Is being in Phi Beta Kappa REALLY that impressive?

nh278

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I always hear about how impressive it is when adcoms see that an applicant is a member of PBK, but I mean, isn't it all relative? I had a cumulative GPA of 3.86 as an undergraduate at an Ivy League college, and I wasn't elected to become a member of PBK. However, I know some people who go to much lower ranked schools (as in US News ranked 50+) who were able to be a member of PBK with lower GPAs than me. Shouldn't this be taken into consideration; the fact that people who go to lower schools are probably competing against a population of students that are overall not as "intelligent" as top tier schools? I don't know, it just seems a bit unfair to me when adcoms always mention how impressed they are by someone who is PBK, but honestly, I feel it shouldn't carry as much weight as it does. Thoughts?
 
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WedgeDawg

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Honestly, I think Sigma Xi membership would be more "impressive" based on the fact that it might actually be relevant, but I doubt either will make any sort of real difference.
 

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NotASerialKiller

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Is it widely recognized? Sure, its probably the most well known honor society on the planet.
Is it "impressive?" Absolutely not.
Maybe I'm the exception, but I have no idea what any of this means and I live right next door. Think it's the most well known in the US, not the planet. There are probably plenty in the UK that you've never heard of.
 
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WedgeDawg

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Guys, don't worry, there are a lot of "less intelligent" state school kids kicking my a$$ in med school right now
 
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nh278

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The quotes make it hurt a little less... maybe?
Yeah, I mean, I'm trying to be as objective as possible, and I feel one can generally say that the student population at an Ivy League school would be more "intelligent" ON THE WHOLE (though there are definitely smart people everywhere, I believe that!) in terms of test scores, grades, etc. than your normal state school....really not trying to offend anyone here :(
 
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Cotterpin

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I always hear about how impressive it is when adcoms see that an applicant is a member of PBK, but I mean, isn't it all relative? I had a cumulative GPA of 3.86 as an undergraduate at an Ivy League college, and I wasn't elected to become a member of PBK. However, I know some people who go to much lower ranked schools (as in US News ranked 50+) who were able to be a member of PBK with lower GPAs than me. Shouldn't this be taken into consideration; the fact that people who go to lower schools are probably competing against a population of students that are overall not as "intelligent" as top tier schools? I don't know, it just seems a bit unfair to me when adcoms always mention how impressed they are by someone who is PBK, but honestly, I feel it shouldn't carry as much weight as it does. Thoughts?
Election to PBK isn't only based on gpa. I had a cGPA of 3.84 at an Ivy and I got elected to PBK. But I also knew someone who graduated with me whose GPA was 4+ and he didn't get in. The faculty at my school considered PBK a very big deal, but I have no idea what med schools think.
 
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nh278

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Election to PBK isn't only based on gpa. I had a cGPA of 3.84 at an Ivy and I got elected to PBK. But I also knew someone who graduated with me whose GPA was 4+ and he didn't get in. The faculty at my school considered PBK a very big deal, but I have no idea what med schools think.
Hmmm, I guess it's different for every school. At mine, it was based purely on GPA. I really feel that the holistic approach that your school takes for PBK is much better though...
 

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@WedgeDawg - I am one of those non-Ivy nerds :) and proud of it! #1stgencollege
Watch yourself :p

Election to PBK isn't only based on gpa. I had a cGPA of 3.84 at an Ivy and I got elected to PBK. But I also knew someone who graduated with me whose GPA was 4+ and he didn't get in. The faculty at my school considered PBK a very big deal, but I have no idea what med schools think.
PBK stops being a big deal as soon as you get your diploma. Yeah, it's cool for your resume or whatever, and people will make a big deal about it while you're in school, but after you graduate, it won't really make a difference, particularly when it comes to med school applications.
 
