Get to know: Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

Categories: General News Tags: Academic Affairs

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest honor society, but it is relatively new to Charlotte. Learn more about the honor society and how you can work to be inducted into the society from current Charlotte chapter president Joanne Maguire and founding president Gregory Starrett.

What is Phi Beta Kappa?
Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. In 2022, UNC Charlotte was granted an official chapter, joining an elite group of only 10% of U.S. colleges and universities — including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Howard and others.

What are the qualifications to join Phi Beta Kappa?
There are a variety of qualifications students must meet to be eligible for this honor society. In fact, fewer than 10% of students in any given class are eligible. All of the following must be met.

  1. Eligible students must be juniors or seniors pursuing a B.A. or B.S. degree in liberal arts and sciences. This may include programs in the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences; the College of Science; the economics (liberal arts concentration) major in the Belk College of Business; or those studying music, dance, theater or art & art history in the College of Arts + Architecture. At minimum, three quarters of a student’s college credits must be within liberal arts and sciences to qualify.
  2. Eligible students must have a minimum 3.9 GPA (juniors) or 3.85 (seniors).
  3. Eligible students must have completed coursework in mathematics and demonstrated at least intermediate-level proficiency in a second language or show that they are heritage speakers of a language other than English.
  4. Eligible students must be of good moral character and in good academic standing.

More information about eligibility can be found on the Phi Beta Kappa and Charlotte chapter websites.

How will eligible students be asked to join Phi Beta Kappa?
Qualified students will be asked via letter to join Phi Beta Kappa. These invitation letters are sent via email in mid-fall and mid-spring. An induction ceremony for accepting candidates occurs in April.

Can faculty and staff be involved?
Faculty and staff members who are Phi Beta Kappa members can be involved in the Charlotte chapteras this would likely be their local chapter. If you are a member and aren’t receiving communications from the Charlotte chapter, email

What are the most common misconceptions about Phi Beta Kappa?

  • Despite its Greek letters, it is not a sorority or fraternity.
  • The invitation isn’t spam. Though students may receive other honor society emails that are from predatory honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa is an invitation to join a society that includes some of the nation’s top individuals — including presidents, Supreme Court justices, Nobel Prize laureates and more. Founded at the end of 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is as old as the United States itself.

What advice would you give to students who want to work toward receiving an invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa?

  • Study broadly — Take four semesters of a single language, study math, study various disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences fields. Phi Beta Kappa encourages diverse studies.
  • Maintain your integrity — Your academic discipline and moral character are considered when selecting candidates.
  • Take the invitation seriously — If you are selected, take the invitation as an extreme honor. There will be a one-time fee to join, and then you are part of an elite group, and that should be celebrated! After you are inducted, you can be part of the Phi Beta Kappa student organization on campus.