Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest honorary society with chapters at 255 of the foremost institutions of higher education across the country. Phi Beta Kappa recognizes and encourages a commitment to excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Since its founding in 1968, the Lambda Chapter at UC Santa Barbara has initiated 2,008 new members. It is designated the Lambda Chapter of California because it was the eleventh chapter established in California (Lambda is the eleventh letter of the ancient Greek alphabet).

Members are elected by the Lambda Chapter from candidates for degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, usually in the top ten percent of the graduating class. The Selection Committee (comprised of six to eight Phi Beta Kappa faculty members from different fields) evaluates the transcripts of all students who meet the minimum GPA and foreign language requirements, as identified by a computer search of hundreds of transcripts as well as others brought to our attention by members of the faculty and undergraduate advising staff. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is by invitation only, one cannot "apply." However, students are encouraged to speak to one of the officers if they have questions about how their academic program might meet the requirements.

The minimum requirement for GPA is 3.75 for juniors and 3.40 for seniors. Each senior candidate must have completed 60 units of work at UCSB (each Junior, 120 units). Candidates must have completed four quarters of a single foreign language (equivalent to the intermediate college level). Please see criteria for more details about these and other requirements. Election to Phi Beta Kappa requires that the candidate have demonstrated evidence of genuine intellectual curiosity beyond the minimum criteria for consideration.