Phi Beta Kappa - University of Maryland

The Phi Beta Kappa Society
Gamma of Maryland
University of Maryland


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Election to Phi Beta Kappa
Organized in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most widely respected academic honorary society in the United States. Invitation to membership is based on outstanding scholastic achievement in studies of the liberal arts and sciences. Student members are chosen entirely on the basis of academic excellence; neither extracurricular leadership nor service to the community is considered. Election is held twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring semester.

The process for election to Phi Beta Kappa involves a review in November for those who graduated the previous August and those who will graduate in December, and a review in March for those graduating in May. For juniors (60-89 total earned credits), the review occurs in March. The review is conducted by a select committee of faculty members representing the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The committee reviews transcripts of all students with qualifying grade point averages. Whether a student qualifies for membership in Phi Beta Kappa depends on the quality, depth, and breadth of the student's record in liberal courses. The final decision for election rests with the faculty committee and faculty Phi Beta Kappa members. Only students who have been elected will be contacted. Notices are sent to each elected studentís local address and email address as listed in the University's data system. It is the studentís responsibility to keep contact information (addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses) up to date (through Testudo) and to read all mail and email communications.

Transcripts are reviewed automatically; there is no application procedure for election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Requirements for selection to membership in Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Maryland, College Park, campus chapter include:

1. Grade Point Average: For seniors a grade point average of at least 3.75 overall as well as in all liberal arts and sciences courses taken. For juniors the grade point average is at least 3.85. National PBK rules, however, require that no more than 20 percent of the students elected in any one year can be juniors, so the actual minimum grade point average for junior admission may be higher than 3.85. GPA calculations for PBK include transfer credit.

2. Residence: At least 60 credit hours must be taken at the University of Maryland, College Park.

3. Liberal Courses: For seniors, at least 90 credit hours in courses in the liberal arts and sciences (where "liberal" courses are to be distinguished from professional or technical courses), at least 45 of which must be taken at the University of Maryland, College Park. For juniors, at least 75 total credit hours must be completed, at least 60 of which are in courses in the liberal arts and sciences; of these, at least 45 must be taken at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students would ordinarily be majors in one of the programs in the liberal arts and sciences. However, students with the requisite number of liberal credit hours can be admitted if they have completed at least 5 courses (15 credit hours or more) for seniors and for juniors in a single liberal arts and sciences department/program at UMD.

4. Required Courses: One semester of mathematics, which must be fulfilled by college-level credit hours (including AP credit or IB credit, but not exemption by SAT), and two college semesters of the same foreign language at the elementary level, or at least one semester above that level. The Phi Beta Kappa second language requirement may be satisfied by completion of a single foreign language through at least one semester of intermediate level coursework at the university level. Candidates who have completed 4 years of comprehensive language study IN A SINGLE LANGUAGE before entering the university will also be considered, but those with additional evidence of fluency will be regarded more favorably. Such evidence includes a score of "4" or "5" on an Advanced Placement exam in a foreign language, a score of "6" or "7" on a International Baccalaureate Examination, or certification of competency by examination from a UMCP academic department. Students with such a foreign language background who wish to be considered for admission to Phi Beta Kappa should notify the Phi Beta Kappa office (2110 Marie Mount Hall) in writing and provide the appropriate documentation (an official high school transcript) prior to the month of consideration. Juniors providing late documentation (after March 1) will be considered only as seniors.

5. Distribution:
One of the basic requirements of Phi Beta Kappa is demonstrated breadth of intellectual interest. Two of the three required distribution areas below must exceed the minimums listed.

Arts and Humanities 9 credits minimum (including Humanities-based approved ISeries, Scholarship in Practice and Diversity courses).

Social/Behavioral Science 9 credits minimum (including Social/Behavioral Science-based approved ISeries, Scholarship in Practice and Diversity courses).

Math/Science 10 credits minimum (including Math/Science-based approved ISeries, Scholarship in Practice and Diversity courses). A laboratory science course is required in this category and this requirement cannot be fulfilled by AP or IB credit.

All the courses in at least two of the three required areas must be completed at the University of Maryland, College Park, and in the remaining area no more than one AP or IB course can be used to fulfill the requirement. In general, Phi Beta Kappa will accept the CORE classification of courses. In satisfying the distribution requirement, however, a maximum of one course that satisfies multiple CORE categories, allotted to the category that helps the student the most, can be used. AP or IB History course credit will be considered as satisfying only the arts and humanities requirement.

Students with more challenging courses and moderately high grade point averages are preferred by the committee to those with higher grade point averages but a narrow range of courses. Minimal qualifications in more than one area may preclude election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Recommended Criteria Include

  1. Regular grades (rather than pass/fail) in mathematics, foreign language courses, and distribution areas.

  2. Some traditional social sciences and humanities courses that require written essays and papers. (Note that internships may be counted as professional courses and not as liberal courses).

The mathematics, language, lab science, distribution and minimal credit count requirements must be completed prior to the semester in which the student is considered for election.

Meeting the above requirements does not guarantee election to Phi Beta Kappa. The judgment of the resident faculty members of Phi Beta Kappa on the quality, depth, and breadth of the student's record is the deciding factor in every case.

The current Phi Beta Kappa officers are:
Professor Carol Keefer (Animal and Avian Sciences) President
Professor Judith Hallett (Classics), Historian, Past President
Associate Professor Christina Walter (English), Vice President
Professor Denis Sullivan (Curriculum & Instruction), Executive Secretary
Dawn Simounet, Administrative Contact in the Office of Undergraduate Studies
The PBK office is located at 2100 Marie Mount Hall.
The phone number is 301-405-9355.
Please call or email to schedule an appointment

Visit the National Headquarters of Phi Beta Kappa.