Swim test

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The swim test is a bizarre Columbia College graduation requirement, shared with Cornell, Dartmouth, and MIT.

The requirement at Columbia is three lengths of the pool using any stroke.


The swim test is held 3 times per week:

  • Friday 12pm-2pm
  • Sunday 3pm-4pm
  • Wednesday 8:30pm-9:30pm

If you are unable to take the swim test, contact Ken Torrey.

Theories for the Requirement

  • Manhattan is an island. Engineers can build boats.
  • Justification for maintenance of a pool.
  • Some rich donor's child drowned. (False)[1]


The pool has open hours Monday through Friday 12-2pm, and 7-9:30pm, and 12-5 & 7-9 Saturday, 1-5, 7-9 Sunday. If individual instruction is needed consider joining beginner's swimming or lap swimming as a PE class, or contact a member of either the men's or women's Swimming Team who are qualified to teach swim lessons. The Beginner's Swimming course also fulfills the requirement, so if you take it and still, by the end, cannot swim, you do not have to take the swim test.


  • Mortimer Adler refused to take the swim test, and look what happened to him: he earned a Columbia doctorate, became a noted philosopher, and was even given an honorary BA by Columbia - six decades later
  • SEAS actually had a swim test. Its faculty abolished it in 1992.[1]
  • The swim test was waived for the class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.