Phi Beta Kappa is the first Greek-letter society in the United States and remains the nation's oldest, most respected and most selective academic honor society. The Phi Beta Kappa name originates from the Greek initials of the society's motto, "Love of learning is the guide of life."
Five students at the College of William and Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa in 1776. Ever since, Phi Beta Kappa has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry, liberty of thought and expression, personal freedom, scientific inquiry, and creative endeavor.
Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Less than 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are elected to Phi Beta Kappa membership.
The national Phi Beta Kappa Society sponsors activities to advance the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences in higher education and in society at large. The society now has over half a million members and chapters at 290 American colleges and universities.