One Does Not Simply Walk into Phi Beta Kappa. Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are selected for Phi Beta Kappa membership.
The ideal Phi Beta Kappan has demonstrated intellectual integrity, tolerance for other views, and a broad range of academic interests. Each year, about one college senior in a hundred, nationwide, is invited to join Phi Beta Kappa. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa shows commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, and to freedom of inquiry and expression.
Each spring, the chapter at Geneseo invites approximately 70 students to join the Society. Every spring semester, a committee of Geneseo faculty, who were themselves elected to Phi Beta Kappa when they were students, reviews the academic records of graduating seniors (and a very small number of juniors). This includes a review of student transcripts and activities, as well as solicitation of letters of support from the faculty and staff at Geneseo. The essential point is that the chapter is looking for students who exhibit excellence in and commitment to the liberal arts. We try to look at a wide variety of evidence, not just GPA, such as evidence of independent interest in scholarship or creative activity (e.g., participation in undergraduate research, sustained work in a department learning center, etc.), breadth of interests (e.g., multiple majors or minors, particularly in distinctly different areas, willingness to take courses at a higher level or in a greater variety of fields than required for core, etc.), interest in other cultures or languages (e.g., study abroad, extended study of foreign languages, etc.), extra-curricular activities that somehow draw on academic experiences (e.g., certain internships, service-learning experiences, etc.), and academic performance.
The national requirements for membership (called the Stipulations) can be found here.