The Ivy Coach Daily

August 9, 2020

Cornell Cancels Fall Swim Test

Cornell requires all students to pass a swim test (photo credit: Sach1tb).

It may surprise our readers to know that Cornell University requires its students to pass a swimming test in order to graduate from the Ithaca, New York-based institution. But it shouldn’t surprise all of our readers as we’ve blogged about the swim test requirement at various highly selective universities before — among these schools in addition to Cornell are: Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and Swarthmore College. But, this fall, the swim test at Cornell — which is typically completed during first-year orientation — is out the window due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all.

Cornell Cancels Fall Swim Test Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

As Meghna Maharishi reports on the swim test for The Cornell Daily Sun, “Cornell will not conduct any swim tests during the upcoming semester, and it will waive the requirement for students graduating either in fall 2020 or spring 2021, according to the University’s physical education requirements webpage. First-year students unable to take the swim test this fall will also have the $100 late fee waived when they take it during their subsequent years at Cornell. This is the second time in the past year that the University is canceling the swim test — the early onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic first prompted Cornell to stop conducting tests in March. At the time, Cornell waived the requirement along with other physical education requirements for students slated to graduate in spring 2020. Every year, Cornell requires first-years to take the swim test during orientation week, with the rationale that the test will help ’teach people how to swim and make it a life skill.’”

Swim Tests Are As Important As Ever

The swim test has been a thing at Cornell for 115 years. As Maharishi reports, “Colonel Frank Barton — the namesake of Barton Hall — first instituted the test in 1905 for male students, noting that ’recent wars have conclusively demonstrated that a soldier who cannot swim is so much dead timber in the command.’ In 1920, Cornell instituted the swim test for women.” And while some graduation requirements become antiquated over time, this particular requirement is — in our view — as important as ever before. It is vital that young people learn to swim because learning to swim can indeed be life-saving. Many young people don’t grow up with access to pools to learn to swim. But at schools like Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, Swarthmore, MIT, Bryn Mawr, and Notre Dame, they’ve got pools so it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach these students a necessary life skill. We salute Cornell and all these schools for continuing to require that students pass a swim test, though we understand it can’t be offered this year due to the pandemic.

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