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Phi Beta Kappa Society

Phi Beta Kappa Society

Department Overview

Chartered in 1896, the Swarthmore College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Epsilon of Pennsylvania, was the fifth chapter to be founded in Pennsylvania. Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in the United States.

Students are selected into Phi Beta Kappa because of their distinguished academic record across the Swarthmore liberal arts curriculum. Only work completed at Swarthmore College is considered. The committee also consults with faculty and deans as we make our final selections. Selection takes place in May of the senior year.

Selection Criteria for Swarthmore Phi Beta Kappa

COVID-19: Class of 2020 Selection Criteria Changes  (April 27, 2020)

In response to COVID-19, the College moved to CR/NC policy for the Spring 2020 term and the National PBK Chapter has allowed local chapters flexibility to modify selection criteria. Swarthmore's PBK Executive committee decided to make the following changes to the selection criteria, applicable to the Class of 2020 only.

 1. Spring 2020 grades will not be included as part of the computation of PBK GPA (see our regular selection criteria). The Committee will, therefore, base its decisions on the student's academic record through Fall 2019.

 2.  Spring 2020 grades of CR can be used to satisfy the chapter requirements that students earn at least one full credit towards Swarthmore graduation in math/stat/logic (including AP) and that students earn a letter grade in at least one Swarthmore College course in each division: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences.

Please note all of our other requirements outlined in this website stand, and these are the only changes.  This policy change applies only to the Class of 2020, and any future policy adjustment will be announced.   

 

Swarthmore College PBK is allowed to induct up to 15% of the graduation class, which is usually between 50-60 students. The primary basis of selection is academic excellence, normally represented by PBK GPA, along with good moral character and the following criteria:

  1.  Earn at least one full credit towards Swarthmore graduation in math/stat/logic (including AP);
  2.  Earning a letter grade in at least one Swarthmore College course in each division. Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences (shadow grades do not count).

These criteria are largely drawn from national Phi Beta Kappa stipulations for membership eligibility.

The executive committee also sends the proposed inductee list to the Deans to see whether the Dean's Office has any objection to students on grounds of moral character.

PBK GPA is computed by the Registrar with a few modifications to the college GPA. The Registrar counts A and A+ as 4, A- as 3.67, B+ as 3.33, and so forth. Courses taken at other institutions, including Bryn Mawr and Haverford are not counted, neither are courses recorded as CR or as W. In these respects, the PBK GPA and the college GPA are alike. The two measures differ in the following three ways.

a)  The Registrar counts neither courses receiving CR nor courses receiving NC whereas PBK accounts courses receiving NC (except in the first semester of the first year at Swarthmore), with the NC converted numerically to 0. An NC course receives as much credit in our calculation (e.g. 1 or 1.5) as it would receive with the Registrar had it been a passing grade.

b)  When a course is taken twice, the Registrar counts only the second grade. PBK counts both grades.

c) The Registrar does not count the first course of a two-course sequence, such as in the foreign languages, if the student fails to take the second course. PBK counts that grade (typically worth 1.5 credits) in our calculations.

For more info Phi Beta Kappa National.