Standards for Election

Phi Beta Kappa key

What are the academic standards for election to Phi Beta Kappa?

Because of the age of our chapter, we are permitted to elect up to the top 15% of the senior class; historically, we have elected anywhere from 7% to 14%. Seniors may be transfer students but must have at least 45 credits and be in at least their 4th semester at Whitman. We consider as seniors those students who will be graduating in the spring of their election year or completing requirements for graduation over the summer, including 3/2 students in their last semester at engineering school, as well as those who graduated the preceding December. Phi Beta Kappa expects its members to have demonstrated a breadth of intellectual interests. This includes the study of mathematics (met by completing the quantitative analysis distribution requirement) and (for native English-speaking students) the study of foreign language in college through the level of intermediate competency (at Whitman, this generally means through 206). Because Whitman has no foreign language requirement, it is up to individual students to pursue the study of foreign language to the appropriate level if they wish to be eligible for election to Phi Beta Kappa. We recognize that classes vary and grades fluctuate; there is no grade point average that will guarantee you election to Phi Beta Kappa. As a point of information only, you may note that in recent years those elected to Phi Beta Kappa have had cumulative G.P.A.s no lower than 3.75.

Election to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior is a distinction conferred on very few students, usually 2 or 3 each spring (and in some years none). The by-laws require that anyone elected as a junior have completed 5 semesters at Whitman and have earned at least 75 credits. In other words, transfer students and those who chose to study abroad (e.g., Fall semester junior year) are not eligible to be considered as juniors but only as seniors. (We certainly don't want this to discourage anyone from study abroad! In the history of our chapter, no student who would have been elected as a junior, had they been on campus, has ever failed to be elected as a senior.) Those elected as juniors will have demonstrated a breadth of intellectual interest that includes the study of mathematics and foreign language; usually, those elected as juniors have taken courses beyond the introductory level outside the major. 

Who does the electing? Those Whitman faculty members who are themselves members of Phi Beta Kappa are invited to participate in the election meeting held each year (usually in late February or early March).