If you’re in CC, you’re required to prove you can swim to graduate. We all know it’s embarrassing, but what else do you actually know about it?

We can debate all we like about the utility or practicality of having a swim test requirement—I personally believe that, in principle, it is a reasonable and good expectation of Columbia to require that we know how to swim.

In principle. In reality, good God, why are you making me prove it? Have I not suffered enough?

The swim test is embarrassing. I am comfortable swimming and it was still deeply, deeply embarrassing when I took it on one November Sunday. There is no way for it to not be. That being said, it can be less embarrassing. The logistics of how the swim test actually happens, beyond the, you know, swimming of it all, are very unclear, which can make the whole affair feel far more humbling than it needs to be. Past “coverage,” both at Bwog and beyond (cough), has largely focused on the pain, the humiliation, the intricate rituals of such a requirement. And, like, real. But here are the facts about what happens with the swim test, so that all the feelings around splashing about in a glorified basement gym are limited to, well, said splashing.

Things to know about how you actually take the swim test:

  1. If you can float on your back and kick, you can pass the swim test. It might take you a while, but it is not a competition, nor does it feel like one.
  2. Uris pool is quite calm. It’s not a super public venue, especially not during the hours they hold swim tests. No one will be there judging you (except the one attendant who has to watch to make sure you pass/don’t drown), especially if you go early in the year (aka not May).
  3. You are supposed to register for the swim test using a form, but I wasn’t asked about it at all when I actually went. You probably should still register, though, if only to make sure you know what time you can go. It’s usually a chunk of time on Wednesdays and Sundays.
  4. Bring a towel. They are not provided!!
  5. Go with a friend. This isn’t required, but you’re allowed to swim at the same time and in the same lane, so you can get some camaraderie and bonding out of the event.
  6. When you get to Dodge, take a right from the campus entrance and take the Z stairs all the way down to the bottom (in Fall 2022, where the ping pong tables are stored). Then you’ll be at the entrance to the gender-segregated locker room/changing area, and you access the pool through there.
  7. You don’t actually have to shower before getting into the pool. Like yes, you’re supposed to, but…
  8. Bring your stuff with you into the pool area, or hang it on a coat hanger in the changing room. You can’t access the lockers.
  9. There will be someone sitting at a table with a laptop and a stack of paper by the side of the pool—that’s the swim test person. You give them your ID and tell them your UNI and graduating year. They’ll show you what lane to use, then you jump in and go!
  10. The pool is not as cold as you think it will be.
  11. Dodge is way warmer than you think it will be.
  12. 25 yards (one lap) is shorter than you think, and you only do three total (75 yards). 
  13. Did you swim in pools in the summer? Hang out at the ocean? Take childhood swim lessons for a month? Have a bathing suit that still fits you? You will pass the swim test. 
  14. I repeat: You will pass the swim test.
  15. It is only ten wet minutes of your life.

The pool in question via Columbia PEREC