Selection Criteria

Adopted October 2004, and 2012

Student selection for membership in Willamette University’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (delta of Oregon) is determined by our chapter’s Members in Course Committee, on the basis of stipulations in our chapter by-laws, chapter criteria, and national Phi Beta Kappa stipulations.

I. According to our chapter by-laws,

  1. Members in course are elected primarily on the basis of three major characteristics:
    a. breadth of academic and cultural interests
    b. scholarly achievement in liberal arts courses
    c. good character
  2. At least three fourths of the normal academic load must be in liberal arts courses, e.g., 21 of 28 courses for second semester seniors, 15 of 20 courses for juniors.
  3. The candidate must have completed at least three full semesters in residence at Willamette University, and be fully registered for the fourth semester.
  4. For election as a junior, the candidate shall have completed at least one academic term of the junior year, with a quality point ratio of at least 3.75. The number of juniors elected shall ordinarily not exceed two percent of the junior class, and in no case shall exceed three percent.
  5. For election as a senior, the minimum quality point ratio is 3.50. The number of undergraduates elected from any class, including those who were elected as juniors, shall ordinarily not exceed ten percent, and in no case shall exceed fifteen percent. Therefore, not counting those elected as juniors, normally about eight percent of the senior class is elected at the end of their senior year.
  6. Breadth of the academic program is judged by the number, level, and variety of courses taken outside the candidate’s major. Students with significant academic breadth and depth are those who have taken, for a grade, at least one course beyond the introductory level in two of the three academic divisions (humanities, science, social science). Not counted for this purpose will be Foreign Language or Math courses that count toward the General Education requirements. Double majors also “count” toward academic breadth and depth. Weight shall also be given to balance and proportion in the candidate’s degree program as a whole.
  7. Candidates shall have demonstrated a knowledge of mathematics and of a foreign language at least minimally appropriate for liberal education.

II. According to national Phi Beta Kappa (2012) and WU chapter stipulations:

  1. As judged by cumulative GPA in liberal arts courses, the top 15% of the senior class, and the top 3% of the junior class are initially selected.
  2. Students are struck from this list
    a. if liberal arts courses comprise < 75% of their normal academic load
    b. if they lack insufficient academic breadth (see #6 above), or
    c. if there is evidence of questionable person character or integrity (from university records or faculty comments).
  3. Finally the remaining students are ranked based on:
    a. the strength of their departmental ranking,
    b. faculty comments/concerns,
    c. student research accomplishments,
    d. awards and scholarships,
    e. academic breadth and depth (see #6 above)
    f. obstacles overcome and evidence of academic improvement
    g. service to department or community, and lastly (given least weight),
    h. GPA and PBK-GPA, with preference given to the top 10% of seniors and the top 1% of juniors

III. Departmental Rankings:

As a department, the faculty in each liberal arts major complete a PBK ranking sheet. The top 15% of all seniors and top 3% of all juniors (by PBK-GPA) majoring in the department are listed separately on this ranking sheet. Seniors who are already PBK members are omitted from the ranking sheet. The department returns three types of information:

  1. a ranking of all students on the list,
  2. a list of any awards or scholarships that students have received;
  3. a list of concerns or positive comments that faculty may have regarding individual students.

The importance of this departmental ranking of students means that

  1. positive comments regarding individual students are most important for
  2. failing to return departmental ranking sheets (or returning them with minimal information) is likely to adversely affect the chances that the department’s majors will be chosen for PBK, especially those with lower GPAs.

IV. Departmental PBK Limits:

For departments graduating ten or more majors annually, the Members in Course Committee will attempt each year to limit PBK nominees to less than 20% of all majors graduating in that department. Extenuating circumstances (i.e., exceptionally well-qualified students) will be considered on an individual basis.

V. Follow-up on Senior Spring Grades:

If a nominee’s spring semester GPA is lower than 3.0, his or her invitation to join PBK may be withdrawn. This also applies to any study abroad grades that were not available at the time of our decision. The decision to withdraw a student’s invitation to join PBK will be made by the chair of the Members in Course committee (or his/her representative) and one or more of the following chapter officers: President, Vice President, and/or Secretary.


Quality Point Ratio

Grades earned in applied or professional courses shall not be counted in computing the quality point ratio for purposes of eligibility. This includes all training intended to develop skills or vocational techniques. As in the GPA, the quality point ratio counts “A” as four points, “B” as three points, “C” as two points, and “D” as one point.