Sunlit Water

February 9, 2007


Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 8:35 pm

So I’ve apparently been selected for Phi Beta Kappa (oddly, they sent the letter to my home rather than my school address, so I just heard about it from my mom).  I’ve heard this is considered a significant honor, but to be honest I don’t know much about it.  I’ve been poking around their website, but I’d also be interested in hearing any impressions my readers have about the organization.  I’m assuming I should accept, but how big a deal is this really?



  1. Upon abduction, the aliens will probe you more gently.

    Comment by standpipe — February 9, 2007 @ 9:26 pm |Reply

  2. Can’t comment on the specifics, but I’ve always thought their publication (The American Scholar) was quite thought-provoking and well done. I still refer to an article from years ago, titled “Only Connect.”

    Comment by Witt — February 9, 2007 @ 10:12 pm |Reply

  3. I remember reading an article a few years ago saying that they’ve been having to work to convince people to join because the prestige isn’t what it once was. I agree with Witt about The American Scholar, which reminds me that I should flip through it more often.

    Comment by eb — February 9, 2007 @ 10:30 pm |Reply

  4. It’s not as if any responsibilities come to you as a result of joining. You do have to pay for the privilege, which is stupid.

    What you ought to do is save the letter, have its authenticity officially confirmed, etc. Since all you have to do once you’ve been invited to join is fork over the cash to actually join, all the honor-conferring has really been accomplished by the time you’ve received the invitation; the ceremony itself just confirms that conferral. But if you’ve got the letter confirmed…

    Comment by ben wolfson — February 9, 2007 @ 11:10 pm |Reply

  5. But if I ask them to confirm the letter and then don’t join, won’t they figure out that I was just trying to get out of paying them the $75? I guess that only matters if they can rescind the confirmation.

    Comment by teofilo — February 9, 2007 @ 11:19 pm |Reply

  6. You get a pin! And you get to put it on your resume! I don’t think you get to put it on your resume without paying the $75 bucks. But it’s a one-time fee.

    – Confirmed invitation letter and honor-conferring recipient of Phi Beta Kappa

    Comment by heebie-geebie — February 10, 2007 @ 8:47 am |Reply

  7. I don’t think you get to put it on your resume without paying the $75 bucks.

    That’s what’s so stupid about this sort of thing, though. Paying $75 doesn’t demonstrate anything other than that you’ve got $75 to spare. Getting the invitation extended in the first place—that’s what counts. But you can’t put that on your resume.

    Comment by ben wolfson — February 10, 2007 @ 2:31 pm |Reply

  8. Go ahead and pay for it. That sort of resume-padding shit comes in handy.

    Comment by Jackmormon — February 11, 2007 @ 4:49 pm |Reply

  9. Eh, do it. One thing I’ve learned from hiring people is that everybody has their “thing” that’s considered a bonus if it appears on a resume. It’s different for everyone — being president of a fraternity, working as an RA, playing sports, whatever. You don’t want to miss out if your resume crosses the desk of someone whose “thing” happens to be PBK. It’s a $75 insurance policy.

    Comment by Becks — February 12, 2007 @ 12:56 am |Reply

  10. Okay, I’m definitely going to do it. After she called me to tell me about the letter, my mom talked to her sister, the only member of our family other than me to go to a school that has this sort of thing, who told her that it was really a big deal. This prompted my mom to keep trying to get in touch with me throughout the weekend (when I was engaged in other activities, such as drinking) to ask if she should just fill out the forms and send them in because it’s such a big deal. When I finally talked to her this afternoon I told her there was no reason for that, since the deadline isn’t until April, and to just send the forms to me so I could fill them out and send them in. This is a classic example of my mom in action.

    Comment by teofilo — February 12, 2007 @ 1:01 am |Reply

  11. What’s involved in the process of selection anyway? I got nominated or whatever while I was studying abroad. I ponied up but never attended the ceremony, nor do I understand this seekrit organization of which I am a part.

    Comment by Stanley — February 12, 2007 @ 1:04 am |Reply

  12. Let me put it to you this way, young Teo. I graduated magna cum laude, with the top honor in my department—but I was not offered me the Phi Beta Kappa key. I came beneath some bar; who knows how it was measured. I vaguely remember hearing that PHK had something to do with the difficulty of courses undertook.

    Comment by Jackmormon — February 12, 2007 @ 1:33 am |Reply

  13. I think it’s a combination of GPA and course distribution. There may be other secret procedures. I remember being nominated right after taking one semester of Italian on a summer program, the only foreign language course I took in college, reading through the brochure, and concluding that were it not for that course they wouldn’t have contacted me. It’s possible you skipped a course they require for breadth, or something, JM.

    I never filled out the paperwork. Perhaps that was a bad decision. I certainly had, and still have, an undistinguished resume.

    Comment by eb — February 12, 2007 @ 1:56 am |Reply

  14. I was nominated while abroad, never got the letter, and only found out because I got an email saying, “hey, you know, you have like two days to send us a check.” I was in Greece.

    The nominating procedures are institution-dependent, I believe.

    Comment by ben wolfson — February 12, 2007 @ 12:41 pm |Reply

  15. At Berkeley one of the few moments I had a real pang of regret about letting my grades slip was when I caught a glimpse of the lounge the Phi Beta Kappas had access to—it was really lovely in that shabby velvet couch way that makes you want to curl up on a rainy day and read lots of books. I think if you went there, say, for grad school, it would be totally worth it.

    Comment by Saheli — February 12, 2007 @ 6:17 pm |Reply

  16. They have a lounge? What building?

    Comment by eb — February 12, 2007 @ 9:13 pm |Reply

  17. Oh, that’s right! It’s coming back to me! If I had taken one math class, I would have qualified.

    Comment by Jackmormon — February 13, 2007 @ 12:06 am |Reply

  18. Reading this thread is making me mad. The college I went to didn’t even have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. I’m such an idiot.

    Comment by m. leblanc — February 13, 2007 @ 6:33 am |Reply

  19. I never paid the money to join PBK. I say on my resume that I was invited to join, I think.

    Comment by Tia — February 13, 2007 @ 5:53 pm |Reply

  20. And the prof who headed it totally harrassed me about it too. He called me in my dorm room and later at graduation he found me in some line and said, “you haven’t given me your PBK money!” I was like, dude, it’s optional. I was graduating and freaked about money and thirty dollars seemed like a lot.

    Comment by Tia — February 13, 2007 @ 5:55 pm |Reply

  21. Also, I am flaky, and writing a check and giving it to someone felt like a big chore. Oh, and I think I was thinking about going to the ceremony and giving my check to someone there, but I got the time wrong, and by the time I got there everyone was in their caps and gowns and I was in my regular clothes, so I said fuck it.

    Comment by Tia — February 13, 2007 @ 5:57 pm |Reply

  22. eb: I think it’s Stephens’ hall? It’s kind of at the northwest corner of the faculty glade.

    Comment by Saheli — February 13, 2007 @ 8:43 pm |Reply

  23. Huh. I don’t think I ever set foot in Stephens Hall; I always wondered who used the building (of course it’s not all PBK). I have always admired the early industrial revolutionesque facade, though.

    Comment by eb — February 13, 2007 @ 8:57 pm |Reply

  24. It’s a beautiful building. I really like the courtyard on the west side and the hollow on the east side–I would say that little patch of wooded creekland is one of my top 20 or 30 dearest spots on earth, actually. I’ve dashed through the building maybe two or three times, and I’m not sure why I was shown the lounge, but it’s just tucked away on an upper floor. Or it was–who knows what it is now.

    Comment by Saheli — February 13, 2007 @ 10:31 pm |Reply

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