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Ad2b

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And let's take the "Ivy" = most intelligent argument another step:

Do you think that Berkeley is < Ivy? or USC? or Johns Hopkins? or Northwestern? or Duke? or ...
 

mikil100

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Yeah, I mean, I'm trying to be as objective as possible, and I feel one can generally say that the student population at an Ivy League school would be more "intelligent" ON THE WHOLE (though there are definitely smart people everywhere, I believe that!) in terms of test scores, grades, etc. than your normal state school....really not trying to offend anyone here :(
Can confirm. I go to a public state school. The general student population well...leaves a lot to be desired. However, there are also a lot of brilliant minds that I've had the honor to work with.
 

steelersfan1243

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Yeah, I mean, I'm trying to be as objective as possible, and I feel one can generally say that the student population at an Ivy League school would be more "intelligent" ON THE WHOLE (though there are definitely smart people everywhere, I believe that!) in terms of test scores, grades, etc. than your normal state school....really not trying to offend anyone here :(
CHOO CHOO!!! ALL ABOARD ON THIS THREAD GETTING DERAILED!!!
 

Ad2b

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:corny: actually, more like :whoa:
 
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nh278

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And let's take the "Ivy" = most intelligent argument another step:

Do you think that Berkeley is < Ivy? or USC? or Johns Hopkins? or Northwestern? or Duke? or ...
Ok wow.....I really apologize if I offended people. :( That really was not my intention at all. I definitely do not think of Ivy = most intelligent; merely used that term to give a perspective to the type of schools I'm referring to in comparison to the "lower ranked schools." I have plenty of friends who go to other schools like Berkeley, JHU, Rice, etc that I consider MUCH more intelligent than me....I am by no means trying to say that just because I go to an Ivy League school, I am automatically "smarter" than those who do not....
 
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Cotterpin

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Hmmm, I guess it's different for every school. At mine, it was based purely on GPA. I really feel that the holistic approach that your school takes for PBK is much better though...
The organization itself says that it's not based solely on GPA. To quote from their website:

The ideal Phi Beta Kappa member has demonstrated intellectual integrity, tolerance for other views, and a broad range of academic interests.
A regular old GPA cutoff sounds more like Latin honors, not PBK. PBK election generally involves the faculty at the school who are in PBK discussing your merits and voting you in.
 
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WedgeDawg

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Ok wow.....I really apologize if I offended people. :( That really was not my intention at all. I definitely do not think of Ivy = most intelligent; merely used that term to give a perspective to the type of schools I'm referring to in comparison to the "lower ranked schools." I have plenty of friends who go to other schools like Berkeley, JHU, Rice, etc that I consider MUCH more intelligent than me....I am by no means trying to say that just because I go to an Ivy League school, I am automatically "smarter" than those who do not....
We are just giving you a hard time because of your word choice.

The answer to your question is "no it doesn't matter, stop worrying"
 

WedgeDawg

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The organization itself says that it's not based solely on GPA. To quote from their website:



A regular old GPA cutoff sounds more like Latin honors, not PBK.
Some chapters are indeed based only upon GPA + good standing in the college, but if the college has high standards for "integrity/tolerance/interest/whatever", that can be used as tacit acknowledgement of these qualities.

In either case, it's basically a huge circle jerk of intellectual elitism.
 

Cotterpin

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Some chapters are indeed based only upon GPA + good standing in the college, but if the college has high standards for "integrity/tolerance/interest/whatever", that can be used as tacit acknowledgement of these qualities.

In either case, it's basically a huge circle jerk of intellectual elitism.
So I guess you did not get elected to PBK? ;)
 
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altblue

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He's right though

Cc or state school: a quarter are pretty bright, half are okay, and a quarter unfortunately have no business being in the class

Meanwhile at a top 30 school I've maybe met 2 people I didn't think were too intelligent

Pbk at an ivy counts for a lot more
 

Cotterpin

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At my school, there was a huge, fancy ceremony where they gave us gold keys and members of the faculty and various deans spoke to us and shook our hands and went on and on about how awesome some of the inductees were. They obviously took it very seriously. I'm proud of it. Why not, you know?
 

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So I guess you did not get elected to PBK? ;)
I did. Basically they're now just one more organization that emails me asking for money.
 
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md-2020

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+1 to everything @Cotterpin wrote. Obviously OP's 3.86 is good enough for PBK, and likely summa cum laude as well.
At my school PBK was based just as much on people skills as it was on numbers. The Electoral Board gets to play judge, jury, and executioner.


Sometimes the numbers even got stretched. We had a kid w/ an undisclosed GPA that was running up a massively successful stock portfolio from his dorm room get in too. I did not meet the "cutoff" for juniors, but because I was graduating and had done some cool stuff outside the classroom, I got a nod as well.

