urge you to check with the Provost of your college or to talk with Dr. Kathleen French, who is the President of the UCSD Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Some generous chapter members have offered to provide financial assistance for this very important investment in your future.