For Prospective Members

Membership Process

Each January, the chapter secretary requests from the Registrar a list of juniors and seniors with the necessary minimum grade point average (see below) as of the end of the preceding fall term. The secretary then contacts eligible students to invite them to provide permission to review their academic records. Links to the Information Release Forms that we use to ensure permission may be found below the “Eligibility” section on this page.

The membership chair then convenes the membership committee to review student records and elect students to membership. The chapter secretary contacts elected students by the end of March. Those students who accept their election to Phi Beta Kappa complete an online registration form and pay an initiation fee via the national society website. Students and their families are invited to the initiation ceremony, which typically takes place the afternoon before Vanderbilt Commencement.


Only juniors and seniors are eligible for election to Phi Beta Kappa. All students who graduate in August, December, or May of a given academic year (e.g., 2023 – 2024) are considered “seniors.” Students who intend to graduate the following academic year (e.g., 2024 – 2025), are considered “juniors,” regardless of standing according to the Registrar.

Seniors in the College of Arts and Science who have an earned cumulative grade point average of 3.65 or higher in their Arts & Sciences courses are eligible for consideration for election as members-in-course. The total number of students elected from any senior class will not exceed 10 percent of the graduating class in the College of Arts and Science.

Seniors from other schools or colleges at Vanderbilt who will graduate with a second major in the College of Arts and Science may also be eligible. Such students must have completed at least 60 semester hours in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt and must have an earned overall grade point average of at least 3.75.

Transfer students who are candidates for graduation must be in at least their fourth semester of residence at Vanderbilt and must have completed, on graduation, at least 60 semester hours in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt. The overall grade point average for these courses must be at least 3.75.

Juniors in the College of Arts and Science must be in at least the sixth semester of residence at Vanderbilt and must have completed at least 70 semester hours in the College of Arts and Sciences with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.90 as of the end of the fifth semester. No more than six juniors are elected in any year.

The above residence and credit hour requirements may not be satisfied by test, AP, or transfer credit, but may be satisfied by study abroad programs controlled or approved by Vanderbilt.

Attainment of the minimum required grade point average does not guarantee election. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is based on a demonstration of scholarly achievements, broad cultural interests, and high moral character. The scholarly work of a member-in-course must emphasize liberal rather than applied or professional studies. As a guideline, for seniors at least 90 hours must qualify as pertaining to the liberal arts, with 60 hours in Arts & Sciences from Vanderbilt. AP credits can count toward the 90 overall hours required within the Arts & Sciences. Grades earned in applied (vocational) or professional work are not counted in computing the grade point average.

The breadth of a candidate’s program is also considered. In this regard, there are specific requirements in mathematical reasoning and foreign language, detailed below, that must be satisfied. Juniors must have completed these requirements as well as most AXLE requirements by the end of their junior year. Juniors who are abroad in foreign study programs may be considered for election if they meet all the criteria apply on time. For calculating semester hours and judging residence requirements, the chapter treats foreign study programs in the same manner as does the College of Arts and Science.

Mathematical Reasoning and Foreign Language Stipulations

Phi Beta Kappa has long emphasized the importance of mathematics and foreign language in a liberal education. In keeping with this tradition, our chapter requires prospective members to demonstrate proficiency in these areas beyond the AXLE graduation requirements. Foreign language proficiency is typically demonstrated by taking a course in a language at a level at least one semester beyond the AXLE requirement. Mathematics proficiency may be demonstrated by completing two semesters of calculus or one semester of calculus and one semester of a statistics course. Courses must be taken on a graded rather than a P/F basis.

Examples are shown below, but other options may be possible. The mathematics requirement may be met only through Vanderbilt course credit that appears on a student’s academic record; that credit may be earned through courses taken at Vanderbilt or at another institution of higher learning or AP, IB, or A-level exam credit that has been applied to a student’s record as Vanderbilt course credit. The foreign language requirement may be met through the same means as for the mathematics requirement, or through a suitable score on the SAT-II exam or on the Tennessee Language Center tests (written and oral) in the language. Those taking the Tennessee Language Center tests should be certain that the tests are completed and scored by the application deadline.



Mathematics 1200-1201, or

Mathematics 1300-1301, or

Mathematics 1100 {or any other single semester of calculus} with a statistics course:

ECON 1500, ECON 1510, SOC 2100, MATH 1011, MATH 2810, BSCI 3270, PSY 2100, PSY-PC 2110, DS 2100, DS 3100, BME 2400, CE 3300



Foreign Language

Credit for a third-semester or higher-level course in a foreign language–for example:

Arabic 2201

Chinese 2201

Creole 2201 (taught through the Duke-UVa-Vanderbilt language partnership)

French 2203

German 2201

Greek 2201

Hebrew 2201

Hindi 2201

Italian 2203

Japanese 2201

K’iche’ 2201

Korean 2201

Latin 2201

Portuguese 2203

Russian 2201

Spanish 2201

Tibetan 2201 (taught through the Duke-UVa-Vanderbilt language partnership)

Additional information may be found on the “Frequently Asked Questions” page. Other questions about membership should be directed to the Membership Chair.


Application Form

After reviewing the eligibility criteria above, students should click this link to apply:

Submit applications here. Applications are due February 11, 2024.


Initiation Fees and Dues

The national initiation fee for members-in-course is $ 85 plus a $25 chapter fee. The national fee covers lifetime registration with the national Phi Beta Kappa Society, including a subscription to The Key Reporter, and registration with Alpha of Tennessee for the remainder of the calendar year. The chapter has financial aid available to those who cannot afford the full initiation fee.


Keys and Certificates

The chapter provides new members-in-course with a hand-calligraphed certificate of membership as part of the initiation ceremony. New members may also purchase an engraved gold electroplated key through the chapter at the time of election. The Phi Beta Kappa key may be worn during graduation ceremonies.

Replacement keys and certificates may be ordered directly from Hand & Hammer Silversmiths; clicking on the link at left will open their website in a new window.


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