At my school, there was a huge, fancy ceremony where they gave us gold keys and members of the faculty and various deans spoke to us and shook our hands and went on and on about how awesome some of the inductees were. They obviously took it very seriously. I'm proud of it. Why not, you know?
+1 it was a big deal, and I'm definitely proud I got in.
 
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WedgeDawg

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At my school, there was a huge, fancy ceremony where they gave us gold keys and members of the faculty and various deans spoke to us and shook our hands and went on and on about how awesome some of the inductees were. They obviously took it very seriously. I'm proud of it. Why not, you know?
Same experience. It was impressive then, but diminishes exponentially in meaning as you move further away from college.
 

GrapesofRath

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I always hear about how impressive it is when adcoms see that an applicant is a member of PBK, but I mean, isn't it all relative? I had a cumulative GPA of 3.86 as an undergraduate at an Ivy League college, and I wasn't elected to become a member of PBK. However, I know some people who go to much lower ranked schools (as in US News ranked 50+) who were able to be a member of PBK with lower GPAs than me. Shouldn't this be taken into consideration; the fact that people who go to lower schools are probably competing against a population of students that are overall not as "intelligent" as top tier schools? I don't know, it just seems a bit unfair to me when adcoms always mention how impressed they are by someone who is PBK, but honestly, I feel it shouldn't carry as much weight as it does. Thoughts?
The 3.86 at a top school is what matters. Not the artificial award you get from it that tons of good pre-meds are going to have.
 

Cotterpin

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Same experience. It was impressive then, but diminishes exponentially in meaning as you move further away from college.
Well, it's personally meaningful to me. I had to travel quite a distance in my life to graduate PBK from an Ivy League school.
 

WedgeDawg

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Well, it's personally meaningful to me. I had to travel quite a distance in my life to graduate PBK from an Ivy League school.
I'm glad that it is! I'm sorry that it doesn't share the same meaning for me.
 
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the fact that people who go to lower schools are probably competing against a population of students that are overall not as "intelligent" as top tier schools?
Because we all know that the number of extracurriculars that your parents signed you up for in high school directly correlates to your intelligence?
 
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nh278

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Because we all know that the number of extracurriculars that your parents signed you up for in high school directly correlates to your intelligence?
Yes, I do acknowledge that many people who attend higher-ranked institutions were involved in extracurriculars that were the result of being privileged/having parents with connections. However, being accepted into a top tier school cannot be based solely on # of extracurriculars because if one were to compare average SAT/ACT scores, it is clear that the scores at top-ranked places are higher than lower-ranked ones. When I refer to "intelligence," I am only talking about things in regards to actual test scores, GPA, etc. Nothing is implied about extracurriculars because that is a whole 'nother story....
 

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I suppose PBK membership doesn't hurt. I didn't even know PBK existed until after I graduated college. Apparently I qualified for PBK but never knew to apply for it. I wonder if PBK is underrepresented by first-generation college students. Seems kind of pointless to pay money to be part of an organization that, for many colleges (like mine), just have a GPA cut-off criteria. How is that different from listing latin honors on your college degree?
 

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Yes, I do acknowledge that many people who attend higher-ranked institutions were involved in extracurriculars that were the result of being privileged/having parents with connections. However, being accepted into a top tier school cannot be based solely on # of extracurriculars because if one were to compare average SAT/ACT scores, it is clear that the scores at top-ranked places are higher than lower-ranked ones. When I refer to "intelligence," I am only talking about things in regards to actual test scores, GPA, etc. Nothing is implied about extracurriculars because that is a whole 'nother story....
Actually many people who go to non top tiers get those 99 percentile + act/sat and have excellent gpa. The differenxe is the hs you go to, your parents connections, and Ecs.
 
