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Office of the Provost

Phi Beta Kappa


The Phi Beta Kappa key and those who wear it, whether they be presidents, supreme court justices, diplomats, scientists, or educators, proclaim a centuries-old commitment to the Society's time-honored principles of friendship, morality, and learning. It is an enduring symbol of integrity and scholarly achievement in the liberal arts and sciences that will last long after memories of college life and other academic honors have faded.

Unlike other honor societies affiliated with undergraduate schools, Phi Beta Kappa is usually the first honor society mentioned in the biographical sketches of the most accomplished Americans after their graduation from college. As an example, when Governor Hodges gave the USC Commencement address in May, 1999, his Phi Beta Kappa membership was the only undergraduate honor mentioned by President Palms in his introduction.

Acceptance of membership in Phi Beta Kappa ensures lifelong recognition of integrity, scholarly achievement, and excellence. No other undergraduate academic honor can confer such distinction.


Selection Criteria

Each year the University of South Carolina Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa initiates new undergraduate members into the society.

All seniors who have successfully completed at least 90 academic hours are automatically considered for membership. At the start of each spring semester, the campus Chapter's Executive Council assesses student qualifications as provided in grade reports from USC's Office of the Registrar.

Each transcript must meet the following standards:

Hours Completed in Course GPR
USC and Total
Maximum Number of
Allowable Incompletes
Not Made Up
90+ 3.9 1

Columbia campus undergraduates who do not meet the criteria above still may be considered for membership. Such students must have more than 80 credit hours completed in course, plan to graduate within one year of the nomination, and must be nominated by a faculty member (a dean, department chair, undergraduate advisor, Phi Beta Kappa Executive Council member, or other faculty member familiar with the student’s record). A high grade point average alone is not sufficient for nomination; academic awards, state or national recognition, or the successful completion of an extraordinary project in the field of liberal arts are the sort of achievements that successful nominees present. To nominate a student, please submit a brief (one-page maximum) letter to by January 25th describing how the student demonstrates “broad cultural interests, scholarly achievements and good moral character." 

Other requirements:

  1. A minimum of 45 credit hours must have been earned in classes on the Columbia campus.
  2. The student must be currently enrolled in a major or majors considered "liberal", i.e., emphasizing conceptual rather than applied material.
  3. No student who has received a grade of F at any college or university may be considered for membership.

At the end of the review process, the Chapter sends letters to qualified students offering admission to the society. The Chapter uses the permanent address on file with the registrar's office for this mailing. You must respond to the invitation, complete a data sheet, and participate in an initiation ceremony to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

More about liberal majors

The student must be currently enrolled in a major or majors that are considered "liberal", i.e., emphasizing conceptual rather than applied material. Most majors in the traditional humanities, social science, science, or mathematics curricula are considered liberal. Applied or professional majors are understood to include courses intended primarily to develop skills or vocational techniques, even though they may involve some "liberal" coursework. A list of the majors that meet this requirement for Phi Beta Kappa is compiled and maintained by the Chapter for use in the selection process.


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