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In Alpha Epsilon Delta - no one cares. I use my copy of The Scalpal for pooping reading material.
 

efle

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I don't get why anyone would care about this

Student has 3.9x
Student has every possible semester Deans List
Student has Summa Cum Laude
Student elected to PBK

=

Student has 3.9x

empty redundancy IMO. though I suppose you could make the same argument about something like Rhodes - winning it shouldn't bring all the extra prestige that it does, since it's really just recognizing the same general badassery already present on an app

PS the same phenomenon you describe continues into MD school if you aren't aware, with AOA instead of PBK, and AOA can matter a lot more. It's typically a "top X%" cutoff and yeah, how hard it is to be in that X% is going to vary between med schools just like between undergrads
 

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For those wondering what the difference is between PBK and Latin honors, the former has a strict national guideline on % elected (cannot be more than 10% of a graduating class), while the latter is all school dependent, e.g., Harvard gives top 50% Latin honors, Yale only 30%.

If you're PBK, people who get it know you were determined to be in the top 10% of your class, which says a lot more about where you stood in college than do your grades alone.
 
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efle

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Well, PBK isn't really top 10%, as it has some huge bull**** disqualifiers including not learning a new language in college, testing out of doing any college math, or knowing what you want to study from the beginning and only taking classes that count towards majors. The real king is Summa Cum Laude for most universities
 
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nh278

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Actually many people who go to non top tiers get those 99 percentile + act/sat and have excellent gpa. The differenxe is the hs you go to, your parents connections, and Ecs.
Yes, I know there are. Like I said before, there are bright people at every college you look at, and going to a top-tier school is by no means a qualifier of intelligence. One of the smartest people I know scored a 2360 on the SAT and goes to a state school, and I do not in any way regard her as un-intelligent because of where she goes. However, I'm just trying to make the point that it is more common to find those 99th percentile scorers at a higher-ranked school than others; I mean, having a larger population of high scores is what brings up the averages of schools like Harvard and Princeton, simple as that.
 
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carpediem22

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I think PBK matters outside of the medical world. On a med school app, it's just a testament to a high GPA (though I know some schools like Harvard do this differently). Maybe being elected in junior year matters more, I don't know. In the business/finance/real job world, having PBK on your resume does have a bit of "wow" factor.

Yes, I know there are. Like I said before, there are bright people at every college you look at, and going to a top-tier school is by no means a qualifier of intelligence. One of the smartest people I know scored a 2360 on the SAT and goes to a state school, and I do not in any way regard her as un-intelligent because of where she goes. However, I'm just trying to make the point that it is more common to find those 99th percentile scorers at a higher-ranked school than others; I mean, having a larger population of high scores is what brings up the averages of schools like Harvard and Princeton, simple as that.
Having attended two colleges (I transferred), one a big private school akin to a state school and one an Ivy league, I agree. I was in an honors science program at the first, so I was around all of the brilliant pre-meds all of the time. The smartest of my peers in this program could and did perform equally or better than my peers at the Ivy league school. Many are now in top-5 medical schools, including one who is at Hopkins and probably will be one of the best and brightest there. The difference was simply that there were categorically more of the "smartest of the smart" at the Ivy league school. My science classes were curved more harshly at the first school (i.e. a lot of people got C's, which is rare at an Ivy), but I'd say the difficulty was equal since at the Ivy it was harder to get that solid A versus an A- or B because you're competing with more gunners.

Also I went to public school with divorced parents who never once helped me in the college process and definitely did not funnel money into my college application. So while I agree that connections, high school, and parent involvement factor to an extent with top 20, that maybe makes up 1/3 of the student body. The rest are just LUCKY. It's seriously 75% luck. "Does X student meet Y student profile/demographic we are trying to fill?"
 

Cotterpin

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I suppose PBK membership doesn't hurt. I didn't even know PBK existed until after I graduated college. Apparently I qualified for PBK but never knew to apply for it. I wonder if PBK is underrepresented by first-generation college students. Seems kind of pointless to pay money to be part of an organization that, for many colleges (like mine), just have a GPA cut-off criteria. How is that different from listing latin honors on your college degree?
You don't apply for PBK. They elect you to it. One day you wake up and check your email and they're just like "we have chosen you."
 

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Didn't realize it was such a big deal at other places.
At my school it Does absolutely nothing and when I got the email I was like "lol no. Just more organizations looking for money" because I was already in a different honor fraternity.
Didn't know it was so coveted some places.

Edit: and my GPA was only a 3.55.
I think they were struggling for members at my school. :shrug: